If you’re at risk for breast cancer, newly diagnosed breast cancer, or metastatic breast cancer, you may be wondering what you can do—beyond treatment and outside of your doctor’s office. — to keep the disease under control. as you go through the process of living your life.
One potential piece of the puzzle if you’re in the mood for a lifestyle change: diet.
It’s hard to draw concrete conclusions about diet and disease because hard studies that prove a correlation between a food and risk are hard to come by. Many studies, for example, are based on people’s recollection of what they have eaten. (If you can’t remember what you ate for breakfast yesterday, you see the problem.)
That said, evidence tends, over time, to accumulate and lead to consensus.
When it comes to breast cancer, the strongest scientific evidence on the relationship between cancer and diet so far supports a predominantly plant-based, anti-inflammatory, fish-focused diet that avoids breast cancer. red meat, says Joe Feuerstein, MD, an integrative physician in Stamford, Connecticut, who counsels patients with a wide variety of illnesses on how to harness their diet for better health.
Why is controlling inflammation essential?
“Inflammation is part of the body’s normal healing response to damage,” says Dr. Feuerstein. “However, as part of this response, there is a release of substances in the body that promote cell division, which is not optimal in cancer patients.”
As for red meat, it contains hormones (which can fuel the growth of breast cancer), endocrine disruptors, and contains heme (iron), a potentially gene-damaging oxidant, says Feuerstein. Put the meat on the grill and you’ve added heterocyclic amines, compounds associated with cancer risk in lab studies, to the mix.
What difference will it make in changing your diet?
“You won’t eliminate your risk” by eating mostly plant-based and anti-inflammatory, says Feuerstein. “But you can try to make the grass in your garden as inhospitable to weeds as possible,” he says.
Here are Feuerstein’s six top supermarket picks he recommends for women hoping to avoid breast cancer or keep it at bay.
This family of vegetables takes its name from the leaves and stems in the shape of a cross (crucifer comes from the word crucifix), and includes Brussels sprouts, bok choy, arugula, collard greens, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower. This family of vegetables is rich in calcium and two types of compounds in particular – indoles and isothiocyanate – which have been widely studied for their anti-cancer properties. Animal studies have been more conclusive than human studies, but Feuerstein recommends them because “they contain compounds called indole-3-carbinols, which aid in the detoxification of excess estrogen,” says- he. (The hormone estrogen fuels breast cancer growth.) “Think of them as your friends,” says Feuerstein.
The evidence that eggs are a preventative ingredient is everywhere, says Feuerstein. He recommends a couple a week because, in addition to being a non-meat source of protein, they’re high in choline, lutein and zeaxanthin, all micronutrients believed to have disease-fighting properties. (If you’re looking to round out your breakfast repertoire beyond a few eggs a week, Feuerstein is a fan of a yogurt parfait made from a fermented nut yogurt, like a cultured cashew yogurt. , with flax seeds and berries.)
Epidemiological research has long pointed to the fact that breast cancer is less common in countries where people eat a lot of fish (compared to the meat-rich Western diet). This could be because fish, in addition to being a good source of protein other than red meat, has anti-inflammatory properties in the form of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Recent research on mice bred for an aggressive form of breast cancer actually found that exposure to PUFAs reduced the animals’ lifetime risk of developing the disease. “Go with oily cold water fish like tuna – light ‘skipjack’ tuna, not albacore, as the larger the fish the more likely it is to have mercury – and sockeye salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel,” says Feuerstein.
Green tea has been identified as a potential super-ingredient because it is heavily consumed in Asian cultures, where the risk of breast cancer is lower. The search is ongoing. “We are increasingly seeing that there are major antioxidant effects in green tea,” says Feuerstein. Antioxidants help prevent cell damage caused by free radicals that are generated as part of normal metabolism and can cause genetic damage to cells leading to cancer growth. “The polyphenolic compounds in the leaves act as antioxidants and detoxify cell-damaging free radicals,” says Feuerstein. Some research suggests that the polyphenols in green tea may also reduce the activity level of estrogen, which fuels the growth of breast cancer. A major study of postmenopausal Asian women who drank green tea found a 25% reduction in breast cancer recurrence, says Feuerstein.
In the past, there was much concern about the consumption of soy by women with breast cancer because the chemical structure of soy is similar to that of estrogen. But that theory has been largely debunked in numerous long-term studies, Feuerstein says. “Soy is a nutrient-dense plant protein that contains all nine essential amino acids, which is relatively rare in the plant world,” he says. “It’s an ideal protein source.” When considering which soy product to eat, look for soy in whole-food form, such as tempeh, edamame, miso, and tofu, not soy shakes, supplements, or soy protein. , he advises. “It is feared that the concentration of phytoestrogens in processed soy foods is much higher than that of the natural food product.”
According to a study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in 2020. One reason may be the sex hormone content of cow’s milk, as cows are lactating (and many are pregnant). But the risk appears to be enhanced, says Feuerstein, if dairy products are fermented, as is the case in yogurt, which is also a good source of calcium and protein. “Yogurt also contains beneficial bacteria, such as probiotics, which may reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of breast cancer,” he says.