Breast cancer diet: What to eat and what to avoid — An expert’s guide

alt="vegetables" Eat right to avoid breast cancer. (Image: Sandhya Raghavan)

In the age of clean eating and living, we think a lot about what we put into our bodies, and rightly so. We are what we eat, after all. The adage also holds true for your breast health.

The wrong diet can promote breast cancer but thankfully, the right one can also inhibit it. A healthy diet with unrefined cereals, vegetables, fruit and nuts and moderate to low consumption of saturated fatty acids and red meat can even boost survival rates of people diagnosed with breast cancer.

To get a complete lowdown on diet dos and don’ts for breast cancer, we speak to nutritionist Palak Chaturvedi of NuFit.

alt=" Palak Chaturvedi"
Palak Chaturvedi, NuFit

What is the link between diet and breast cancer?

A healthy lifestyle is associated with a decreased risk of several forms of cancer and other health issues such as heart disease. Maintaining a healthy weight and eating nutritious food are two aspects of a healthy lifestyle.

Keeping a healthy weight after menopause has been related to a decreased risk of breast cancer. Diet may play a role in both promoting and preventing the development of human breast cancer.

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Consumption of dietary fat, meat, fibre, and alcohol, as well as intake of phytoestrogen, vitamin D, iron, and folate, are linked to several risk factors for breast cancer.

However, it appears that just a few dietary variables are linked to breast cancer.

Consuming fruits and vegetables has been linked to a lower risk of developing some types of breast cancer. The use of alcoholic beverages has been related to an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

What are the foods that prevent breast cancer?

Fruit consumption may be associated with a decreased risk of breast cancer as some studies found that women who consumed more fruits had a slightly decreased risk of breast cancer than women who consumed fewer fruits.

Vegetable consumption among those who consumed more veggies had a decreased risk of oestrogen receptor-negative breast cancer (but not oestrogen receptor-positive breast cancer) than women whose diet didn’t have lots of vegetables.

Carotenoids are orange-red dietary pigments found naturally in fruits and vegetables (such as melons, carrots and sweet potatoes). A high-carotenoids diet has been associated with a lower incidence of oestrogen receptor-negative breast cancer (but not oestrogen receptor-positive breast cancers).

Food-derived vitamin D and sun exposure may help protect against breast cancer. Eggs, cold-water fish, and fortified foods all contain vitamin D. A person’s vitamin D levels can be checked by consulting a doctor. If these levels are low, the doctor may advise taking a supplement.

Green tea has been shown to provide a variety of health benefits. It includes antioxidants, which may help boost the immune system and lower the risk of breast cancer.

Turmeric is a yellow spice with anti-inflammatory capabilities that may inhibit the development of breast cancer cells.  A healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in added sugar and trans fats may lower the risk of breast cancer.

It can also reduce the chance of obesity, which raises the risk of developing breast and other cancers.

How does a high fibre diet help reduce breast cancer risk?

Excess oestrogen has been linked to the development and spread of some kinds of breast cancer. A high-fibre diet can help to assist and speed up oestrogen removal.

Fibre aids digestion and the regular evacuation of waste, including excess oestrogen.

Fibre’s ability to bind to oestrogen in the stomach may also aid in preventing the body from absorbing too much oestrogen. These variables may contribute to a lower risk of breast cancer.

Fibre is found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, but they also include antioxidants such as beta carotene and vitamins C and E. Antioxidants can help prevent many diseases by lowering the number of free radicals, which are waste products produced by the body.

Obesity may be caused by fatty diets, and obese persons appear to have an increased chance of acquiring cancer, particularly breast cancer. Although some dietary fat is required for the body to function effectively, it is critical to consume the appropriate type.

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What foods should you avoid to reduce breast cancer risk?

Alcohol can raise oestrogen levels and damage the DNA. Women who consume three alcoholic beverages per week increase their chance of having breast cancer by 15%, and the risk increases by 10% for each extra drink consumed per day.

Processed food fat appears to raise the risk of breast cancer. Trans fats, a kind of fat found in processed and ready-to-eat foods, have been related to an increased risk of breast cancer.

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Some studies have revealed a relationship between red meat and an increased risk of breast cancer, particularly if the meat is cooked at high temperatures, which can cause toxins to be released.

Furthermore, processed meats and cold cuts are often heavy in fat, salt, and preservatives and may raise rather the chance of developing breast cancer.