Prevent Breast Cancer: It Starts with Proper Nutrition

Eat Healthy with CancerScience has come a long way in identifying nutrients that can help boost cell health and lower the risk of developing breast cancer. At first glance, these diet to-dos can seem overwhelming:

  1. Eat a plant-based diet
  2. Incorporate more antioxidants in your diet
  3. Try an anti-inflammatory diet

But the good news is that it’s actually much easier than you think to create and stick to a healthy diet. Each of these tips work together to create a well-rounded, healthy and delicious approach to nutrition.

Eat a Plant-Based Diet

A plant-based diet delivers important nutrients to your body, including antioxidants, phytonutrients, fiber and other important vitamins and minerals that help your body function at its best. These nutrients have been linked to a reduced cancer risk.

Phytonutrients, in particular, can help protect cell health. These are naturally occurring chemicals that provide plants with color, odor and flavor. Research has shown these powerful substances have many benefits, including stimulating the immune system, blocking substances from becoming carcinogens, reducing inflammation, slowing the growth rate of cancer cells, and much more.

When it comes to shifting to a plant-based diet, there’s no need to go vegetarian or vegan. A few simple steps can deliver the benefits your body needs:

  • Go for 80/20. No more than 20 percent of your plate should be from protein, which includes meat, beans, eggs or other lean-protein sources. Make sure fruit, vegetables and grain take up most of the space on your plate.
  • Try meatless at least one night a week. Whole grain pasta with a fresh marinara sauce or healthy burritos filled with nutritious black beans, healthy cheeses and your favorite vegetables are healthful, delicious options.
  • Add berries to breakfast. Top yogurt or oats with berries, scramble eggs with veggies, or add bananas to peanut butter toast on whole grain bread.
  • Snack on veggies. Vegetables don’t have to be bland. Try some of your favorites dipped in hummus or Greek yogurt.

Know the Score on Antioxidants

Antioxidants help protect cells from damage, keeping them healthy and lowering your risk of cancer. Many fruit and vegetables are a great source of antioxidants, including:

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Berries
  • Purple, blue and red grapes
  • Sweet potatoes

Other sources of antioxidants include:

  • Green tea
  • Whole grains
  • Beans
  • Herbs and spices

There are many great ways to include antioxidants in your diet. Add at least one fruit or vegetable to each meal or snack every day. Veggies in dip and smoothies made with berries and spinach are also an easy and tasty way to boost your diet with antioxidants.

Try an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Anti-inflammatory diets have been in the news lately for a host of health benefits, including improved heart health, joint health, and reduced inflammation along with the potential to help lower your risk of cancer. Typically, these diets include:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Plant-based protein, such as beans and nuts
  • Fatty fish
  • Fresh herbs and spices

Phytonutrients come into play once again with the anti-inflammatory diet. One of the many benefits of these little substances includes the ability to reduce inflammation. Chronic inflammation can cause damage to DNA and lead to cancer.

Because chronic inflammation often has no signs or symptoms, and can be caused by a variety of issues, including injury, obesity, smoking, lack of exercise and even stress, health professionals recommend eating a healthy diet high in phytonutrients to help lower your cancer risk.

Set Yourself Up for Success

Changing what and how you eat can be a daunting process. The success comes when you commit yourself to taking it slow. Introduce one new healthy eating habit once a week, and work your way to eating healthy all day, every day.

Keep these tips in mind to boost your chances of success:

  • Try a variety of new food, cooked in different ways.
  • Vegetables can retain a lot of their nutrients when sautéed or roasted. A good rule of thumb is to keep vegetables crisp when cooking, and make sure they don’t wind up falling apart.
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutrient-rich as fresh produce and often cost less.
  • Buy fruit and vegetables that are in season to boost nutrition and save money.
  • Discover healthy options that you like. Mealtimes and snacks should be enjoyable. Don’t eat something just because it’s included on a list. Find a healthy option that tastes good to you.

Learn More

Learn more about how a healthy diet can help prevent cancer and boost your health before, during, and after treatment. The dietitians at Winship Cancer Institute can answer your questions and create a customized nutrition plan that’s right for you.

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Comprehensive Cancer Center for Georgia – the highest designation given by the NCI to cancer centers in the nation. Winship offers expertise in cancer research, prevention, detection and treatment with the most advanced therapies. Winship is where you get treatments years before others can. Our expert team coordinates every detail of your visit to meet your individualized treatment plan. Visit emoryhealthcare.org/cancer or call 1-888-WINSHIP for an appointment.