The Role of Nutrition in Reducing the Risk of Breast Cancer
Preventing breast cancer, like most forms of this disease, is never guaranteed...no matter what you do. It's like driving down a highway...you can do whatever you can to try and avoid causing or becoming part of an accident but there are still certain factors that you cannot control to completely avoid a crash.
Nevertheless, if you drive drunk or distracted you'll no doubt increase your risk of causing an accident. The same goes for your lifestyle and especially your nutrition when it comes to cancer (and other degenerative diseases). There's still a 'cause and effect' reaction that occurs although no one really knows how much it actually impacts the risk of developing breast cancer or other cancers for that matter.
Nutrition plays a significant role in maintaining health and wellness and various studies have suggested that good nutrition may help reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. We'll discuss these studies and how you can ensure you're getting the optimal amounts of the right nutrients every day.
A recent study co-authored by Dimitrios Trichopoulos of Harvard School of Public Health has suggested that following the Mediterranean diet may help reduce the chances of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Another study revealed that adequate consumption of olive oil, fruits and vegetables may reduce a woman's risk of developing breast cancer.
How Fruits and Vegetables Help Promote Good Health
Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of free radical fighting phytonutrients (examples include flavonols, isoflavones, indoles, carotenoids and lycopene). The intense and vibrant colours these plants produce stand as testament to their phytonutrient content. The other beneficial ingredients found in fruits and vegetables include fibres, minerals and vitamins.
Below we have listed the kinds of fruits and vegetables that are effective for reducing free radical activity.
- Fruits and vegetables containing beta carotene...for instance papayas, cantaloupes, guavas, cherries, apricots, baby carrots, turnip greens, spinach, kale etc.
- Cruciferous vegetables, for instance Chinese cabbage, turnip, sauerkraut, broccoli etc
- Organic produce
- Pomegranate in different forms, which include peel extract, fermented juice and seed oil
Role of Fibre
Plant products like whole grains, legumes (for instance, split peas, pinto beans, black beans, lentils etc) fruits and vegetables are known for being rich sources of fibre. A high fibre diet is particularly helpful in reducing abnormal hormone levels that may increase the risk of breast cancer progression.
Studies have shown that high fibre diet helps in preventing obesity, which is thought to be one of the principal risk factors of breast cancer. Examples of fruits rich in fibre are: cantaloupe, apple, banana, guava, figs etc. Examples of fibre rich vegetables are: artichokes, peas, lima beans, squash, carrots, kale etc. Examples of whole grains having maximum amount of fibre are: barley, black beans, garbanzo beans, brown rice etc.
Besides increasing your daily intake of fruits, vegetables and other fibre rich plants, you should also cut down your daily sugar intake. Foods having high sugar content are generally highly refined and processed, containing negligible amounts of dietary fibre and may be one of the causes of obesity if consumed in significant quantities.
These food items are also known for increasing the levels of serum IGF-I and serum insulin which have been shown to increase free radical activity which is associated with the growth of cancer cells. Consuming low fibre diets may also invite conditions like hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance. Hyperinsulinemia may also act as a risk factor for a variety of conditions in obese or overweight women.
Low Fat Diet Benefits
Numerous studies have been conducted all over the world to investigate the relationship between fat and breast cancer risk. Most of them came up with inconsistent results. However, results obtained from two recently conducted studies revealed some promising facts. The first of these two studies i.e. Women's Intervention Nutrition Study (WINS) discovered that a reduction in fat intake helps in improving relapse-free survival rate in postmenopausal women having breast cancer by as much as 24% compared to women consuming a normal diet.
The second study i.e. the European Prospective Investigation into Nutrition and Cancer (EPIC) study found that consuming a high fat diet increased a woman's chances of developing breast cancer significantly. During the study it was found that women with a diet comprising of 35 to 39% fat were at greater risk of having breast cancer than women consuming diet containing 31% fat.
While foods items rich in saturated fat and trans fatty acids are believed to increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer, the consumption of foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids may help reduce both inflammation and free radical activity.
As mentioned above, nothing is guaranteed when it comes to preventing breast cancer although you can still reduce your risk of developing this disease through healthy lifestyle options and nutrition.
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