Over 2.8 million women in the U.S. have a history of breast cancer, including those getting treated now. Aside from skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosis. especially for women (and, yes, men to get it too). And the foods we eat could play an integral role in potentially fighting cancer and keeping the body as healthy as possible during treatment.
Why Eat Healthy?
“A nutritious diet will fuel the immune system by providing important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that nourish healthy cells,” say nutritionists Jane Schwartz, RD, and Stephanie Goodman, CNC. “A nourishing diet also provides lots of fiber, which feeds the beneficial bacteria that are critical for immune health.”
Cancer-fighting foods, like leafy greens, berries, and mushrooms, can also help you manage your weight. That keeps your body healthy in many ways, including reducing excess body around the waist, which can trigger cancer cell growth due to increased insulin production.
Registered Dietitian Julieanna Hever MS, RD, CP., who is also the author of Plant-Based Nutrition, advocates healthy foods for breast cancer patients, and emphasizes eating lots of fruits, vegetables, and a couple servings of whole soy products daily, which can reduce the risk of breast cancer incidence and recurrence.
“Focusing on eating a health-promoting diet, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding disease-promoting foods help breast cancer patients improve their outcomes,” says Hever.
Whether you snack on carrots and oranges or eat salads and drink tea, healthy dietary choices could have a big impact on your body’s ability to prevent and fight cancer.
“Upgraded nutrition has been found to reduce cancer cell growth, boost treatment efficacy, diminish side effects of treatment, improve quality of life, and provide a great source of energy that is much needed during treatment,” say Schwartz and Goodman.
Foods to Avoid
Sugars are big no-no, since the sweet stuff suppresses the immune system and can interfere with the absorption of vitamins and minerals.
“Cancer cells consume sugar at a rate double to triple that of normal cells,” say Schwartz and Goodman. They urge breast cancer patients to limit, if not outright avoid, sugar, honey, high fructose corn syrup, and brown rice syrup, as well as sweets like candy, doughnuts, and sodas.
Breast cancer patients should also avoid alcohol and highly processed foods, like those with sugars, white flour, and oils. Hever calls these processed foods “disease-promoting” and explains that they “crowd out calories” that should be used on healthy foods.
From good-for-you greens, to soy, to colorful fruits, read on for the cancer-fighting food tips that nutrition experts suggest.
This fungus is very good for you! Eat mushrooms including shiitake, maitake, and reishi, which can support a healthy immune system and help your body during chemotherapy.
Every day, fill up on green veggies like broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, and collard greens. The reason? Cruciferous vegetables, which can be eaten raw or cooked, contain indole-3 carbinol, “a phytochemical that that has been found to deactivate an estrogen metabolite that promotes tumor growth, particularly in breast cells,” say Schwartz and Goodman,” who note, “It’s also been found to keep cancer cells from spreading to other parts of the body.”