source: Johns Hopkins Breast Center
After a diagnosis of breast cancer, women tend to re-evaluate their nutrition and health practices. Many wonder what caused this cancer to occur and what lifestyle changes they should be making. Most women believe they must make significant dietary changes to ensure good outcomes following breast cancer treatment. However, a healthy diet is only one of several factors that can affect the immune system; exercise and stress management are just as important in improving your overall health and well being.
Guidelines for Healthy Eating
There are no food or dietary supplements that will prevent breast cancer from returning. National Cancer Institute guidelines for cancer prevention can be used to decrease the chance of a breast cancer recurrence. These guidelines include:
- Increase intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains
- Decrease fat intake to < 30 percent of calories
- Minimize intake of cured, pickled and smoked foods
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
- Alcohol consumption should be done in moderation, if at all
Fruits, Vegetables and Whole Grains
Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are known to contain phytochemicals with antioxidant, antiestrogen and chemopreventive properties that may prevent cancer. Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage and brussels sprouts) are especially rich in phytochemicals. Whole grains are unprocessed foods that are high in complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. High fiber intakes may have a positive benefit by altering hormonal actions of breast cancer and other hormonal-dependent cancers. Daily fiber intake should be 25 to 35 grams of insoluble and soluble fiber.
Fat Intake Recommendations
Controversy exists on the role of dietary fat on the promotion of breast cancer. Some animal studies and epidemiological data have suggested that the type of fat consumed may initiate the development of breast cancer. We recommend that you:
- Limit the intake of highly saturated foods such as beef, lamb, organ meats, cheeses, cream, butter, ice cream
- Decrease food containing trans fatty acids, such as commercially prepared baked goods, crackers and margarine
Increase your intake of poultry, fish and vegetarian proteins (legumes and lentils). Increasing your intake of fish to 3 times per week will increase omega-3-polyunsaturated fat intake. Research has suggested that these fatty acids may inhibit the growth of breast tumors.
Healthy Body Weight
Obese women have higher levels of circulating estrogen than women at their ideal body weight. Many studies have demonstrated an association between body mass size and breast cancer in postmenopausal women. We recommend weight reduction through a healthy diet (five small meals; more fruits, vegetables and grains; less meat, dairy, fats and sugar) and exercise. Weight loss, healthy eating and behavior modifications will provide long term results.
Several studies have shown an association between alcohol consumption and breast cancer. Alcohol’s role in the development of breast cancer remains unclear. Dietary guidelines suggest that a woman consume no more than one drink per day. Women diagnosed with breast cancer may want to consider avoiding alcohol.
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