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Ten Best Foods for Breast Cancer Prevention
The Problem of Breast Cancer
Last year, over 200,000 new cases of breast cancer were diagnosed, and about 40,000 women died because of the disease. Breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer diagnosed in women (after skin cancer) and the second deadliest cancer for women (after lung cancer).
It is no wonder, then, that so many women (including myself) are concerned about the disease and what they can do to prevent it. If you know you are at a higher risk for developing breast cancer, you should be relieved to know that there are things you can do to prevent the onset of the disease. This includes watching what you eat.
Several scientific studies have shown that certain foods can actually help prevent breast cancer. Here is a list of 10 such foods, but please note that it is not exhaustive.
My family loves these little carrots. They're so portable and delicious. They make a wonderful snack that you can munch on anywhere, at any time of day.
Baby carrots are full of the powerful carotenoid antioxidant beta carotene. This antioxidant has been shown to protect the body from many different types of cancer, including that of the breast.
You may want to try cooking these little babies every once in a while, though. The cooking process seems to release more of the vegetable's beneficial properties, so cooked carrots are even better than raw carrots for breast cancer prevention.
Broccoli contains a chemical compound called indole-3-carbinol. This has been shown to change the structure and function of estrogen in the body. An increase in estrogen has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer (this is why breast cancer affects women so much more than men), and indole-3-carbinol works to prevent estrogen's harmful effects.
Additionally, broccoli has sulforaphane. This chemical fights free radicals and cancer-causing agents. It is important to note, though, that different types of broccoli have different amounts of this beneficial chemical. Look for broccoli that tastes especially bitter. This indicates the presence of more sulforaphane. Or get BroccoSprouts. These have levels of sulforaphane about 20 times higher than regular-sized heads of broccoli.
Cherries are another favorite at our house, and they should be a favorite at everyone's house. These beautiful, yummy fruits have high amounts of the antioxidant flavonoid anthocyanin. Anthocyanin has been shown to prevent the spread of cancer cells. When you're at the grocery store, look for sour cherries, rather than sweet, because sour cherries have more anthocyanin than sweet cherries.
Cherries also have the cancer-fighting chemicals perillyl alcohol, limonene, and ellagic acid. And cherries are the only food source of all three of these powerful chemicals. So, the next time you make yourself a hot fudge sundae, don't forget the cherry on top. Just make sure to replace the maraschino cherry with a Montmorency cherry to get the most health benefits.
These deliciously famous juice grapes have high amounts of antioxidant bioflavonoids. They are also a great source of resveratrol, which has been shown to put the brakes on cancer-cell growth and spread. Like cherries, they also contain the chemical ellagic acid, which works to slow down the growth of cancerous tumors.
And you might want to consider drinking a glass of Concord grape juice instead of red wine at dinner. Consumption of alcohol has been linked with an increased risk of breast cancer. So, even though red wine also contains resveratrol, the alcohol in the beverage could actually be interfering with the beneficial health effects, especially when it comes to fighting breast cancer.
Flaxseeds are a not-very-commonly-used grain that pack a powerful health punch. They have a large number of phytoestrogens, which work to prevent breast cancer. Some studies have shown that they can even keep the cancer from coming back in women who have previously been treated for it.
Flaxseeds are also good sources of Omega 3 fatty acids and plant lignans. In fact, flaxseeds have over 100 times more lignans than any other plant food source. Just consuming 2-3 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds per day can significantly lower your risk of developing breast cancer.
How do the lignans in flaxseeds fight breast cancer? In several ways. Lignans block the production of estrogen in your body. And since higher estrogen levels are associated with a higher risk of breast cancer, this is a good thing. But there is such a thing as "good" estrogen (non-cancer-producing estrogen) and "bad" estrogen (cancer-producing). Lignans have actually been proven to increase the amount of good estrogen at the same time that they decrease the amount of bad estrogen in your body.
Lignans also work to make breast tissue less susceptible to environmental damage, and adequate lignan consumption can lengthen a woman's menstrual cycle, so that she has fewer periods over her lifetime. Studies have shown that the more periods a woman has, the higher her risk of developing breast cancer.
Garlic contains special compounds that enhance the immune system and help it fight against cancer cells and the carcinogens that cause them to form. One of these compounds, diallyl sulfide, has been shown to be particularly effective in combating these cancer-causing agents.
Eat garlic raw or cooked. Either way, you will get the health benefits. Just be sure that, before you cook the garlic, you chop it up and let it sit for about 10-15 minutes before you do anything with it. If you heat the garlic immediately, you are actually killing the cancer-fighters it contains before they have a chance to develop.
Green tea is a healthy and tasty drink. It has high levels of antioxidant polyphenols, which prevent cancer cells from multiplying in the body. It is also a great source of the chemical compound EGCG, which has been scientifically proven to stop breast cancer cell production in mice.
And don't skimp on the caffeine. The caffeinated version of green tea has two times the health benefits as the uncaffeinated version. If you don't like the taste of green tea by itself as much as I do, you can always flavor it with a little Concord grape juice or lemon peel. Not only will you be adding great taste, but you'll be adding even more cancer-fighting power.
Olive oil, in particular extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), has also been shown to decrease your risk of getting breast cancer, but although this monounsaturated fat is a nutritional powerhouse in many respects, its effects on breast cancer prevention are limited.
About 30 percent of breast cancers express the HER2 molecules, which the cancer drug Herceptin goes after. And these are the only types of cancers that seem to be helped by consuming olive oil.
EVOO contains two chemical compounds, secoiridoids and lignans, that destroy HER2-positive cells. They do next to nothing to HER2-negative cells. Of these two compounds, the lignans appear to be better at fighting off cancer cell development. And they can even affect the malignancy of tumors.
Even though the current scientific results on the effects of olive oil on breast cancer show limits, it wouldn't hurt to include this healthy fat in your diet, since it does so much good for other body parts, like your heart.
Soy makes a wonderful healthy addition to any diet for a number of reasons. As far as breast cancer goes, soy contains phytoestrogens that inhibit the growth of cancerous cells. The isoflavone genistein present in soy is an especially potent cancer cell stopper. It prevents the development of the epithelial cells and blood vessels tumors use to make themselves stronger.
You might want to be careful when you're adding soy to your diet, though. It is safe to eat up to five ounces of soy per day, but any more than that could actually increase your risk of developing breast cancer because an excess of soy can lead to a hormonal imbalance that promotes cancer growth.
The antioxidant lycopene, which is found in high doses in tomatoes, is a well-known attacker of free radicals that are suspected of causing all different types of cancer. They are also a great source of Vitamin C, which has been shown to play a role in preventing cancer by cutting down on the cell damage that leads to cancer.
Get your tomatoes from a farmer's market in the hottest part of the summer for the best results, since tomatoes seem to produce the most lycopene in hot weather. Cooking tomatoes also increases the amount of lycopene you can get from them, so add them to soups, chili, and spaghetti sauce for the best cancer-fighting results.
Breast Cancer Can Be a Deadly Disease ...
But don't fear it; fight it. Do what you can now to make sure your body's in prime fighting shape so that, if you do experience breast cancer in your lifetime, you will be able to beat it.
And, as this hub has shown, one of the best ways to prevent breast cancer is by making some small improvements in your diet. Healthy food can do more than just fill your stomach; it can save your life.