Linking Breast Cancer and Diet

Posted by Jessica Meyers Altman on

 It's Breast Cancer Awareness month. While so much attention goes to raising money for breast cancer research, too little effort goes into educating people on what they can do to prevent breast cancer (and many other forms cancer too!). Breast cancer is largely linked to diet, MUCH more so than genetic causes, which gets so much attention. The BRACA gene that many link to breast cancer cases, accounts for only 5-10% of diagnosed cases of breast cancer, however expression of this gene is not guaranteed if lifestyle changes occur.

By consuming a nutritious diet you drastically reduce your risk of developing many forms of cancer, breast cancer included, as well as diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer's Disease. What’s a nutritious diet? One that is low in fat, primarily low in saturated fat, and comprised of whole foods (not the low-fat processed junk!). The average person in America consumes 35% of their daily calories from fat (Source)! The recommendation from the federal government is below 20%, however, to truly reduce disease, you should strive for your fat intake to be under 10% of your daily caloric intake.  Obese and overweight women are at much higher risk of developing breast cancer, and all forms of cancer.  Fat cells make estrogen, and breast cancer risk increases with high levels of estrogen in the body. Eating plants exposes you to much less estrogen exposure. Exposure to estrogen is heightened with diets high in animal-based proteins. Those on plant-based diets are exposed to considerably less estrogen in their diets (shown in Dr. Colin T. Campbell's research and book The China Study), and provides your body with the antioxidants it needs to fight & prevent disease. Fruits and vegetables fight inflammation, while foods high in saturated fats and low in fiber (animal foods), increase all forms of disease; breast and other forms of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s Disease, and more. Breast cancer rates are much lower in countries that eat a predominately plant-based diet.

Orange should be the new pink! Orange foods (and no Cheetos definitely don't count!) have high levels of carotenoids, an antioxidants perfect for preventing and reducing the reoccurrence of cancers.  Research shows that women who consume the most carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables reduce their risk for breast cancer by about 19 percent, according to Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee and author of Applying the Precautionary Principle to Nutrition and Cancer guidelines, which was published in the Journal of American College of Nutrition (Source). Dark leafy greens do the same! Spinach, kale, and mustard greens all have even higher carotenoid levels than other orange foods! In addition, greens are packed with plant-based protein, fiber, iron, calcium, and a number of other antioxidants.  

Here are some other things you can do to limit your risk of breast cancer and many other forms of cancer, along with diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer's (what helps with one, helps with all!):

Some steps you can take to help to reverse disease and reduce your risk of  breast cancer (and other diseases):

  • Eat MORE than 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day (strive for 9-12)! Fruits and veggies are packed with antioxidants to fight disease
  • Boost your fiber (did you know that less than 9% of Americans get the recommended amount of fiber! CDC source)-by eating those fruits & veggies, as well as getting in servings of legumes like lentils, chickpeas, black beans, cannellini beans, pinto beans, and ALL other kinds of beans and lentils!
  • Skip the processed stuff!!! Eat WHOLE foods-the less processed your foods are, the more nutritious they are. Eat foods you can recognize, and avoid foods with long lists of ingredients, especially those you can’t identify
  • Avoid oils-oil provides no nutrition other than fat calories. Diets high in fat have been shown to increase inflammation in the body and lead to cancers, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and periodontal disease
  • Avoid dairy-dairy is inflammatory. Cancers feed on inflammatory foods
  • Eat a whole, plant-based diet-plant-based foods are nutrient dense and have high fiber amounts. Fiber will fill you up and satisfy you, which helps you to eat less overall calories
  • Buy organic whenever possible-pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides have been linked to higher rates of cancer
  • Start your kids off on the right track! Cancers can grow slowly, and many occurrences of cancer have been growing for years before they are detected
  • Visit your dentist! If you have been diagnosed-visit your dentist! Changes in dental health during and after cancer treatment is common. Staying on top of your dental hygiene routine is important to prevent further periodontal disease

***All of these steps will also help to lose weight. Overweight and obese women have a much higher incidence of breast cancer.

Want some healthy recipes that are nutrient dense? Here's one orange and one green recipe:

Butternut Squash Soup

Massaged Kale Salad


Hop on over to for more meal ideas and boost your health!

Until next week...Happy eating (and cooking!)

-Jessica from 


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