Veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and cabbage are high in vitamins A and C. These are antioxidants that may help offset the toxins and carcinogens that can trigger breast cancer. Sauté or blanch these veggies to get the max nutrients. And try to get your antioxidants from food instead of supplements. Some research suggests antioxidant supplements may be risky during breast cancer treatment.
Flax seeds are known for their omega-3s, but they're good for your breasts because they have more lignans than any other food. These are plant compounds that have fiber and the antioxidant phytoestrogen. Researchers think phytoestrogen targets estrogen receptors so estrogen-stimulated breast cancer can't form. Toss flax seeds (not flaxseed oil) into yogurt, oatmeal, salads, soups, smoothies, and muffins.
People have used turmeric to curb inflammation for centuries. And early research suggests it may have two big breast cancer benefits. Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, may help stop the spread of breast cancer and lessen the damage of chemotherapy on other parts of your body. But that finding comes from lab studies -- more research is needed to see if this will hold true in humans. Eat turmeric in curry dishes, or add it to your soups, scrambled eggs, or warm milk.
Carotenoids are natural pigments that give tomatoes, carrots, and sweet potatoes their color. Your body converts them to vitamin A, which is important for your eyes. They also help keep your skin healthy. More research is needed, but some studies suggest there may be a link between carotenoids and a lower risk of some types of breast cancer.
These benefit your breasts with cancer-fighting vitamin D and omega-3. Some lab research shows that omega-3 can stop blood vessels from growing inside a tumor. But more research is needed to know if eating oily fish can lower cancer risk. Focus on salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies, and mackerel to avoid mercury exposure and get the most nutrients.
Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries are high in immunity-boosting vitamin C. They also contain antioxidants that protect your body from cell damage. Fresh, frozen, or dried, berries are great on their own and easy to add to yogurt, cereal, smoothies, and muffins.
Many studies point to a diet with more plant-based protein than meat to protect your breasts from cancer or lower the risk of it coming back. Try ground walnuts tossed with seasoning to replace ground beef in tacos. One study has shown that eating walnuts helps slow breast tumor growth and may even help lower the risk of breast cancer.
Grapes, especially red and purple, have high levels of resveratrol. That's an antioxidant linked to the prevention of breast, liver, and stomach cancer. Snack on a bunch of grapes right off the vine, freeze them as a cool dessert, or add them to salads. Just keep the skin on: That's where most of the antioxidants live.
Years ago, rodent-based research linked soy foods with breast cancer. But updated studies explain that rodents and humans process soy differently. Healthy soy foods like soybeans (edamame), tofu, and tempeh are safe and have phytonutrients -- called isoflavones -- that may help prevent cancer.
These are another way to get plant-based protein that eases inflammation and may lower your risk of breast cancer. They're also high in fiber and antioxidants. Buy them ready-made or cook up a batch of black, green, or red lentils to use in place of ground beef in chili, Mexican, and Italian dishes.
Of all the varieties of beans, these are considered one of the healthiest. Also called turtle beans, their high antioxidant levels may help lower your risk of breast cancer, other types of cancer, and ongoing illnesses. Black beans are also a strong source of ergothioneine, an amino acid that protects your DNA.
These are a crucial source of bioactive phytochemicals, natural compounds that can help prevent or manage breast cancer. In one study, women who ate whole grains more than seven times a week showed a reduced risk of breast cancer. Sound like a lot? Whole-grain oatmeal, bread, crackers, tortillas, cereals, pastas, and brown rice all count.
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- Whole grains are rich in natural compounds that can help prevent or manage breast cancer.
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration: "Code of Federal Regulations Title 21."
- Lentils.org: "Top Foods For Good Breast Health."
- Oregon State University: "Lignans."
- Cleveland Clinic: "Flaxseed: Little Seed, Big Benefits," "The Best Foods to Eat when You Have Breast Cancer," "The Whole Truth About Whole Grains."
- Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health: "How to Take Turmeric: 10 Ways to Make Turmeric Part of Your Daily Diet."
- Mount Sinai: "Beta carotene."
- Susan G. Komen: "Diet and Breast Cancer."
- International Journal of Cancer: "Dietary Carotenoids and the Risk of Invasive Breast Cancer."
- American Cancer Society: "Study Finds Antioxidants Risky During Breast Cancer Chemotherapy."
- American Institute for Cancer Research: "Broccoli More Nutritious When Raw or Cooked?" "Fish and Cancer Risk: 4 Things You Need to Know."
- Nutrition Journal: "Potential protective properties of flax lignan secoisolariciresinol diglucoside."
- El Camino Health: "Healthy Eating for Breast Health."
- MD Anderson Cancer Center: "5 foods that help lower your cancer risk," "Sulforaphane benefits: How broccoli and Brussels sprouts may help reduce your cancer risk," "3 nutrients cancer survivors should know."
- PennState Health, St. Joseph: "Plant-Based Diet, Health Weight, and Exercise Key to Breast Cancer Treatment Success."
- Moffitt Cancer Center: "Eating Walnuts May Help Breast Cancer Patients."
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Lentils."
- North Dakota State University: "All About Beans Nutrition, Health Benefits, Preparation and Use in Menus."
- NutritionFacts.org: "Black Beans."
- US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health: "Whole Grain Consumption for the Prevention and Treatment of Breast Cancer."