The World Health Organisation (WHO) has predicted that by 2020 the number of breast cancer cases will jump to an alarming figure and one in every eight women would run the risk of developing the disease in her lifetime.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) too, concluded that over the last two decades there has been a steep rise in the statistics pertaining to women being diagnosed with breast cancer. So grave is the scenario that in India, breast cancer has been declared the most common form of cancer, almost surpassing cervical cancer as the deadliest of all cancers. Early detection and regular medical-checkups are compulsory, but at the same time it is important that our diet and the food we eat prepare us to fight malignant cancer cells at the onset.
Tina Sapra, senior clinical nutritionist & coordinator with Fortis Memorial Research Institute and Dr Vandana Mathur, consulting nutritionist, Metropolis Healthcare, Mumbai, give us an insight into the top foods that can prevent breast cancer risk in women. The doctors discuss age groups most vulnerable to the disease and also inform us about the foods that should be avoided in daily diet to keep cancer cell growth in check.
Foods that prevent Breast Cancer
You can get flax either as whole seed, ground or flaxseed oil. The omega-3s, lignans and fibre found in flaxseed are found to form a protective shield against cancer cells responsible for causing breast cancer. Include flax to yogurt or a smoothie to create a richer and nutty flavour. You can add flaxseed oil to salad dressings too or integrate them into baked goods, such as cookies or muffins.
Uniquely rich in selenium, fibre, and phytochemicals, Brazil nuts can help fight inflammation, improve the immune system and prevent tumour growth. And you do not need many of themâ€”a palmful can do the trick. Enjoy them as any other nut either with fruits or asparagus (contains the anti-cancer component, chlorophyll).
Rich source of cancer-fighting compound called allium, garlic and its relatives (onion, leeks, scallions, and chives) are shown to slow tumour growth and prevent breast cancer risk among other forms of cancer such as colorectal and prostate cancers. Garlic and onions are found in a variety of foods including Italian, Spanish, Indian, Thai and Chinese dishes. Crush or swallow a piece of garlic every morning and that’s all it takes to live a cancer-free life!
This is highly recommended for preventing breast cancer. It contains polyphenol- an ellagic acid with anti-oxidant properties that prevent cancer growth. Include this delicious fruit in your diet and discover effective health benefits.
Dark-green leafy vegetables
From kale, collards to spinach and Swiss chard, dark-green leafy vegetables probably are considered a “one stop shop” for all the best nutrients your body needs to fend off cancerous cells, i.e. fibre, vitamin B, phytochemicals, chlorophyll and more. It’s time to add some greens to your diet.
A study published in Nutrition and Cancer in 2010 found that higher mushroom intake is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer among women who are premenopausal. Cremini, oyster and shiitake mushrooms, among others, contain antioxidants such as L-ergothioneine that may confer cancer protection.
Try this: Add sliced mushrooms to scrambled eggs, frittatas, stews, stir-fries and your ground meat for burgers and meatloaf.
The crunchy seeds of a pomegranate (also referred to as arils) are well endowed with ellagic acid, a potent antioxidant that may inhibit an enzyme that plays a role in breast cancer development, according to U.S. scientists from the City of Hope’s Beckman Research Institute. Pomegranates, a rich source of antioxidants, have also been linked to improved heart health. You can get the same antioxidants from pure pomegranate juice, but drink only one cup (250 mL) a day to keep sugar intake in check, or have half of a fruit.
Try this: Garnish cottage cheese, salads, oatmeal and pilafs with pomegranate seeds. Add the juice to smoothies and iced tea.
A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2009 analyzed the dietary patterns of more than 3,500 Asian-American women and found that a higher intake of legumes, which include lentils and beans, was associated with lower breast cancer risk. Though often overlooked, budget-friendly lentils are brimming with folate, fibre and a host of other nutrients that may help keep breast cancer at bay.
Try this: Try lentil burgers and tacos. Make hearty weeknight pasta with whole-grain penne, lentils, sun-dried tomatoes, chopped kale and diced feta cheese.
A great source of omega-3s and vitamins B12 and D, salmon can provide your body with the nutrients it needs to regulate cell growth and prevent cancer. In fact, certain types of Vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin) are proven effective in cancer treatment. Steam it, bake it, grill it or saute it. This fish is a great option and pairs well with many foods like garlic, dark-green leafy vegetables, turmeric, peppers and broccoli.
Healthy weight reduces risk of first-time breast cancer and recurrence.
Maintaining a healthy weight may help reduce the risk of breast cancer coming back. Studies have shown that women who gained weight after their breast cancer diagnosis had an increased risk of recurrence.
Studies on maintaining a healthy weight and lowering the risk of a first-time breast cancer suggest that overweight women have an increased risk of breast cancer after menopause compared to women at a healthy weight.
If you’re not sure what your healthy weight should be, use some of the tips and tools available on the Assess Your Weight page. A healthy eating plan should include some physical activity. Aim for 3 to 4 hours of walking per week to start. If you’re having treatment right now, you may need to start slowly and work up to this.
Low-fat diet may reduce risk of recurrence and first-time breast cancer.
Sticking to a low-fat diet may help reduce the risk of breast cancer coming back. One study in which women got only about 25% of their daily calories from fat found a lower risk of recurrence, mostly in women who’d been diagnosed with estrogen-receptor-negative breast cancer. It will take more than this one study to know who is most likely to get the biggest benefit from specific dietary changes. But no matter what kind of cancer you’ve had, you might get significant benefit from lowering the amount of fat in your diet. Plus, other healthy choices are more likely to come with a low-fat diet, such as eating more fruits and vegetables and losing weight. All these changes together may help lower your risk of recurrence.
The large Women’s Health Initiative Trial compared the breast cancer risk of postmenopausal women who ate a low-fat diet to those who continued to eat their regular diet. The researchers didn’t find any significant differences in breast cancer risk between the two groups. But the study did suggest that a low-fat diet may reduce the risk of first-time breast cancer for women whose diets are very high in fat to begin with. More research is needed to determine if this relationship becomes stronger over time. And reducing fat and increasing fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet will ensure your body is getting enough nutrients and contribute to your overall health. Also, a low-fat diet will probably help you lose weight, if you are trying to do that.
Broccoli and broccoli sprouts
As a cruciferous (belonging to the plant family Cruciferae) vegetable along with cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale; broccoli is rich in sulforophane and indoles, which are shown to regulate cell growth in multiple ways and help fight a range of cancers, including breast, bladder, lymphoma, prostate and lung cancer.
IPSHITA MITRA, TNN