Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women worldwide. About 1.7 million women in the world were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. An estimated 316,120 women in the United States are expected to develop breast cancer in 2017. Many of these cases of breast cancer are related to the consumption of unhealthy foods.
There is a growing body of evidence on the role dietary choices play in the development of breast cancer. Estimates suggest that up to 35% of breast cancer cases can be prevented through dietary and lifestyle modifications. To put this into perspective, more than one out of every three breast cancer cases can likely be prevented by simply making better dietary choices. Overall, a woman can cut her chance of cancer in half through good nutrition. The magic appears to be in the micronutrients and phytochemicals which need to be in the form of low-fat whole-food plants and not from supplements.
Micronutrient-rich whole plant foods are also rich in natural fiber. The findings of a 2016 review published in Oncotarget revealed that the consumption of an extra 10 grams of fiber per day decreased the risk of developing breast cancer in women by 4%. Fiber enhances the excretion of estrogen from the body. Estrogen stimulates the growth and development of cancerous cells and tumors in the breast. By promoting the excretion of estrogen, fiber helps to protect women from developing breast cancer. Examples of high fiber foods that fight cancer are beans, berries, and cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and leafy greens.
Broccoli and Related Greens
Broccoli and other Cruciferous Vegetables are rich in indoles, a group of compounds with potent anti-carcinogenic properties. Indoles bind to estrogen receptors in the breast cells and cut off estrogen from reaching estrogen-sensitive cancerous cells. This action of indoles helps to inhibit the growth and development of estrogen-sensitive cancerous cells and tumors in the breast.
Beans and other legumes are a nutrient dense high fiber source of cancer fighting carbohydrates. They contain lignans and saponins, resistant starch and antioxidants. In the Nurses' Health Study II, eating beans and lentils was associated with a significant reduction in breast cancer risk
Allium vegetables such as garlic, leaks, chives and onion have also been shown to have strong anti-cancer properties. They are rich in flavonols and organosulfur compounds, shown to have tumor-inhibitory properties. Cucurbitaceous vegetables (gourds) such as squash, cucumber and watermelon are also helpful. Solanaceous vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant are also good choices. And, lest we forget, sweet potatoes and other yams are also highly beneficial.
Take Home Message
1 in 8 women living in the United States will suffer from invasive breast cancer during the course of their lifetime. A significant number of breast cancer cases are preventable. Filling your plates with whole plant foods, such as legumes, (split peas, beans, lentils, dal) starchy vegetables like yams, and leafy green vegetables can help you beat breast cancer. So, arm yourself with a good knife and a cutting board. Then let the preparations begin.