Diet is crucial in protecting you against breast cancer. Though "healthy diets" often conger up visions of flavorless, unsatisfying fare, healthy cancer-fighting foods are actually quite easy to transform into gourmet meals. Here is a list of must-have anti-cancer foods as well as three sumptuous recipes that will make your fight against breast cancer a delicious endeavor.
Fight cancer with a high-antioxidant, plant-based diet
Though there are a number of theories on the causes of breast cancer, a healthy diet is unquestionably a key component in preventing it as well as beating it. Experts recommend a plant-based diet that includes foods rich in omega-3 fats.
Dark colored fruits and vegetables
Aim for at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily – they are packed with fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals that can help halt cancer. Good choices are dark leafy greens
, pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, winter squash, plums, grapes, strawberries, oranges and cantaloupe. Superfruits, such as pomegranate, mangosteens, goji berries and acai berries, are high in antioxidants and can be consumed in juice form.
High-fiber whole grains can help reduce cancer-causing toxins in the body and contribute to overall good health. Decrease – or even eliminate – the processed, white flour and white rice products in your diet and, instead, boost your intake of whole grains such as oats, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, buckwheat, spelt and amaranth. When buying whole grain cereals, opt for brands with the most fiber, at least 2 grams per serving (some cereals have up to 13 grams of fiber per serving!).
Replacing meats with beans will lower your total and saturated fat intake as well as significantly increase your consumption of fiber and other cancer-fighting phytonutrients. Toss beans in salads and soups, puree them to make a dip or sandwich spread, and include them in your rice and pasta dishes for a healthy source of protein. If buying canned beans, be sure to rinse them with water before using, to reduce their sodium content.
Nuts and seeds
Excellent sources of vitamins, minerals and heart-healthy unsaturated fats, nuts and seeds are one of the best plant sources of protein
. However, they are high in fat and should be eaten in moderation as to not take in an excess of calories and fat (even good fats in excess are unhealthy). High in omega-3 fats, nuts and seeds – especially flax seeds – and their oils contribute to a healthy cancer-combatting diet.
Healthy cooking oils
Flax oil, olive oil and canola oil should be used in place of butter because they are high in unsaturated fats. Flax oil is delicate and should be used in unheated dishes, like salads. Olive oil and canola can be used for sautéing, baking and oven-broiling. Limit your intake of fried or grilled foods.
Note: The American Cancer Society recommends limiting your intake of fried or grilled foods because studies show high-heat cooking can cause carcinogens (which contribute to cancer). The most recent research, however, indicates that marinating your meats in ingredients high in antioxidants can reduce the cancer-causing chemicals
Some experts believe that omega-3 fatty acids protect against the spread of solid-tumor cancers that are related to hormone production, particularly breast cancer. However, the research is not conclusive. Regardless, omega-3-rich foods are associated with heart health and decreased inflammation
. You can obtain omega-3s in flax, fatty fish, fish oil supplements, and legumes. Because fat-rich foods are high in calories, be sure to limit your intake to keep your diet low in total fat.
Follow a diet that consists of no more than 20 to 30 percent fat. And make sure the fat you do eat is unsaturated – limit saturated fat and avoid products with hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated and/or trans fats. In addition, opt for low-fat dairy products, such as milk, cheese and yogurt.
Even if you don't have cancer risk factors, following a healthy diet can help protect you from developing breast cancer – and any other type of cancer – as well as other chronic diseases. And if you transform your healthy foods into delicious, satisfying dishes, eating to prevent breast cancer won't be unpalatable at all.
NEXT: Anti-cancer recipes