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From the foods to eat to the supplements to take, women shouldn't feel helpless when it comes to breast cancer. Heed these simple lifestyle and diet tips to reduce your risk.
There is no such thing as a “miracle” cancer-prevention diet, but mounting research suggests that a diet low in refined carbohydrates (which may boost insulin levels and fuel tumor growth) and high in antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetables, and good fats may reduce risk, says Shike.
Cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli and brussels sprouts, are rich in the potent anticancer compound sulforaphane, as well as a compound called indole-3-carbinol, which helps the body metabolize estrogen into a more benign form, says Pendergrast. Antioxidant beta-carotene, found in bright orange squash, carrots, and sweet potatoes, also lowers breast cancer risk, according to a 2012 meta-analysis in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Fiber, via fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, helps to usher toxins and excess estrogen out of the body, Buchanan says. Flaxseed is a good source because it contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, as well as lignans, which have both plant estrogen and antioxidant qualities; in fact, flaxseed contains 75–800 times more lignans than other plant foods. Sprinkle 1–2 tablespoons ground flaxseed on cereal per day.
Fatty fish, including wild Alaskan salmon and farmed rainbow trout, is rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. “Recent research shows that inflammation in the tissues actually allows cancer cells to dodge the body’s immune response,” says Pendergrast.
In laboratory studies, certain spices, including curcumin, have been shown to reactivate sleeping tumor suppressor genes (TSGs), enabling them to kill off proliferating cells before they become cancerous. Fresh ginger and rosemary are potent anti-inflammatories, too.
Got teen daughters? Turn them on to soy smoothies. Evidence indicates that soy, particularly during puberty, reduces breast cancer risk later in life, possibly by moderating estrogen production in the breast tissue as it develops. And forget the myth that soy exacerbates breast cancer or interferes with treatment; two of the most recent human studies of women who ate or drank soy products after being diagnosed with breast cancer showed a slightly lower risk of cancer recurrence, says Robert Rountree, MD, Delicious Living’s medical editor.