- Hannah Aylward
Eating to Support Breast Health
Eating to Support Breast Health
By Hannah Aylward
Breast cancer is the second most common kind of cancer in women. Every year, 1.7 million new cases of cancer are recorded. About one in eight women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point in their lives. Not to mention, one in 833 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
During the month of October, we bring compassion, awareness, and love to those who have been affected by breast cancer. As with many diseases, lifestyle factors play a huge role. A lack of physical activity, poor diet, obesity, and alcohol consumption can all increase your risk for breast cancer. These factors are especially important to note because we can control them.
Diet is partly responsible for about 30 to 40 percent of all cancers. Of course, no one food can prevent you from getting breast cancer. However, the right foods help optimize your health, boost your immune system, and help keep your risk for breast cancer as low as possible.
Here are some of the ways that you can adjust your diet to support your breast health:
We’ve talked about how fiber is totally an underrated superfood, but did you know that for women it can help reduce the risk factors for breast cancer? Women can reduce their risk of breast cancer by 7 percent for every 10 grams of fiber added to their daily diet. Isn’t that amazing? Try adding these foods to your meals to increase your fiber intake ASAP:
- Lentils - Lentils are a great source of folate — a B vitamin that helps with cell production. Studies have shown women who consume high levels of this nutrient are 44 percent less likely to develop breast cancer.
- Walnuts - Researchers say walnuts may help reduce the size of tumors due to their anti-inflammatory properties.
- Broccoli - Broccoli can reduce the quantity of breast cancer stem cells because it contains sulforaphane — a powerful, cancer-fighting compound that once consumed, can reach breast cancer tissue within about an hour.
- Pomegranate - Filled with cancer-fighting properties, pomegranate offers six grams of fiber per cup and is loaded with phytonutrients. Pomegranate juice, in particular, has been shown to inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells and also prevents metastatic processes.
There is so much conflicting evidence surrounding the pros and cons of wine. While some positive health impact has been shown, studies show that drinking alcohol can increase one’s risk of breast cancer.
Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs) + Conventional Foods
Genetically modified foods are grown with many harmful herbicides and pesticides that can disrupt the gut and increase the risk of cancer. To reduce your exposure to pesticides, buy organic, non-GMO food. Visit the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists to view which produce contains the most pesticides. This will help you make decisions when shopping. Some fruits and vegetables have thicker peels, that are typically not eaten, so are generally speaking more “ok” to be consumed when conventionally grown.
More often than not, sugar is not doing us any favors. Sugar increases the risk of obesity (a risk factor for breast cancer), diabetes, and heart disease. It can also interfere with the way that our bodies fight disease and damage the immune system. Not good. Try to cut out all processed sugars. Your body will thank you.
A Healthy Gut
At least 70 percent of the immune system resides in the gut. The connection between our immune system and cancer growth can tell us that keeping our guts healthy and happy is critical to preventing disease. In 15-20 percent of cancer patients, gut dysbiosis contributes to tumor growth. The bacteria in the gut can either help fight off disease or promote it. Let’s make sure we have these bugs on our side. Check out our entire Gut Health Series on the YogaToday Blog for everything you need to know about eating for a healthy gut.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
There is consistent evidence that higher amounts of body fat are associated with increased risks of a number of cancers. Obese people often have chronic low-level inflammation, which can, over time, cause DNA damage that leads to cancer. In addition, fat tissue (also called adipose tissue) produces excess amounts of estrogen, high levels of which have been associated with increased risks of breast cancer.
Sleep -- not food related, but so important!
Sleep is the body’s biggest reset button. When we sleep our digestive systems get a break, our immune systems are revitalized, our brains clean house, and our hormones come back into check. Consistent, proper sleep, 7-9 hours a night without tossing and turning, is imperative for good health. Make time this month to prioritize proper sleep. Shut off your electronics. Read a nice book. Turn the lights off by 11:00 p.m.
Do not let symptoms go undiagnosed. Visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation where you can sign up for a helpful guide about signs and symptoms of breast cancer. Lend a little extra support this month to those who have been affected. Be the light.
Hannah Aylward is a Certified Health Coach, nutrition consultant, fitness instructor, healthy living expert, and founder of HAN. She helps both men and women around the world lose weight, heal skin disturbances, balance hormones, heal gut imbalances and feel at home in their bodies through healthy eating, movement, mindfulness and positive self-talk. Her goal is to help others “learn the tools that they need to live the lives they deserve”. Get to know her by visiting her website and following her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.