How does your diet effect your risk of developing breast cancer?
Are you unsure whether or not diet affects breast cancer? The truth is, there aren’t many solid answers when it comes to how diet and breast cancer risk work, says Pauline Wisdom-Gilliam, a registered dietitian at the Odette Cancer Centre at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto.
“There’s no definitive research to show that specific foods increase your risk of developing breast cancer,” she explains.
However, there is a connection between alcohol and your risk of breast cancer, which is why she recommends that women drink no more than one glass of alcohol a day. And, though it hasn’t been proven yet, she says that some research shows that higher insulin levels may put people at greater risk of developing breast cancer.
It’s still in its early days on that point, but she encourages people to avoid sugary drinks and be mindful of added sugars.
As for foods that are protective against breast cancer, Wisdom-Gilliam says that soybeans and flaxseed – both of which contain phytoestrogens – may help lower your risk. Especially in young women whose breasts are still developing.
Why you should tweak your diet
While there may not be many foods that target breast cancer, there are ways to tweak your diet to potentially reduce your overall cancer risk. But where to start?
Focus on eating mostly plant-based foods and as many different types of them as possible. Try out a rainbow of fruits and veggies, give different whole grains a whirl, and expand your repertoire of legumes.
“There’s protection in variety,” she explains. You’re more likely to cover your bases in terms of nutrients and cancer-fighting phytonutrients by eating many types of these foods in their whole form. Why whole? Many beneficial compounds are thought to be prevalent in the skins of fruit.
Wisdom-Gilliam also suggests limiting red meat (beef, veal, pork and lamb) to no more than 18 ounces a week and avoiding processed meats altogether. Proteins like fish and poultry are fine, but she recommends trying to have at least two vegetarian meals each week.
If you’re ready, here’s several days’ worth of eating tips that may protect you from developing breast cancer.