Liana Werner-Gray is the founder and owner of The Earth Diet, author of diet-related books and an advocate for natural healing using a healthy diet and lifestyle. Check out her books: Cancer-Free with Food, Anxiety-Free with Food, The Earth Diet, and 10-Minute Recipes. Connect with her on Facebook or Instagram @lianawernergray.
We all know someone who has had breast cancer at some point in life. Breast cancer, in fact, is the most commonly diagnosed cancer for women. According to breastcancer.org, 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
In 2021, an estimated 281,550 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 49,290 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer. This is why it is important now more than ever to pay attention to our diets and contribute to optimizing our overall health.
There are specific foods that can play a part in maintaining your breast health. To be specific: healthy fats, turmeric, and foods high in antioxidants are all superb when trying to prevent or heal from breast cancer.
Healthy Fats, Omega-3 Fatty Acids & Flaxseeds
Women who incorporate healthy fats such as those found in extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts into their diets may have a reduced risk of breast cancer. Flaxseeds are a major standout in the area of healthy fats for cancer prevention. They can play a role in slowing breast cancer cell growth and may even improve the effectiveness of some cancer treatments. This success is attributed to the fact that they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, many minerals, vitamins, and fiber.
Flaxseed (also known as linseed) can be ground into a flour called flax meal and cold-pressed into an oil. Flaxseed is one of the top anti-cancer foods due to the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) it contains, which is a prime source of omega-3 fatty acids. ALA is also very protective to kidney health. Flaxseed and flaxseed oil are great vegan sources of omega-3s.
Having a sufficient amount of omega-3 in the body is good for the brain, and can help prevent the depressive moods that commonly result from a cancer diagnosis. Your positive state-of-mind will be an important partner in the healing process.
Flaxseed also contains lignans, a type of phytoestrogen that alters estrogen metabolism because it binds to some of the same receptors. Animal studies have shown that the lignans in flaxseed oil reduce breast cancer growth and spread.
Adding more flax to your diet is an incredibly promising action for reducing overall cancer risk.
Next, turmeric root is perhaps the most-studied and -talked about food for preventing and fighting cancer. In fact, it is so powerful that MD Anderson Cancer Center formed a Center for Cancer Prevention by Dietary Botanicals specifically to evaluate the efficacy of using ginger, black pepper, and turmeric—a trio of spices routinely used in Indian food—to heal and prevent colorectal cancer.
Okay, so we hear about turmeric all the time, but why is it so good? To break it down, turmeric is an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer, and brain-protecting superfood. The spice made from turmeric root gives curry its bright yellow color.
It has its superpowers because it contains three potent compounds: curcumin, demethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcumin. Curry or no curry--consuming turmeric is a no-brainer!
The curcuminoid compounds in turmeric have been shown to decrease tumor size in cases of colon, prostate, and breast cancer. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center published a study with rats who were exposed to cancer-causing substances. They then treated them with turmeric and found they were protected from colon, stomach, and skin cancers. How amazing is that?
Furthermore, in this same study, the replication of tumor cells stopped when turmeric was applied directly to them in the laboratory. Other laboratory experiments have shown that curcuminoids protect the body in a few more ways: They enhance the activity of a crucial detoxifying enzyme and act as antioxidants by neutralizing free radicals (which cause DNA damage).
Antioxidant Foods--Get Colorful!
Lastly, foods high in antioxidants are also a great way to help reduce the risk of breast cancer and should be consumed daily to maintain a cancer-free lifestyle.
Antioxidants are important because they offer anti-inflammatory effects on the body. Renowned physician Deepak Chopra, M.D., F.A.C.P., says: “Because cancer is so strongly associated with chronic inflammation, eating foods that fight inflammation can have a chemoprotective effect.”
Examples of antioxidant-containing foods include blueberries, green tea, vitamin C, lycopene (found in tomatoes), beta-carotene (found in carrots), broccoli, dark leafy greens, and more. Basically you should eat the rainbow!
Healthy Breasts for All Women
Women’s health expert Christiane Northup, M.D., wisely insists: “All women can create healthy breasts.” In an article on creating optimal breast health, she explains that bolstering our immunity is critical. I love that her focus is on wellness, not fear!
She offers several tips for creating healthy breasts:
- Cultivate a practice of self-care and self-love. She says the most important factor in creating health is carving out time to care for and love yourself unconditionally.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep restores the body, and it’s during sleep that our bodies metabolize stress hormones. Aim for eight hours per night.
- Optimize your vitamin D intake. The best way to get your vitamin D is from safe exposure to sunlight, but many people need to take a supplement.
- Exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet.
- Get social. Get off your cell phone, computer, tablet, or whatever, and get out with friends. Volunteer in your community or at your church. Take up a new activity, such as dancing or yoga. Having a fulfilling social life improves your immune system. When your immune system is healthy it naturally kills off pathogens and rogue cells that can lead to disease.
With the help of a healthy diet including cancer-protective foods and some other smart lifestyle choices we can turn the tide on breast cancer and reach the goal of healthy breasts for all women!