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Breast Cancer Diet: Foods to Eat and Avoid

What is breast cancer?

As the name suggests, Breast Cancer begins as a form of tumour in the breast. Later it can spread in the surrounding area or travel to other parts of the body. Breast cancer mostly affects women, however, can rarely affect men too.

Who gets breast cancer?

Certain genetic, environmental, and personal factors may contribute to the development of breast cancer. 

An overweight woman with strong family history, who has had a long menstrual history [early periods (before 12 years) /late menopause (after 55 years)], & had childbirth after 30 years of age is at higher risk of developing breast cancer.

There are some factors which cannot be changed, like:

  • Increasing age
  • Family history of cancer
  • Genetic mutations
  • Dense breast tissue
  • History of cancer
  • Exposure to radiation

While few factors can be very much controlled, like

  • Smoking and alcohol consumption
  • Control weight
  • Choosing not to breastfeed or less breastfeeding
  • Birth control pills
  • Hormone replacement therapy

Breast Cancer diet: what to eat

Eating foods that contain certain compounds known as phytochemicals may help your body fight cancer. These chemicals are present primarily in plant-based foods.

Cruciferous vegetables, a variety of fruits, berries and grains can inhibit the growth of tumour and provide you with necessary nutrients. More broadly, research shows that when people living with breast cancer eat more fruits and vegetables (especially green leafy or cruciferous vegetables), their risk of survival may be higher.

When you’re feeling ill from side effects related to treatment, you may only be able to tolerate specific foods. When you’re feeling well, it’s best to follow a nutrient-dense diet full of whole foods like fruits, vegetables, protein sources like chicken and fish, high fibre foods like beans, and healthy fats like avocados, olive oil, and nuts.

 If you have breast cancer, you’re at a higher risk of developing infections. Avoid raw foods like sushi and oysters during your treatment. Cook meats, fish, and poultry to a safe temperature before eating them. For similar reasons, avoid raw nuts, expired or mouldy foods, or leftovers that have been in the refrigerator for more than 3 days.

Breast Cancer diet: Foods to avoid

In certain situations determined by your doctor, you may need to avoid or reduce your consumption of specific foods and beverages, including:

  • Alcohol. Beer, wine, and liquor could interact with the cancer drugs you take.
  • Spicy, crunchy, or acidic foods. These may increase mouth soreness, which is a common chemotherapy side effect.
  • Undercooked foods.
  • Red and processed meat.
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages.

Diet types

If you’ve been reading about breast cancer online, you might find claims that one diet or another can cure you. Be wary of these exaggerated claims. So any diet, such as the Mediterranean diet for example, that encourages this kind of eating may help support your cancer recovery.

If you want to try the following diets, take these precautions into consideration:

The Keto diet

The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate eating plan that has recently gained popularity. You dramatically cut carbohydrates to put your body into a state of ketosis, where it’s forced to burn stored fat for energy.

Though a few studies have shown the ketogenic diet to be promising for certain types of cancer, it hasn’t been proven to treat breast cancer. It can also alter the chemical balance in your body, which could be risky.

Plant-based diet

A plant-based diet means that you mainly eat foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. This is similar to a vegetarian or vegan diet, but many people who follow plant-based diets still eat animal products. However, they limit their intake.

The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends following a plant-based diet for cancer prevention. Their research shows that cancer survivors may benefit from this diet as well. The diet allows you to get fibre, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals from plant foods, while also getting protein and nutrients from animal products.

Mediterranean diet

If you follow the Mediterranean diet, it means that you’re eating a large variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as grains, nuts, and seeds. This diet also includes olive oil, beans, dairy, and proteins like chicken, eggs, and fish in fewer amounts.

Tips for eating healthy

Breast cancer symptoms and treatment side effects may leave you feeling too unwell to cook, plan meals, or eat as you normally do. Here are some tips to help make eating healthy easier.

  • Shrink the size of your meals.
  • Meet with a registered dietitian. 
  • Use different utensils. To improve the taste of your food, avoid metal utensils and cooking implements. Use plastic cutlery instead, and cook with glass pots and pans.
  • Add more fluids. If your mouth hurts too much to eat solid foods, get your nutrition from liquids like smoothies or nutritional beverages.

To sum up!

Generally speaking, research shows that eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, and low-fat dairy products may have a positive impact on cancer survival. In contrast, eating processed foods, high-sugar foods, or fried foods may have a negative impact.

Ultimately, any diet you try should contain a healthy balance of nutrients, protein, calories, and healthy fats. Going extreme in any direction could be dangerous. Before you try any new diet, check with your dietitian and doctor to make sure it’s safe for you.

Expert Guidance from Cancer Coach

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