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Dietary choices to help prevent breast cancer

Breast cancer is the most highly diagnosed and leading cause of cancer deaths in women. It contributes to 23.3 per of cancer deaths. While no specific food can cause or prevent breast cancer, what you eat can reduce the risk of getting the disease. October being breast cancer awareness month, Ann Wairimu outlines food you can take or avoid to keep cancer in check. But just like genetic factors and lifestyle choices, food is only part of the picture

1. Take food rich in dietary fibre

Although research into dietary fibre and its effect on breast cancer is currently inconclusive, several studies suggest that it can help protect against the disease. Because fibre supports the digestive system and regular elimination of waste, it helps the body to get rid of toxins and limits the damage they can do.

Whole grains and legumes also contain antioxidants, which can help to prevent many diseases. Eating more fibre-rich legumes, such as lentils, has also been associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer.

2. Avoid red meat

Although research is ongoing, some studies have found a link between red meat and a greater likelihood of breast cancer. In addition, processed meats and cold cuts tend to be high in fat, salt, and preservatives and are not considered effective food for breast cancer prevention.

3. Alcohol shouldn’t be your friend

Studies have identified a link between regular alcohol consumption and an increased risk of breast cancer. Alcohol may increase oestrogen levels and cause damage to DNA cells. Women who drink three alcoholic beverages per week increase their risk of developing breast cancer by 15 per cent. The risk goes up by around 10 per cent with each additional drink per day.

4. Use ‘good fat’

Broccoli, cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables may help.

Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats have been called the “good fats”. They are found in olive oil, avocados, seeds, and nuts.

Additionally, omega-3 fatty acids, found in cold water fish such as salmon and herring, have been linked to a reduced risk of breast cancer.

Many experts recommend a diet in which around 20 to 30 per cent of daily calories are from fat, with no more than eight per cent of total calories from saturated fat.

5. Drink green tea

Green tea is tied to a number of benefits ranging from weight loss to blood pressure management. The popular brew has also been the subject of ongoing study in animals and humans for its role in cancer prevention. That’s because green tea is high in polyphenol and catechins. These antioxidants may help protect cells from DNA damage caused by free radicals. More research is needed to prove its efficacy, but there’s no harm in adding a cup to your daily routine.

6. Broccoli, cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables may help

Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage are typically rich in antioxidant vitamins, such as C, E, and K, and are high in fibre. They also contain glucosinolates, a type of chemical that may have cancer-fighting properties.

7.  Take whole grains

Whole-grain foods also tend to be high in anticancer polyphenols. They often include other key nutrients, such as fibre, magnesium, and protein. Popular whole-grain options include brown rice, oatmeal, corn and barley, among others.

8. Add garlic to your diet

Rich source of cancer-fighting compound called allium, garlic and its relative (onions, leeks, scallions, and chives) are shown to slow tumour growth and prevent breast cancer risk among other forms of cancer such as colorectal and prostate cancers.

Researchers in one 2017 study analysed the effects of garlic and other allium vegetables on breast cancer cells. They found a positive effect on both estrogen-dependent and estrogen-independent breast cancer.

9. Reduce sugar intake

Researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre found out that when mice eat a diet rich in sugar, they were more likely to develop mammary gland tumours, similar to breast cancer in humans. In addition, these tumours are more likely to spread or metastasise.

10. Add turmeric to your diet

A spice associated with Indian cuisine, turmeric contains curcumin, a substance with potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Some research suggests that curcumin may help decrease the toxic effects of certain breast cancer cells and can potentially inhibit cancer cell growth. More research is needed to determine its full effects on cancerous cells.

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