Five Things Friday: Facts about Breast Cancer and Eating

Like many human connections, the relationship between food, drink, and breast cancer is… well… let’s just say it’s “complicated.” In general, foods associated with fighting or recovering from breast cancer are the foods we should all be eating for a healthy and happy life. But, current studies on nutrition and cancer are turning some long-held beliefs upside down.

1. Phyto What?

You hear about phytonutrients and antioxidants a lot with respect to nutrition and breast cancer. Phytonutrients include specific chemical compounds, including antioxidants, found in fruits, vegetables, and grains. Antioxidants prevent cell damage due to a process called oxidation. Ongoing research indicates that the benefits may not be as great as once thought, but any benefit is still a benefit.

2. Eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables

Color matters! Some of the most nutritious foods are the most flamboyant! Think green, red, and orange! And blue – don’t forget blueberries, a proven natural antioxidant (there’s that word again). Strawberries may also be beneficial. The colors come from carotenoids, which have been shown to lower the risk of cancers. Carotenoids are pigments that give orange and red foods their color, including beets, carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and more. Carotenoids are also found in apricots, asparagus, corn, tomatoes, among others. Beta-carotine is a carotenoid that converts to Vitamin A in your body. And don’t forget beans, which are high in nutrition, plus leafy greens, and vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli. These cruciferous veggies may decrease the risk of certain cancers.

3. Don’t eat that!

While there are mixed results regarding specific diets for specific cancers, there is one thing that is certain. Saturated and trans fats are bad for everyone – period! Processed meats such as bacon, hot dogs, and deli meats also go in the “bad” column, along with that other culprit, 

refined sugar. Yes, that means soda and doughnuts. Why are these foods discouraged for breast cancer patients and survivors? We’re still learning, but it may be as simple as avoiding weight gain. Obesity is a known risk factor for breast cancer, as well as other ailments. Also, processed meats contain chemicals that you don’t want in your body. Chemo will deliver all the chemicals you will need.

4. Supplements

In a word – don’t! Studies suggest that antioxidants taken as manufactured supplements can interfere with chemotherapy and may do more harm than good. The same is true of other vitamins and supplements, such as carotenoids. Eat healthy and you 

won’t feel the need for unnecessary and possibly counterproductive supplements. If you have questions about supplements, talk with your healthcare team.

5. Acqua, Agua, Eau, Mizu, or Wasser

Water — in any language – is essential for good health. While going through cancer treatment and even after, water is a smarter choice than sugary drinks or alcohol, which is known to increase the risk of getting breast cancer. Chemotherapy can cause you 

to become dehydrated and dehydration can bring on a host of medical problems. During treatment you need to drink water throughout the day, especially if you experience vomiting and diarrhea. Water is really not an option.

In a nutshell

Speaking of nuts… walnuts, pecans, and peanuts have been shown to decrease the proliferation of cancer cells. So, eat your veggies and fruit, avoid bad fat, drink water, and avoid supplements unless directed by your doctor.


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