Breast cancer. We may not even like to think about it, but it happens, and it is very real. Unfortunately, there's not a lot you can do to control whether or not you develop it, especially if you have a genetic predisposition to the disease, but there may be certain things you can do to reduce your risk. Making small changes to your diet is one of those things.
Here are 10 foods that you can start to work into your diet today that could make a difference in your breast health down the road. Your breasts will thank you for them later.
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There are about 10 grams of fiber in every 1/2 cup to cup of beans, which when added to your already recommended daily intake of fiber could decrease your risk of breast cancer by 7 percent, according to a study published in the July 2011 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. If just upping your intake of fiber, a component of your diet that has other significant benefits already, can go a long way in the fight for your breasts, you should start chowing down on more whole grains, veggies, and lentils.
2. Green Tea
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Tea, especially green tea, is packed with polyphenols, an antioxidant that has several health benefits, including possible breast cancer-fighting properties. A study conducted by the National Institute of Health's National Cancer Institute found that those who drank at least one cup of green tea daily had less urinary estrogen, which is a known carcinogen of the breast, than the non tea-drinkers in the study. But in order to gain the healthy benefits, pass on bottled tea and brew your own fresh from the pot.
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Cabbage and sauerkraut my not seem like superfoods, but one study found that people who included raw or lightly cooked cabbage and sauerkraut in their diet at least three times a week were 72 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than those who had it only twice or less. High levels of "glucosinolates," compounds found in the cabbage, may be the reason.
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No matter how much you try to convince people of the health benefits of salmon, there are still those who are terrified of the "fatty" fish. The oily fish is actually rich in "good" fats — essential omega-3 fatty acids which are linked to an improved breast cancer prognosis. A large-scale analysis of international studies found that women who consumed the most omega-3 fatty acids were 14 percent less likely to have breast cancer, compared to those who ate the least. The American Heart Association recommends adding a 3.5 ounce serving of wild-caught fatty fish to your diet twice a week. But you just don't like salmon, you say? Other cold-water fish are also high in omega-3s, including sardines, anchovies, black cod, and mackerel.
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A study completed on mice found that consuming walnuts was linked to fewer breast cancer tumors and the slower growth of those tumors. The author, Elaine Hardman, a professor at Marshall University's Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, looked at the effects of a diet containing the human equivalent of 2 ounces of walnuts a day and found that after over a month, the mice that ate walnuts had less than half the rate of breast cancer as the control group. The tumors themselves also decreased in size for the walnut group. The study authors have speculated that the anti-inflammatory properties in the walnuts are the reason for these effects.
6. Vitamin D
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Okay, so it's not a food, but it is possible to get it from foods, or as a supplement. And because high vitamin D levels have been linked to a lower risk of breast cancer, I'm willing to overlook the non-food part. In one study the highest levels correlated with a 50 percent reduced risk of breast cancer. Some of the best vitamin D sources, other than the good old sun, include milk, cereal, cod, tuna, shrimp and salmon.
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Pomegranates may not be the most convenient food to eat, but does have a wealth of health benefits, and one of those is the ability to inhibit the growth of hormone-dependent breast cancer. According to one study, ellagic acid in pomegranates could help protect against breast cancer by suppressing estrogen production and preventing the growth of the breast cancer cells. While further studies will be needed, researchers say people can consider eating more pomegranates to protect against cancer.
8. A Plant-Based Diet
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Okay, this isn't just one food, it's a lifestyle. Still. Eating more plants and less animals may lower your odds of developing "estrogen-receptor negative breast cancer," which accounts for about a quarter of all breast cancers. The study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology that demonstrated these findings stated that the likelihood of the cancer was 20 percent less for women who followed a plant-based diet.
9. Plums & Peaches
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Did you know that peaches and plums contain antioxidants that are capable of killing breast cancer cells while leaving normal cells unharmed? Researchers at Texas A&M University found that this positive effect is most likely caused by "chlorogenic and neocholorogenic acid," both of which are found in particularly high levels in these two fruits.
10. Sweet Potatoes
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If breast cancer runs in your family or you have a particular reason to think you might be more likely to develop breast cancer, it might be a good idea to up your consumption of fruits and veggies with carotenoids. Women with higher levels have a lower risk of breast cancer, especially those cancers that are more difficult to treat and have a poorer prognosis. A great way to get more is the lovely sweet potato.
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