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Breast Cancer Awareness Week 4: Stress, Cancer and Diet Changes

While there are no food or supplements that act as a “magic pill” to prevent breast cancer or make it go away quicker, there are specific foods you can add and eliminate from your regime to help your body prevent cancer as well as boost the ability for your body to kill the cancer. According to Johns Hopkins by using the following guidelines you can decrease the chance of breast cancer recurrence as well as aid in the healing of your diagnosis:

· Eliminate processed sugar, cancer cells feed on sugar. Read your labels and eliminate it from your diet. I will go over in more detail foods that are high in sugar later.

· Decrease fat intake to less than 30 percent of calories.

· Decrease and/or eliminate alcohol intake.

· Minimize intake of pickled and smoked foods.

· Increase your intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Organic is always better as it reduces the opportunity for harmful pesticides and chemicals that come in contact with your body. Your body is already fighting off a foreign body, it doesn’t need to do this in the food you are eating too.

It is never too late to start eating a healthier diet. If your diet wasn’t that great before your diagnosis, you can make some simple shifts to help your body stay strong during your fight. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains contain phytochemicals with antioxidant, antiestrogen and chemopreventive properties that could prevent cancer.

It is recommended to eat five or more servings of fruit and vegetables daily. This should include cruciferous vegetables like kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts. These are exceptionally high in phytochemicals.

Whole grains are unprocessed foods high in complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals. This high fiber intake could have a positive benefit as it alters the hormonal actions of breast cancer and other hormonal-dependent cancers. Your daily intake should be 25-30 grams of insoluble and soluble fiber.

Here are some examples of whole foods to add to your diet:

Grains: Rice, corn, bulgur, rye, oats, barley

Green Leafy: Swiss chard, endives, beet greens, lettuce, spinach, romaine.

Cruciferous: Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, bok choy turnip, watercress, collards, rutabaga, mustard greens, kale.

Umbelliferous: Carrots, parsnip, celery, parsley, fennel.

Allium: Shallots, leek, chives, garlic, onion.

Legumes: Chickpeas, lima beans, soybeans, peas, dried beans (pinto, black, kidney, black-eyed peas), lentils.

Nightshades: Eggplant, tomatoes

Cucurbitaceous: Gourd family: Cucumber, muskmelon, squash, pumpkin, watermelon.

Here are the cancer-fighting phytochemicals by food source:

Sulforaphane: Broccoli sprouts

Isothiocyanates: Mustard, horseradish, cruciferous vegetables

Phenolic compounds: Garlic, green tea, soybeans, licorice root, flax seed, cucurbitaceous, cruciferous, umbelliferous and solanaceous vegetables.

Flavanoids: Most fruits and vegetables (cruciferous, caraway seeds, citrus fruits, sage, dill, basil, mint, camphor, solanaceous, umbelliferous, cucurbitaceous vegetables).

Organo-sulfides: garlic, leeks, shallots, onion, cruciferous vegetables.

Isoflavones: Soybeans, flax seed, legumes

Indoles: Cruciferous vegetables.

Carotenoids: dark yellow/orange/green vegetables and fruits.

Fat Intake Recommendations

There is still a lot of questions revolving around the role of dietary fat and how it may promote breast cancer. Some epidemiological data states that the type of fat consumed could initiate the development of breast cancer. Johns Hopkins recommends to follow these guidelines:

· Limit highly saturated fatty foods like beef, organ meats, cheeses, lamb, cream, butter and ice cream.

· Decrease the amount of food that contains trans fatty acids like commercially made baked goods, crackers and margarine.

· Increase your daily intake of fish, poultry and vegetarian proteins like lentils and legumes.

· Increase your intake of fish to three times per week. This will increase your omega-3 polyunsaturated fat intake and that is a good fat you want. Research has shown that these fatty acids may slow the growth of tumors.

· The Mediterranean diet has been suggested and used by women battling breast cancer. This diet is high in daily vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and lean proteins along with healthy fats like olive oil and avocado. This diet is low in animal fat and high in monounsaturated fats and could explain why it is very beneficial to breast health.

Healthy Body Weight

Women who are overweight or obese will have higher levels of estrogen than women at their ideal weight. This is very important to not for anyone trying to lower the risk of a future recurrence of cancer in the body.

Overweight or obese are defined by a body mass index (BMI). Being overweight is having a BMI greater than 25 and being obese is having a BMI greater than 30. Many studies have shown a link between body mass index and breast cancer in postmenopausal women.

How to calculate your ideal body weight and daily fat and calorie needs:

1. Calculate your ideal body weight (IBW) using your height in inches.

  • The first 5 feet of your height = 100 pounds

  • Add 5 pounds for each additional inch in height

For example: A person is 5 foot, 4 1/2 inches tall

  • The first 5 feet = 100 pounds

  • To determine the rest of the ideal body weight, multiply 4.5 inches by 5 pounds = 22.5 pounds

  • A person 5 foot 4 1/2 inches tall has an ideal body weight of 122.5 pounds: 100 + (4.5 x 5) = 122.5 pounds IBW

2. Account for your frame size:

  • Small frame: Subtract 10 percent from IBW = 110.25 pounds

  • Medium frame: Use IBW formula only = 122.5 pounds

  • Large frame: Add 10 percent to IBW = 134.75 pounds

3. Calculate your recommended daily calorie intake:

  • Your IBW x 10 x activity factor = your daily calorie intake

Activity Factors:

  • Sedentary = 1.2

  • Moderate = 1.4

  • Active = 1.6

The formula

The body mass index (BMI) is the body mass or weight (kg) divided by the square of the body height (m). The unit of BMI is kg/m2. The formula had already been proposed by the Belgian mathematician, Adolphe Quetelet, in the nineteenth century. The index has been used until today; it was previously named after its inventor but since 1972 it has been known as the "body mass index".


There have been several studies that have shown a link between consuming alcohol and breast cancer. Although the role alcohol plays in the development of breast cancer still isn’t clear, many dietary guidelines suggest that women consume no more than one drink per day. Those battling cancer may want to eliminate it entirely during treatment. Here is a great article on the research of sugar and breast cancer:

Changing up your diet, adding in a bit more exercise and allowing your body to rest when needed will help you move through your breast cancer diagnosis with ease and grace.

How have you been able to change your diet? What noticeable changes have you seen or felt?



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