The diagnosis is breast cancer.
[dropcap]You[/dropcap] learn all that you can from your doctor and begin considering treatment options. Then, once you regain your bearings after hearing the news, you begin to research. You troll the Internet, searching for all the information you can find about the disease.
That’s a likely scenario for many newly diagnosed breast cancer patients. But for more and more patients, diet and nutrition has become a searchable Internet topic alongside more conventional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Still, the question is, what role does nutrition play in the treatment of breast cancer? And what about prevention does what you eat have a direct effect on your breast cancer risk?
There is not total unanimity regarding one particular diet being the best for breast cancer prevention. And it’s likely that no two—or 10—doctors would agree on a specific course of nutrition for breast cancer patients and survivors. However, there does appear to be one resounding commonality among food recommended to maintain and prolong health. The answer: plant-based eating. No…we’re not talking ferns and philodendrons. Think spinach, carrots, apples and oranges.
Remember that advice you received as a kid—you know—“eat your vegetables?” Turns out there is a lot of merit to that. Yes, of course. Who doesn’t know that your veggies contain all those vitamins and nutrients that help build healthy bodies? Truth is that you are not likely to find many physicians and nutritionists who do not agree that a balanced diet full of fresh produce can contribute to good overall health. For instance, the Susan G. Komen Foundation recommends keeping your kitchen stocked with fruits and veggies. However, they, along with many other experts in the area of breast cancer and nutrition do caution that no particular way of eating can guarantee the prevention or recurrence of breast cancer.
So the take away is that veggies plus fruit equals good for you. Does this mean that breast health equals being a vegan or vegetarian?
Not at all.
While there’s little to no disputing the importance of plant-based eating, it doesn’t mean that you have to forego your more carnivorous gastronomic desires. But, you should pay more attention to the fat-to lean ratio in meats you consume. You probably also want to consider passing on the porterhouse steak and going for the pan-seared salmon instead.
Ok. Time to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.
Let’s divide our breast health nutrition advice into fact or fiction. Reality or myth; Cherry, or lemon? Alright. The analogy is a little lame, but I think you get the point. For quick reference, our chart shows some common cherries and lemons—err—realities and myths, about diet and breast health. The deliciously sweet cherries are fact. And the myths are displayed under the sour lemon column.
The upshot is this. If you were a clean eater before your breast cancer diagnosis, great! Keep that rhythm going. But if you find yourself in the drive-through of fast food restaurants that dole out heaps of high-fat, high-sodium food to you, more times than you’d like to admit to your doctor, you probably should consider changing your eating habits.
Eating well is not just a catch phrase for gourmands. It’s a lifestyle that requires thought and effort. More and more, the evidence suggests that what we eat has a significant effect on the likelihood of developing breast cancer, the progress and treatment of breast cancer, and its recurrence.
Research continues to uncover connections between nutrition and breast health. The Komen Foundation has found that Vitamin B3 (niacin) can disrupt the metabolism of breast cancer cells and may prevent them from spreading to other parts of the body. A diet rich in fish oil may prevent the development of breast cancer, especially when combined with a reduced-calorie diet, and may improve response to some chemotherapies.
Talk with your doctor about the connection between breast health and nutrition. Your first step toward prevention could begin with a walk to your closest farmer’s market.