Best foods for breast health - Dr. Axe

Research suggests that diet and physical activity are important risk factors, and one-third of the breast cancer cases could be prevented by lifestyle intervention. Did you know that incorporating certain foods into your diet may help prevent breast cancer naturally? The best foods for breast health are those that supply ample nutrients, while fighting disease and promoting overall wellness.

Best Foods for Breast Health

Among breast cancer cases, only 5 percent to 10 percent were because of genetic defects, while 90 percent to 95 percent were attributable to environmental and lifestyle factors, including diet and obesity. Bringing cancer-fighting foods into your diet is a natural approach to preventing disease and improving quality of life.

Here’s a breakdown of the best foods for breast health:

1. Spinach

Spinach and other leafy greens are incredibly rich in vitamins, minerals, enzymes and antioxidants. They are also very low in calories and sodium, two things you want to look out for when eating for breast health.

Leafy greens, like spinach, also serve as natural sources of glucosinolates, which studies show may work to inactivate carcinogens and help reprogram cancer cells to die off.

2. Blueberries

Blueberries are considered a superfood because they are high in disease-fighting antioxidants. They are also a super nutritious high fiber food, which is recommended by researchers for breast health.

Blueberries are especially high in proanthocyanidin antioxidants, which help reduce free radical damage and promote healthy aging.

Other excellent berry options include raspberries, strawberries, cherries and goji berries.

3. Broccoli

Several studies have reported that consuming cruciferous vegetables like broccoli on a daily basis helps avoid the occurrence of cancer.

This is due, in large part, to the glucosinolates that work to protect plants. These compounds have anti-tumor effects and help prevent metastasis.

In addition to broccoli, some other excellent choices are cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage.

4. Walnuts

Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that control inflammation, and they supply protein, fiber and micronutrients.

A study conducted on mice found that a walnut-containing diet inhibited the growth rate of human breast cancers that were implanted in the mice and reduced the number of mammary gland tumors.

5. Olive Oil

Olive oil has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. Researchers believe that the consumption of olive oil as part of the Mediterranean diet contributes to its beneficial effects of cancer prevention.

A 2011 study published in Lipids in Health and Disease concluded that olive oil consumption is associated with lower odds of developing breast cancer compared with the lowest intake of olive oil.

6. Avocados

Avocados are rich in micronutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B6, folate and potassium. They are also high in fiber and packed with healthy fats.

Research out of Iran indicates that because avocado is rich in phytochemicals, it may play an important role in the inhibition of cancer cell growth.

7. Chickpeas

Chickpeas are rich in protein, fiber, omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, and folate. They provide essential nutrients and plant-based fiber, which is so important for breast health.

An animal study found that chickpea lectin (proteins in the bean) exerted anticancer activity and could be used as a source of medicine for breast cancer treatment.

Any beans are recommended as part of a breast cancer diet, including black beans, kidney beans and lima beans.

8. Lentils

Lentils are also nutrient-rich food that’s high in protein, fiber and iron. They are filling too, which means that adding lentils to your meal will keep you full longer and possibly reduce your caloric intake.

Research highlights that the polyphenols and other bioactive compounds in lentils contribute greatly to the legume’s ability to reduce the incidence of disease like cancer, diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.

9. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes provide complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C and several other important nutrients. They help aid weight loss because they are very filling, which can help reduce your caloric intake.

Sweet potatoes are also rich in antioxidants, including beta-carotene, which has protective effects against free radical damage.

An animal study published in Scientific Reports found that compounds in sweet potato may have potential anti-tumor effects and may inhibit metastasis of breast cancer.

10. Turmeric

Turmeric is one of the most powerful foods for breast health because of its active ingredient curcumin. This compound has been found to decrease tumor size and fight breast cancer.

According to researchers, “curcumin modulates breast carcinogenesis through its effect on cell cycle and proliferation, apoptosis, senescence, cancer spread and angiogenesis.”

Potential Breast Cancer Diet

We know that certain foods help fight disease and can even prevent your risk of breast cancer, but how else can you prevent breast cancer naturally? Including these dietary and lifestyle factors into your “breast cancer diet” can help tremendously.

1. Consume More Fresh Fruit and Vegetables

Research says that one of the healthiest things you can do for your breast health is consume more fresh fruit and vegetables. Not only do these foods provide essential nutrients, including fiber, vitamins, minerals and powerful antioxidants, but they are also lower in calories, which helps you to maintain a healthy weight.

Plus, the connection between a plant-based diet and breast cancer is encouraging.

2. Eat High-Fiber Foods

A systematic review and meta-analysis published in Oncotarget found that dietary fiber consumption is significantly associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer, particularly in postmenopausal women. Eating plant sources of fiber is an important part of a breast cancer diet.

3. Opt for Natural Sweeteners

Although studies evaluating the effects of artificial sweeteners on cancer risk have mixed conclusions, there is limited evidence to suggest that consumption may increase the risk of certain cancers. In addition, high sugar intake is associated with obesity, a major risk factor for breast cancer.

Natural sweeteners are a healthier option for overall health. Americans consume way too much sugar on a daily basis, leading to inflammation and major health issues.

Some of the healthiest sugar substitutes include stevia, raw honey, maple syrup and coconut sugar.

4. Limit Alcohol

Studies suggest that the incidence of mortality from alcohol-attributable breast cancer is large. According to researchers, “an estimated 144,000 breast cancer cases and 38,000 breast cancer deaths globally in 2012 were attributable to alcohol, with 18.8 percent of these cases and 17.5 percent of these deaths affecting women who were light alcohol consumers.”

5. Avoid Conventional Dairy

Conventional dairy may contain additives, like emulsifiers, that alter the composition of your gut microbiome and cause systemwide inflammation. Plus, there is some research that shows high-fat dairy is related to a higher risk of mortality after breast cancer diagnosis.

You’re much better off sticking to cultured dairy to provide the body with beneficial probiotics.

6. Avoid Processed Grains

Processed or refined grains are very difficult for the body to break down, so they cause gut problems and may lead to inflammation, leaky gut syndrome and improper nutrient absorption.

Instead of eating packaged and processed foods, like frozen dinners, boxed pastas and store-bought baked goods, opt for using whole grains in home-cooked meals. Some great options are quinoa, barley, teff, millet and oats.

7. Choose Organic

Conventional foods are likely contaminated with noxious chemicals from pesticides and herbicides, which can negatively affect your health. To avoid consuming these harmful chemicals, buy organic and ideally locally grown foods whenever possible.

This is especially important when eating any of the “dirty dozen” foods.

You also want to avoid animal products that contain hormones and antibiotics by purchasing pasture-fed, locally raised meats. Look for labels indicating that they are hormone- and antibiotic-free.

These contaminants can affect estrogen disruption and increase the risk of health issues like breast cancer.

8. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for postmenopausal breast cancer.

Weight management plays an extremely important role in preventing breast cancer, as well as in rehabilitation and recovery. It reduces biomarkers of inflammation, improves lifestyle behaviors and improves quality of life.

9. Exercise Regularly

Research shows that regular moderate physical activity reduces the risk for developing breast cancer and increases survival rates. Moving your body every day is important for breast health and could involve walks outdoors, light jogging, yoga, pilates, swimming, biking, weight lifting and more.

Other dietary and lifestyle choices that promote breast health include:

  • getting enough sleep
  • spending time outdoors
  • quitting smoking
  • eating lean, organic proteins
  • sticking to healthy fats

Risks and Side Effects

In addition to eating a nutritious diet full of foods that benefit your breast health, there are other factors that are important for cancer prevention, including not smoking, reducing toxic exposure and getting enough sleep.

These foods help your body to maintain health or heal itself, but make sure you add them to a balanced, healthy diet.

Final Thoughts

  • What’s the best food for breast cancer patients? Studies show that nutrient-dense foods that provide protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals are the best foods for breast health.
  • In addition to eating the best foods for breast health, it’s important to avoid problematic foods, reduce alcohol consumption, maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly.