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Ovarian & Breast Cancer: Using Nutrition to Reduce Your Risk
By Michelle Maxwell, MS, RD
During the months of September and October, national observances are held for both ovarian and breast cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Black women have a higher chance of dying from breast cancer than white women. Additionally, Black women are the second most commonly diagnosed group as it relates to ovarian cancer. Along with attaining the proper screenings and managing risk factors, eating a healthy diet can be a helpful form of cancer prevention. Through dietary changes, such as the ones mentioned below, we have the ability to greatly shift the direction of our health while preventing disease.
If I was into the field of marketing, one of my first suggestions would be to put a sticker that reads “good for everything”on fruits and vegetables. There are plenty of resources out there which speak on how fruits and vegetables can help to prevent certain health conditions, and this is no different for ovarian and breast cancer. Studies have shown that a plant-based diet is most effective in preventing breast cancer, as well. The number of servings sizes you take in is also something to which attention should be paid. The more servings of fruits and vegetables included in the diet, the more your risk of the disease decreases.
Although fruits and vegetables are good for health as a whole and should not be singled out, there are some which can greatly improve your body’s cancer-fighting abilities. Studies have shown that when we consume high levels of flavonoids, a group of antioxidant compounds known to contain many health benefits, they can help to reduce one’s risk of cancer. Cruciferous vegetables, such as kale, cabbage and broccoli, contain high levels of flavonols and are highly recommended for overall cancer prevention. Citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, and lemons, are high in flavanones and can also play a part in reducing cancer risk.
Foods that are high Omega-3 fatty acids may also aid in reducing cancer risk according to recent studies. It has been shown that Omega-3 fatty acids contain high levels in lignans which can help to work against the development of breast cancer. Nuts, legumes, fish, and healthy oils are all wonderful choices of foods to incorporate more into your diet
Removing certain foods from your diet can also reap many benefits as it relates to cancer prevention. Recommendations on foods to avoid include meats, processed foods, alcohol and refined sugars. Red meats and processed foods tend to increase risk, so be mindful of this before you dine on a 12oz steak or quarter-pounder combo. Also, be mindful of how these foods are prepared, aiming to reduce your amount of fried and grilled foods.
Another highly controversial food when it comes to breast cancer is soy. According to the American Cancer Society, it has been said that soy is okay to consume but should not be used as a supplement. Consider being mindful of the amount the soy that is in your diet. It comes in many different forms such as soy milk, tofu, edamame, etc., and is also an added ingredient in several vegetarian foods. Should you choose to include soy in your diet, aim to limit your intake to 3 servings daily.
Diet plays a major role in cancer prevention, but other factors are also important. Maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, getting enough sleep, managing stress, and other things are just as vital to our health. Employ small steps to help you make large improvements to your diet. Include your loved ones as well so that you all may be on your way to preventing disease.
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