Breast Cancer and Nutrition: How to Minimize Your Risk

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By Jennifer Bain, MEd, LDN, RDN

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and women are finding friendly reminders everywhere to remember self-exams, follow-up with our physicians, and schedule our yearly mammograms. But, there is more we can do on a monthly, weekly, and even daily basis. It is true that no diet or lifestyle will guarantee prevention, but it may help minimize your risk.

Current nutrition recommendations for breast cancer prevention include low fat, plant-based or the Mediterranean diet. These diets do not exclude meat or other animal products, but they do make plants the focus of your plate. Set a goal of 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day with no more than 3 oz. of meat, poultry or fish on your plate at lunch and dinner. Fill up on fiber and plant-based proteins, such as nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, and tofu. Avoid packaged foods that contain highly processed sugars and soy modifications.

Also, it is okay to enjoy a drink once in a while, but limit alcoholic beverages (yes, even wine.) As part of its guidelines on cancer prevention, the American Cancer Society recommends that people who drink alcohol limit their intake to no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink a day for women. However, recent studies suggest that even one drink a day for women raises their risk of developing breast cancer. Your best bet is to limit your alcohol intake. Breastcancer.org suggests no more than 2 drinks per week.

Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial. The best way to do so is through diet and lifestyle, including regular physical activity. A goal of 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week (or 150 minutes per week) of moderate physical activity can help with your weight maintenance.

There ARE steps women can take to lower their risk of breast cancer, and nutrition and lifestyle choices play an important role. Learn more at breastcancer.org or talk with your healthcare provider.

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