Nutrition plays a large part in your overall health, but also your breast health. Eating healthy foods, staying physically active and eliminating toxins can help you stay healthy and decrease your risk of developing breast cancer. Focus on increasing your intake of nourishing plant foods to promote your health. You’ll start to notice yourself feeling overall healthier when you eat these foods on a consistent basis.
Tips for Eating Healthy
- Start small: It can be difficult to change your eating habits. Instead of changing your diet all at once, try doing it a little at a time. To help you transition, try decreasing your portion sizes of less healthy foods or make smarter food choices.
- Follow guidelines: The American Institute for Cancer Research’s guidelines for cancer prevention:
- Increase fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Decrease red and processed meats consumption
- Decrease fat intake and eat healthy fats like avocados and nuts or seeds. Ground Flax seed is very helpful for breast health
- Minimize amount of cured, pickled and smoked foods
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Limit processed foods high in fat, starches or sugars
- Healthy snacks: “Keep fruits, low-fat dairy products, vegetables and whole-grain foods at home and work,” explains Patricia Guay-Berry, RD, outpatient oncology dietician for Adventist HealthCare. “This way you have healthy options whenever you are hungry.”
- Healthy substitutes: Instead of taking away the unhealthy foods, try a substitute. For instance, instead of eating white bread, choose a sprouted whole-grain version. You’ll still be able to have a sandwich but reap more benefits.
- Aim for balance: Eat foods from each food group. When eating balanced meals, you may have less desire/need to snack between meals.
- Look for variety: Eat a variety of foods each day. Don’t select the same thing over and over or you’ll get tired of it quickly. Challenge yourself to try new and different fruits and vegetables. This will provide you with a variety of nutrients. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage are especially good for breast health.
- Eat in moderation: It’s okay to eat sweets occasionally, but don’t over-indulge. Treat yourself after exciting news like, a new job, getting a new client or acing an exam, but be careful that you don’t over do it.
- Stay hydrated: Make sure you are consuming fluids throughout the day. Water, herbal teas and unsweetened seltzer water are all good choices to stay hydrated.
- Healthy digestion: If you’re having trouble with constipation, talk with your physician about ways to help or seek help with a registered dietician to review your diet.
Physical Activity & Exercise
Leading a healthy lifestyle with exercise is one of the easiest ways to decrease your risk of breast cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, women who are physically active for four or more hours a week have a lower risk of breast cancer. Activities can include walking, running, jogging, swimming, dancing, biking, anything that gets you moving and your heart rate up.
“Find an activity that you enjoy doing and see if your community has classes or groups you can join to help keep you motivated,” advises Guay-berry. Exercising by yourself can seem like a daunting task, but with others, it can become fun and exciting. You can also incorporate exercise into your daily activities. Instead of taking the elevator, take the stairs. When you go to the store, park farther away so you walk more. Doing little things to increase movement puts you one step closer to making exercise a part of your life. “Sitting is the new smoking,” so trying to move more throughout the day will be extremely helpful.
Similar to eating healthy, making goals that are both, achievable and long-term can help create an exercise routine. Start off by setting a goal like walking for 30 minutes a day and gradually increase it overtime. A long-term goal could be to walk a mile continuously. If you don’t have enough time for 30 minutes, try a brisk 10-minute walk after meals. This will help bring down blood sugar levels and by the end of the day, you’ll get your 30 minutes in. By sitting less, and moving more, you’re already decreasing your risk of breast cancer.
Patricia Guay-Berry, RD
Patricia Guay-Berry, RD is a registered dietitian with Adventist HealthCare.