Breast Cancer: 7 Foods to Help With the Fight

Foods that Fight

We can choose specific foods that may fight the development or spread of breast-cancer tumours.Photo: Photo: annabogush / GettyImages

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women (excluding non-melanoma skin cancers), according to the Canadian Cancer Society.. And it doesn’t skip men entirely — more than 240 males will also be diagnosed with the disease.

Only a small fraction of breast cancer cases, perhaps five to 10 per cent, can be blamed on inherited genes. Researchers are learning more all the time about the power we have to reduce our own risk for the disease just by watching our weight, avoiding alcohol and getting more exercise. We can also choose specific foods that may fight the development or spread of breast-cancer tumours.

Take a look at seven of them:

1. Low-fat milk

Recently, the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and the American Institute for Cancer Research released an in-depth analysis of breast-cancer prevention research. They noted, among other findings, that certain dietary choices showed promise for reducing risk. These include dairy foods like milk and yogurt. The high calcium in these foods may be protective against breast cancer. We suggest low-fat dairy choices, such as skim milk, because obesity is known to be a risk factor for breast cancer in postmenopausal women (and in men, too).

2. White beans

The WCRF report noted that other calcium-rich foods such as beans and almonds may reduce the risk of breast cancer as well. Researchers aren’t completely sure how it works, but they know that calcium acts as a messenger in the body. One of its roles is to manage the growth of healthy cells. This mineral may help suppress the growth and spread of cancerous cells. One cup of canned white beans has about two-thirds the calcium of a cup of milk. Bone bonus: Calcium is great for your skeleton!

Recipe: Tasty Tuscan White Bean Soup
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3. Ginger

Many studies have linked the compounds in ginger to health benefits. In fact, this popular root has been used all over the world for thousands of years to treat nausea, headaches and the common cold. According to research, including a study published in the Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology, ginger may act as an antioxidant and help prevent invasion of breast cancer
cells. Since ginger can ease nausea, it can play double-duty for women already diagnosed with breast cancer, helping them manage symptoms of chemotherapy.

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4. Non-starchy vegetables

There’s evidence that non-starchy vegetables like greens, sprouts and carrots (for comparison, starchy veggies include high-carb potatoes and corn) may lower the risk of a subcategory of the disease called estrogen-receptor negative breast cancer. This type of breast cancer isn’t one of the most common, but it can be more difficult to treat, so why not take every bit of buffer you can? Eating a variety of veggies also keeps weight down, which is, as we mentioned above, a well established way to lower the risk of breast cancer.

Recipe: Eccentric Caesar Salad

5. Whole-grain bread

Whole wheat other whole grains are high in fibre, a nutrient that appears to protect us against hormone-sensitive cancers, including breast cancer. How much should we aim for? A 2016 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition suggests that it takes seven or more servings of whole grains per week to reduce breast-cancer risk. If you’re buying bread, though, be sure to double-check your loaf label. Saying “100% wheat” is not the same as saying “whole wheat.” “Multigrain” or “seven grain” does not necessarily mean those multiple kinds of grains have been used in their whole form.

6. Pumpkin

Autumn is an opportune time to think about pumpkin, whether you’re planning your Thanksgiving meal or figuring out what to do with your leftover Halloween pumpkins. This squash cultivar is rich in carotenoids, compounds that are linked to a lower incidence of breast cancer. Carotenoids may help by strengthening the immune system as well as the ability of cells to signal each another. Besides pumpkin, you can pack your plate with carrots and squash.

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7. Artichokes

According to some studies, artichokes may help kill cancer cells and reduce breast cancer spread. Artichokes, which are actually the edible flower buds of a thistle, are low in calories but high in fibre, magnesium and potassium. According to Harvard Medical School, these minerals may help lower blood pressure. Artichokes also contain a compound, cynarin, which may help
lower cholesterol. Try this party trick: Bite into an artichoke, then eat or drink something different. Does it seem extra-sweet? If so, it’s because substances in the artichoke temporarily block your tongue’s sweetness receptors. Then they come back in full force with the next thing you taste!

Recipe: Mediterranean Stuffed Artichokes


A version of this story was published on Sept. 28, 2018