If you want to lower your risk of breast cancer, eating less red meat and staying away from alcohol and cigarettes are all proven ways to lower your disease risk. But what you do put in your body can be just as important as what you don't.
Topping the list of foods you should be eating is courtesy of a recent study that shows that eating fatty fish can reduce your risk of developing breast cancer later in life by as much as 14 percent. The study, published in the British Medical Journal, analyzed data from over 800,000 participants and 20,000 cases of breast cancer and found that those whose diets were high in oily fish had a lower risk of developing breast cancer.
Oily fish contains high levels of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which are responsible for regulating blood vessel and immune system activity. The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish like mackerel, lake trout, tuna, and salmon are especially important for your health; they've already been linked to cancer and heart disease prevention. The study's researchers believe PUFAs in fish are the reason why some participants had a lower breast cancer risk, especially since the risk was lowest in participants from Asia, who are known for their seafood-heavy diets.
Types of omega-3 PUFAs are also found in flaxseeds, walnuts, and leafy green vegetables, so even if you don't like seafood, be sure you add omega-3-rich foods into your diet. Don't stop there — here are seven more foods that just may help lower your breast cancer risk.
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- Berries: They're delicious and good for you, so there's no reason not to enjoy berries as much as possible. Berries, especially strawberries and raspberries, are high in ellagic acid, a phytochemical that has been shown to prevent skin, bladder, lung, esophagus, and breast cancers.
- Beans: Fiber-rich foods have been shown to reduce breast cancer risk — for every 10 grams of fiber (about a half cup of beans), breast cancer risk decreased by seven percent. If you're not a fan of beans, check out these other foods that are high in fiber.
- Broccoli: Breast cancer survivors may be able to reduce their risk of cancer recurrence if they eat a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables, a recent study found. Compounds in cruciferous vegetables, called sulforaphane, may help fight the spread of tumors. Don't limit yourself to broccoli; kale, bok choy, and cabbage are also part of the cruciferous family. Get delicious recipes using cruciferous veggies here!
- Dairy: Studies have found a correlation between high levels of vitamin D and calcium and lower breast density; women with high breast density have four to five times the risk of developing breast cancer. Researchers believe that the lowered risk may come from either vitamin D or calcium in your diet, but more research needs to be done to pinpoint which exactly is responsible for lowering breast cancer risk. (A 2006 study did find that the equivalent of 2000 IU of vitamin D and 12 minutes of sun exposure a day may reduce your breast cancer risk by as much as 50 percent.) Opt for low-fat dairy, since a study found that eating one serving of high-fat dairy foods a day increases the risk of dying from breast cancer in survivors.
- Pomegranates: Lab studies have shown that antioxidant-rich pomegranate juice and pomegranate extract inhibit the growth of estrogen-expressing breast cancer cells (as well as prostate, colon, and lung cancer cells), and ongoing research is focusing on its effect on breast cancer in patients. The results are promising, so pick up a bottle of pomegranate juice or use this mess-free trick from POPSUGAR Food to enjoy fresh pomegranate seeds.
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- Tomatoes: A recent study found that fruits and vegetables high in carotenoids may reduce your risk of an aggressive form of breast cancer by 20 percent. Red and orange fruits and vegetables are rich in carotenoids, so opt for produce like tomatoes, carrots, and cantaloupe in your diet.
- Turmeric: The yellow spice most often found in curry is truly a disease-fighting powerhouse. Besides its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, the active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, has shown promising activity in inhibiting breast cancer cell growth. Add a dash to your next meal with these creative turmeric recipes.