Diet for Breast Cancer Patients

Amina Ahmad   by Amina Ahmad, MS, Biotechnology    Last updated on August 13, 2018,

diet for breast cancer patients

 

Breast Cancer Diet

Breast cancer is associated with certain uncontrollable factors such as age, family history, genetics, gender, etc and certain controllable factors like smoking, exercising, weight management, and diet. Just as certain types of cancers respond well to particular treatments, certain cancers also respond better to specific foods.

Diet Plan for Breast Cancer Patients

There are no foods to prevent or cause the breast cancer. There is no diet for breast cancer patients as such that can guarantee prevention of the breast cancer or any other type of cancer completely. However, a person’s diet might help in providing better response during and after the treatment of certain types of cancers including the breast cancer.

Guidelines for Healthy Eating

National Cancer Institute guidelines for cancer prevention provide a dietary change recommendation for people who suffer with cancer. This may not cure cancer but might help in preventing the chances for recurrence of cancer or manage the symptoms more effectively. These guidelines include:

  • Regular intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains
  • Reduce the intake of fat to less than 35% of calories
  • Reduce the intake of cured (preserved), pickled and smoked foods
  • Maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly
  • Alcohol consumption should be reduced to minimum
  • Staying hydrated is very important. Consumption of 2 to 3 liters of water is recommended

Foods for breast cancer patients: How to beat breast cancer with diet?

Following types of foods may help in preventing the chances of development or progression of breast cancer:

  • A variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Foods that are rich in fiber, such as whole grains, beans, and legumes
  • Low-fat milk and dairy products
  • Soybean-based products
  • Vitamin D rich foods
  • Foods, particularly spices, with anti-inflammatory properties

In a study (of about 90,000 women), it was estimated that the risk of breast cancer was reduced by about 18% after following a healthier diet.

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More: Coping With Cancer Treatment

Breast Cancer Fighting Foods

Fruits and vegetables are rich in flavonoids and carotenoids, which have medical benefits, and are considered good food for breast cancer. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains have phytochemicals with antioxidant, antiestrogen and chemopreventive properties which help in preventing cancer. Studies have found the following fruits and vegetables to be good for preventing breast cancer:

  • dark, green, leafy vegetables
  • peppers
  • eggplant
  • citrus fruit
  • ceratonoids such as carrots, tomatoes, kale, apricots, etc
  • broccoli
  • onions
  • pumpkin
  • cucumber
  • muskmelon
  • watermelon
  • apples
  • pears
  • Plums and peaches
  • Berries

Apigenin

Apigenin is a flavonoid which is found in certain fruits, vegetables, and herbs and acts an antioxidant. Apigenin is often supposed to have some anti-inflammatory properties. A study conducted in 2010 showed that apigenin has certain properties to inhibit the growth in HER2 breast cancer cells. It is found in:

  • parsley
  • celery
  • chamomile
  • peppermint
  • spinach
  • licorice
  • in herbs such as oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary and coriander

Dietary fiber

Multiple studies have suggested fiber help protect against the disease because dietary fiber improves the digestive system and regular elimination of waste by getting rid of toxins.

Whole grain and legumes are a good source of carbohydrates and antioxidants that maintain the energy level. Good sources of whole grain foods and legumes are:

  • Oatmeal
  • Whole wheat breads
  • Brown rice
  • Whole grain pastas
  • Lentils

Some dietary fiber supplements are also available in the market nowadays, which are also helpful to reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence. However, consuming them does not ensure a person will never develop breast cancer or that the symptoms of breast cancer will never worsen.

Good and healthy fat

Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are the "good fats" which the body needs. Instead of fried, greasy, and fatty foods one should choose baked, broiled, or grilled foods. For example, omega-3 fatty acids have been found to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Healthy fats include:

  • Olive oil
  • Avocados
  • Fish  or fish oil tablets
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

High-protein Foods

Proteins are building blocks of the body as they repair cells and tissues. Lean-proteins also help the immune system recover early from illness. Good sources of protein include:

  • Chicken, fish, or turkey
  • Eggs
  • Low fat dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese or dairy substitutes
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Beans
  • Soy foods such as tofu, tempeh, edamame, soy milk, soy nuts, etc

Soy is a healthful food source, rich in protein and contains good fat, vitamins, minerals, and is low in carbohydrates. Soy also reduces bad cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart disease.

Lignans and saponins

Lignans and saponins are polyphenols which are supposed to have anticancer properties. They’re often found in lentils, kidney beans, split peas, etc. They are also high in proteins, antioxidants, fiber, etc.

More: Mastectomy for Breast Cancer: Procedure, Complications, Recovery, and Reconstruction

More: Breast Pain: When is it a Sign of Breast Cancer?

Foods to avoid with breast cancer

As scientists continue to explore the impact of different foods on the risk of breast cancer, people are generally advised to cut down on alcohol, added sugar, fat, and red meat as they are considered to worsen the symptoms of cancer.

Red meat

Heterocyclic amines (HCA) are found in grilled red meat and they enhance the chances of getting cancer. Consumption of red meat stimulates the production of insulin which increases oxidation in the body and elevates the risk of cancer.

Alcohol

Regular alcohol consumption increases the risk of breast cancer as alcohol increases estrogen levels in the body which may damage the DNA cells. It is also studied that women who consume three alcoholic beverages per week have about 14% higher chances of acquiring breast cancer that people who do not take alcohol. The risk increases to about 12% with each additional drink every day.

Sugar

It is found in some researches that when women consume more sweets (desserts, sweetened beverages and added sugars), the risk of breast cancer increases by 27%. Higher levels of blood glucose help the body to release insulin which leads to the growth of cancer cells and formation of tumor. This may ultimately lead to breast cancer.

Fat

Processed and fried foods should be avoided to reduce the risk of breast cancer particularly by women who are at high risk of cancer.

Trans fats are processed foods such as fried foods, deli meats, bacon, ham, some types of crackers, and packaged cookies or pastries etc. These types of fats are also associated with an increased risk of breast cancer and should be avoided particularly by women who are at a higher risk of cancer or its recurrence.

Additional foods and supplements for breast cancer patients

Some additional foods and supplements that can be added to the diet of breast cancer patients are listed below:

  • Vitamin D is found in foods such as eggs, cold-water fish, and fortified products and is consider a good supplement for cancer patients. It helps in the absorption of calcium in the body.
  • Garlic, chives, onion, leeks, etc slow the rate of tumor development.
  • Green tea is associated with strengthening of the immune system. The phyto-chemicals in green tea can help breast cancer patients feel better.

Turmeric or curcumin is a yellow spice with anti-inflammatory properties that limit the growth of gastrointestinal, lung, skin and breast cancer cells.