Healthy breasts may not be made in the kitchen, but certain nutritional habits may help decrease your risk of breast cancer. While not all oncologists embrace the link between nutrition and longevity, citing insufficient evidence, some researchers say there are certain "boob foods" women can include in an overall healthy diet to improve the prevention and treatment of breast cancer. Here's a roundup of five of them, inspired by my book Eat It to Beat It!
1. Sweet potatoes
For healthy breasts, taste the rainbow! And no, I don't mean chowing down on a pack of Skittles. Eating a diet rich in brightly-colored produce could help protect you from breast cancer. A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that women who ate plenty of carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables had a lower risk of developing certain types of breast cancer. The theory is that carotenoids contain compounds that help regulate cell growth, defense, and repair. Get your fill in the produce aisle with sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, and dark leafy greens.
Don't let the high fat content in salmon scare you. The oily fish is rich in "good" fats -- essential omega-3 fatty acids linked to improved breast cancer prognosis. A large-scale analysis of international studies published in the journal BMJ found that women who consumed the most omega-3 fatty acids from fish were 14 percent less likely to have breast cancer, compared to those who at the least. For overall health benefits, the American Heart Association recommends adding a 3.5-ounce serving of wild-caught fatty fish to your diet twice a week. Not a salmon fan? Other cold-water fish high in omega-3s include sardines, anchovies (Caesar salad, anyone?), black cod, and mackerel.
Tea, especially green tea, is packed with polyphenols, an antioxidant with enormous health benefits including anti-breast cancer properties. A study of 181 healthy Japanese American women at the National Institute of Health's National Cancer Institute found that those who drank at least one cup of green tea daily had less urinary estrogen -- a known carcinogen of the breast -- than the non tea-drinkers. But pass on the bottled stuff; the best brew for your breasts comes fresh from the pot. In fact, according to research presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society found that in some cases, you'd have to drink 20 bottles of bottled tea to get the polyphenol-pow of a home-brewed cup!
The vibrant-red pomegranate has been linked to fertility and health for centuries. Today's medical experts continue to study and celebrate the seedy fruit -- most recently for its ability to inhibit the growth of hormone-dependent breast cancer. According to a study published in Cancer Prevention Research, ellagic acid in pomegranates can help protect against cancer by suppressing estrogen production and preventing the growth of breast cancer cells. While further studies are needed, researchers say people may consider eating more pomegranates to protect against cancer. Go get your pom on! Or help yourself to raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, walnuts, and pecans -- they're also rich in ellagic acid.
All hail the mighty mushroom! Eating a healthy serving of fresh funghi daily can help protect you from breast cancer, according to a study printed in the International Journal of Cancer. The study, which involved more than 2,000 Chinese women, found that participants who consumed 10 grams or more of fresh mushrooms every day were about two-thirds less likely to develop breast cancer than non mushroom eaters. Women who combined a shroom-rich diet with plenty of green tea showed an even lower risk! The study hasn't nailed a cause-and-effect relationship between mushrooms, tea and breast health, but you're doing your whole body a favor whenever you add vitamin- and mineral-rich mushrooms to a meal.
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