It almost sounds too good to be true, but a few simple changes to your diet can significantly reduce your risk of breast cancer-a disease that affects one in eight American women and more than 1,500 men annually.
"You just have to do a little planning," says Heidi Lucas, a naturopathic physician at Seattle Cancer Treatment and Wellness Center and former community educator at Bastyr University. "It's not difficult."
Lucas is using the platform of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October to point out the power of diet in cancer prevention and overall health. In the United States, one woman in eight either has or will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
This year, an estimated 211,000 women and 1,600 men will be diagnosed with the disease, and 43,300 women and 400 men will die.
At Seattle Cancer Treatment and Wellness Center-which integrates standard oncology with naturopathy, Chinese medicine and other complementary treatments-Lucas is one of three naturopathic doctors who help patients fight cancer through diet and nutrition.
Here are her major recommendations:
Favor good fats: Cut back on animal fats, including red meat, and add fish oil (high in disease-fighting omega 3 fatty acids) to your diet. Your grandmother was right. A tablespoon of cod liver oil a day can keep the doctor away. And, if you put it in a fruit smoothie or some yogurt, you won't even taste it.
Balance blood sugar: Studies have linked breast cancer rates to elevated blood-sugar levels. In fact, sugar is the preferred fuel of cancer cells. To balance your blood sugar, limit white-flour and processed foods, and make sure each meal includes a quality protein (beans, fish, nuts) and a good source of fiber (fruits, vegetables and whole grains).
Speaking of fiber: The recommended daily intake is 30 grams. (A cup of black beans, for example, has 19 grams and a half-cup of broccoli has 4 grams.) Along with drinking plenty of water, fiber helps rid the body of toxins. For a good source of fiber that also helps with hormone balance, add ground flax seed to your diet as well as cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale.
Protein's a plus: Adequate protein is important to immunity. Choose high-quality, low-fat protein sources including organic, free-range chicken and turkey; deep, cold water fish such as halibut and salmon; organic, hormone-free dairy products; and beans, lentils and nuts.
Vitamin D: Make sure you're getting enough vitamin-D, the so-called "sunshine vitamin" also found in fish oils, fortified milk and other foods. Besides its role in bone health, vitamin D has been shown to regulate cell growth. A deficiency of vitamin D has been associated with the most common cancers, including breast cancer.
Green tea and spices: Drink plenty of green tea, rich in anti-cancer flavonoids or plant pigments, and spice your dishes with turmeric and ginger, known for their anti-cancer properties. Lucas is particularly big on legumes, which she says deliver a lot of bang for their buck in terms of protein, fiber and vitamins.
"If you have a food processor, you can get a can of organic beans for $1, add in roasted red pepper, chipotle, almonds, garlic and salt, and have a good, nutritious spread in 10 minutes," she says.
One more thing, "If you look down at your plate and it's beige, don't eat it," she says with mock alarm. "Your plate should have at least three colors on it."
For more information and cancer-fighting tips, call FOR HOPE (367-4673) or visit www.seattlecancerwellness.com.
Pam McGaffin of Moore Ink., PR, writes articles about important health, family and community issues for non-profit organizations.[[In-content Ad]]