Diet For Breast Cancer: What To Eat, Avoid & More

A couple of years ago, I was browsing through actor Manisha Koirala’s book Healed: How Cancer Gave Me A New Life, where she spoke candidly about her illness, and the importance of a healthy diet. Including certain foods, she said, were vital in her journey to recovery from ovarian cancer.

While there are no guarantees in life, eating certain foods and eliminating certain others can definitely help to reduce the risk of getting breast and ovarian cancer, and also ensure faster recovery and longevity if you’ve already got it. Here are some key pointers.

Diet For Breast Cancer: Leafy Green Vegetables

Pack in at least 2-3 helpings of vegetables like kale, spinach, cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts every day. These are rich in phytochemicals, and contain beta carotene, lutein and folate, which boast anti-cancer benefits. Along with these, try and include 2-3 spoonfuls of allium vegetables a day like onions and leeks, as well as a few garlic pods.

Diet For Breast Cancer: Berries

Berries have been shown to contain flavanoids and anthocyanins, two kinds of antioxidants which inhibit the spread of cancer cells and are great for overall cellular health. Of the vast gamut of berries on offer, blueberries offer the most benefits in preventing and treating cancer. Start your day with a big bowlful of berries – frozen or fresh, depending on what you can get your hands on. Also include other citrus fruits in your diet like oranges, lemons and grapefruit to up your body’s vitamin C content.

Diet For Breast Cancer: Lentils & Legumes

Whole grains, which are unprocessed sources of complex carbs, are high in fibre as well as vitamins and minerals. Of this, beans are top of the list, with studies showing they can reduce the risk of cancer by upto 20 percent. What’s more, they’re a great source of protein as well! Other whole grains to consider including in your diet are oats, whole wheat, brown or red rice, buckwheat or quinoa.

Diet For Breast Cancer: Turmeric

Turmeric is a superfood with curcumin, an active compound which prevents cancer. Turmeric is also a potent ‘chemopreventive’, softening the side-effects in patients who are undergoing chemotherapy as part of their cancer treatment. Add a generous pinch to your food every day, or simply drink turmeric boiled in warm water every morning.

Diet For Breast Cancer: Omega 3-Rich Fish

It is advised that you strictly limit your fat intake, especially if you’ve already been diagnosed with breast cancer. However, there is one exception to this rule – omega 3 fatty acids, which appear to slow down and inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells. Eating fatty fish like salmon or tuna thrice a week, or omega 3 supplements (after checking with your healthcare practitioner) every day, is important. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, eat a handful of flaxseeds, chia seeds or walnuts every day.

Diet For Breast Cancer: What To Avoid

While we’ve established what to eat, here’s what you should steer clear off completely!

  1. Sugar is a strict no-no, especially the processed kind. It messes with the natural balance of enzymes within the body, causing an increase in breast cancer risk. Be mindful also to consume very limited quantities of foods rich in natural sugars such as dried fruits and jaggery.
  2. While the odd glass of red wine once a month is admissible, alcohol otherwise is a complete no-no. It can lead to a relapse, if you don’t get it under check.
  3. Fried and processed foods can increase your risk of getting breast cancer by over 10 percent, as per studies conducted worldwide. You must especially avoid eating anything that is pre-made and found in a packet, if you’re looking to beat breast cancer. Refined carbs like white rice and white bread should ideally be avoided as well.
  4. Avoid eating out, unless you’re completely sure of the ingredients that are going into making the dish. There’s no point digging into something cooked in trans-fats, when you could be using extra virgin olive oil at home!

Consult Dr. Renuka