Q&A: Breast Cancer Prevention Diet Tips

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, a time to bring awareness to one of the most common cancers as well as provide education and resources for those with or at risk of developing it. Cancer in general has a major impact on society, and the National Cancer Institute indicates that approximately 38 percent of women and men will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime. The American Institute for Cancer Research estimates that nearly 40 percent of cancers could be prevented through risk factors we can control, including not smoking, getting vaccines, maintaining a healthy diet and being physically active. While making huge lifestyle changes can seem difficult, making small, consistent changes over time can make a big difference, like altering your diet. We teamed up with AICR’s Director of Nutrition Programs Alice Bender, MS, RDN, for a Q&A to provide diet tips that can help everyone take preventative measure against breast cancer and all cancers.
Woman holding pink breast cancer ribbon

What are some key ways to take preventative measures toward breast cancer (and all cancer)?

“Evidence shows that physical activity and alcohol impact risk for all types breast cancer. A lot of women aren’t aware that drinking even small amounts of alcohol daily increases risk. The good news is that by moving more – whether you walk, jog, dance or play tennis - that regular activity can reduce your risk of breast cancer. Weights over a healthy range increase a woman’s risk for postmenopausal breast cancer. Working to avoid weight gain is an important step to keep risk lower.”
Young woman stretching, wearing pink

What diet tips do you have that could help decrease the risk of breast cancer

1.      “I love AICR’s New American Plate as a visual guide to eating for lower cancer risk. Fill two-thirds of your plate with whole grains, vegetables, beans, fruit and other plant-based foods and one-third or less with fish, poultry and other animal-based foods. If you eat that way most of the time, you’re well on your way to a cancer-protective diet.

2.      Go for whole foods and minimally-processed foods as much as possible. Eat very few highly-processed foods with added fats, starches or sugars. It’s easier to maintain a healthy weight if you limit those foods.

3.      Learn to enjoy drinks like infused and sparkling waters, unsweetened tea and coffee instead of sugar sweetened ones. Those sugary drinks put you at risk for weight gain and they provide calories with no nutrition!”

Are there certain types of food that might help with cancer prevention?

“The latest evidence on colorectal cancer research showed that whole grains and foods with fiber play a role in lowering risk. Our report found that eating at least 3-ounce equivalents daily of whole grains links to reduced risk for colorectal cancer. Aim for that amount of whole grains along with plenty of other high-fiber foods. There are so many delicious and convenient options – like sorghum!”

Do you have any favorite sorghum recipes that might fit into a cancer prevention meal plan?

“I love this Mediterranean White Bean and Sorghum Salad and this Green Goddess Buddha Bowl.”

Are there any other tips that can help everyone protect themselves against the risk of cancer?

“Substituting plant-based foods like beans and whole grains for red and processed meat is a tasty way to reduce risk for colorectal cancer. Eating more than 12-18 ounces of red and processed meat weekly increases risk for that cancer, so substitute whole grains and fiber-filled beans for some meat. A nice graphic to show all AICR Recommendations is AICR’s A Blueprint to Beat Cancer.”

For more diet and cancer prevention tips, tune into Simply Sorghum and AICR’s social media accounts all October. Look to AICR’s blog and other publications for research, stories and information that can help inspire and educate everyone about cancer.

Alice Bender headshotAlice Bender translates the science of cancer prevention into practical advice for consumers and healthcare professionals. As AICR’s Director of Nutrition Programs and spokesperson, she keeps the public informed on cancer-preventive lifestyle choices through media appearances and online communication. Prior to joining AICR in 2009, she provided clinical and health promotion services at Stanford University and the University of Georgia. Alice earned a master’s degree in nutrition and public health from Columbia University Teachers College and is currently chair of the Oncology Nutrition Dietetics Practice of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.


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