Making This Healthy Change Can Lower Your Breast Cancer Risk
Eating more veggies is always a good idea—but now, we've got even more reason to devour them.
Pictured Recipe: Broccoli, Chickpea & Pomegranate Salad
One in every eight U.S. women-a whopping 12 percent of the female population-will have breast cancer in her lifetime. (Of course, men can get it too-and about one in every 1,000 does.) These are incredibly scary stats, but luckily, a new study shows there is a simple step everyone can take to lower your breast cancer risk today: eat more veggies.
What the Science Says
According to the study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, women who eat a high amount of vegetables (and fruits too), can lower their breast cancer risk significantly-as much as 11 percent, in fact. Most beneficial to reducing breast cancer risk, researchers found, were cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bok choy and cabbage, and yellow and orange vegetables, such as carrots and sweet potatoes.
To determine their findings, researchers studied the answers of more than 170,000 women who participated in previous studies about health and diet that have been ongoing since 1980.
The researchers discovered that the women who said they ate more than 5½ servings of vegetables each day had lowered their breast cancer risk by 11 percent, when compared to the women who ate just 2½ or fewer servings of veggies each day.
Karen Alexander, M.S., an oncology wellness specialist at the Ackerman Cancer Center, says she is not surprised that eating more vegetables and fruit can reduce breast cancer risk over time.
"In addition to vitamins and minerals, fruits and vegetables have thousands of active ingredients that directly and indirectly impact the cells, the body's metabolism and immune system," she says. "These include carotenoids (beta carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin), indoles, isoflavones, isothiocyanates and indole-3-carbinol, among others. All these compounds have proven to play a role in cancer prevention."
And, she points out, studies like this one show that women who eat a high amount of fruits and vegetables each day may have a lower risk of breast cancer, especially of aggressive tumors, than those who eat fewer fruits and vegetables. Indeed, researchers on this study have concluded that women who ate more veggies and fruits lowered their risk of ER-negative, HER2-enriched and basal-like tumors.
Are Some Vegetables Better Than Others?
Pictured Recipe: Parmesan-Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts
"Cruciferous vegetables may be especially helpful at reducing breast cancer risk because they have active ingredients including isothiocyanates and indole-3-carbinol, which have chemo-preventive effects influencing carcinogenesis during initiation and promotion of cancer development," says Alexander.
Orange and yellow vegetables contain higher levels of carotenoids, which are anti-carcinogenic and may help boost immunity. Other colors provide different benefits and antioxidants, so make sure you eat the rainbow when it comes to your veggies.
How Many Vegetables Should You Eat?
Pictured Recipe: Chicken & Spinach Skillet Pasta with Lemon & Parmesan
The researchers found that 5½ servings or more a day of vegetables can reduce breast cancer risk. A serving is 1 cup of raw veggies, or ½ cup of cooked vegetables.
That may sound like a lot of veggies, but it's actually not difficult to add more vegetables into your daily diet. Consider foods you already eat and then consider how you might add vegetables to your staple dishes; for example, if you eat scrambled eggs each day, toss some spinach leaves and chopped peppers into the pan too. Or, swap out your go-to snack foods for slices of carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and other vegetables you can dip into a yogurt dressing or cottage cheese. Get more delicious tips for adding veggies into your diet.
If breast cancer runs in your family, or you want to take every possible step to reduce your risk of breast cancer, there are other diet tweaks you can make. Don't drink too much, as drinking as little as one alcoholic beverage a day can increase your lifetime risk of breast cancer. And be sure to cook with olive oil, which has been shown to quell the growth of malignant cells thanks to high levels of antioxidants and oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat.
For even more ways to prevent breast cancer through your diet, check out these extra tips to help prevent breast cancer.
Watch: How to Make Veggie-Packed Minestrone Soup