Breast cancer affects many people, directly and indirectly. Many breast cancer survivors have questions relevant to their diet. Here are some of the questions we’ve heard many times from breast cancer survivors! And truth be told, this info is true for other types of cancer too!
ONE: I’m a breast cancer survivor, should I avoid soy foods?
There are many rumors regarding the relationship between soy intake and breast cancer survivor’s risk of recurrence. Current data on breast cancer survivors shows that soy, in it’s natural form, has not been found to increase recurrence of breast cancer. It is NOT recommended that breast cancer survivors consume powder or pill form of soy protein. Stick to the real food! (i.e. tofu, soymilk, edamame, soy nuts).
For further reading, visit the American Institute for Cancer Research update on soy and breast cancer.
TWO: Does sugar feed cancer?
All cells depend on sugar to grow, particularly glucose. At this point, it has not been shown that eliminating dietary sources of sugar and carbohydrate actually results in slower growth of tumors. The truth is that our bodies don’t get to pick and choose which cells get what fuel. In fact, completely avoiding all sources of sugar results in your body having to work extra hard to make the glucose that it needs to function.
THREE: Should breast cancer survivors avoid flax?
Past research led to the theory that phytoestrogens in flax seed mimicked estrogen effects on the body. However, current research disproves these theories. Flax seeds have a multitude of benefits to the population. In fact, it may have more cancer fighting mechanisms than first thought!
Flax seed, as a whole, provides more benefits than flax seed oil. Flax seed oil lacks beneficial fiber and lignans that whole flax seed provides. It is recommended to consume flax seed in it’s ground form for optimal absorption of beneficial nutrients.
For more info, check out the American Institute for Cancer Research page on Does Flaxseed Increase My Breast Cancer Risk
FOUR: What types of fats are best for breast cancer survivors?
Decreasing intake of saturated and trans-fats is recommended while increasing amount of Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically from fish, legumes, and lentils, has been studied to decrease growth of breast cancer tissue.
Getting plenty of exercise, eating enough fiber, and eating a diet low in saturated fat are all factors that promote healthy breast cancer survivorship. Choose healthy fats from fish, nuts, seeds, avocados and plant based oils. Eating a plant based diet with moderate intake of animal foods, is the best way to achieve this goal!
For more info, check out the Johns Hopkins article on nutrition for breast cancer.
FIVE: What is a plant-based diet and how do I know if I am eating enough plants?
A plant-based diet focuses on receiving nutrition from fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. If desired, moderate intake of protein from animal sources can fit into a plant-based diet. Fruits and vegetables provide phytochemicals that help promote and improve our immunity. A daily goal of 4-5 cups of fruits and vegetables is recommended to optimize nutrition. Aim for 1 cup of fruits and/or vegetables at each meal!
The best way to optimize nutrition after cancer is with a plant based diet. Learn about several different scientifically supported plant-based diets with the following webinar: Plant Based Eating for Cancer Survivors – Do’s and Don’ts
Nutrition information for cancer survivors can sometimes seem overwhelming. The best advice should follow the common sense guidelines that you’ve always known to be true. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and be physically active!
Be sure that you are getting your nutrition information from a qualified professional. There are dietitians who specialize in oncology so ask for a referral from your oncologist!
For additional learning, check out these resources:
Do you have other questions? Comment below or send me an email!