Does your daily eating and exercise habits increase your risk for breast cancer?
This is a question I want to explore during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. If you have been reading my posts for any length of time, you will know by now that while genetics play a role in your likelihood for disease, your lifestyle and the food you eat have a much larger role. Your long-term health and well-being is truly in your hands!
Research has clearly shown the connection between poor diet, an inactive lifestyle and an increased risk of cancer. The good news is you can do something about it. Changing your diet and your activity level is completely within your control to manage.
Breast cancer connection and diet
Doctors are still unclear about the many specifics of how an individual’s diet may ward off breast cancer but they agree a healthier lifestyle provides myriad benefits. But it is clear that a diet high in vegetables, fruits and beans, low in processed fats and high in fiber are cancer protective.
What is a healthy, cancer-prevention diet?
Eating healthy foods shouldn’t be considered a “diet”; it’s a lifestyle and mindset change. A healthy diet isn’t a fad, nor is it something you cannot stick with.
Healthy eating is achievable by adopting these lifestyle changes:
1. Read labels. If you’re reading labels you will become aware of added sugars, calories, fat content and most importantly portion size. Keep in mind that “low fat” or “non-fat” doesn’t always equate to “low calorie.”
2. Eat smaller portions. Know what a portion size is and be cognizant of the portions on your plate.
3. Fill your plate with vegetables, fruit, legumes and low-calorie foods rather than breads, sweets and processed foods.
4. Cut back on sugar-sweetened beverages including high-calorie, high-fat drinks from your favorite coffee shop, soft drinks and sports drinks.
5. You don’t have to avoid restaurant meals but understand that what is delivered to your table is typically more than enough food for two meals. Ask for a “to go” box along with the meal.
6. Limit your intake of processed meats including lunch meats, hot dogs and bacon.
7. Eat poultry, fish and beans instead of red meat. If you eat red meat, choose lean cuts and be mindful of portion sizes. Prepare meats by baking and broiling rather than charbroiling or frying.
8. Eat at least two and a half cups of raw fruits and vegetables daily.
Important lifestyle changes you can make to cut your risk of recurrence
In addition to eating a healthier diet, adding supplements to enhance the vitamins and minerals your diet may be lacking and fitting exercise into your daily routine, here are other changes to make:
1. Stop smoking
2. Cut back on alcohol consumption and when you do stick with wines and not spirits.
3. Optimize levels of vitamin D3, vitamin k2, omega 3 fats and selenium.
4. Drink organic coffee. A cup or two daily is protective.
This startling statistic should move you toward a healthier diet and lifestyle: The World Cancer Research Fund estimates “30% of all cancers diagnosed in the United States are directly related to physical inactivity, excess alcohol consumption, body fatness, and/or poor nutrition.” All these cancer factors are within your control to address and eliminate or incorporate into your lifestyle.
Control your weight, cut your risk
Another huge factor, regardless of your exact diet, is staying lean. If you’re obese or overweight, this increases the risk of several types of cancer including:
2. Colon and rectum
3. Endometrium (the lining of the uterus)
The main way excess weight may lead to cancer is when you’re overweight your body produces and circulates more insulin and estrogen – hormones known to stimulate cancer growth. Excess weight and eating a diet high in sugar leads to inflammation, which is the internal enemy of the body.
This article is not focused on weight loss but know that without a shadow of doubt that eating whole unprocessed foods lower in carbohydrate with healthy fats in combination with occasional alcohol and regular, daily movement are the foundations of a lean body.
Adding in a High Intensity Training (HIT) program and considering intermittent fasting for those who are ready and capable is the next step. In addition to helping with weight loss, these two “hacks” optimizes hormone levels and improves your immune system.
And lastly, adopting a healthier cancer-prevention lifestyle will be easier if you have a “community” who supports you. In fact, community and purpose are powerful traits found in those with lower risk of cancer.