Though the color pink has become associated with breast cancer awareness this month, you should be thinking rainbow all year-round.
The more variety of colorful plants (fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds) you consume, the more nutrients you access — some of which are associated with decreased risk of breast cancer. In recent years, some foods have been defined as “superfoods” for their potent disease fighting capacity. We like to say that every food is a super food, because every single plant-based food brings a special nutrient profile to your table and to your body. One of our dietitian secrets is constantly eating a variety of plant-based foods, especially different colored ones, to access the “superpowers” within each unique food — since vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (special plant chemicals with beneficial effects on human health, including potentially anti-cancer compounds!) usually present as color in foods.
While it is also integral for breast cancer prevention to follow prudent health advice such as limiting alcohol and added sugars, keeping a healthy weight, and exercising a few times a week (with about half of those sessions, incorporating resistance exercises to strengthen bones and obtain lean body mass), we know that eating plant-based, colorful foods rich in phytonutrients is essential as well. Here are some “think pink” breast cancer prevention all-stars, though remember, all plant-based foods have merit! Eating a “rainbow”, daily, of plant-based foods is a wise nutrition choice both for prevention of cancer and disease in general.
Green Tea — Green tea is high in polyphenol and catechins, which may help protect cells from DNA damage caused by free radicals as they function as antioxidants (oxidation = cellular damage).
Cruciferous Vegetables — Vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, garden cress, bok choy, broccoli, and brussels sprouts are quite rich in antioxidant vitamins, such as C, E, and K, and are also high in fiber. Cruciferous vegetables also contain glucosinolates, compounds that help fight cancer.
Omega 3 Fatty Oils — Fish like wild salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, and herring are rich in omega3 fatty acids that fight inflammation and may also be useful for women with dense breast tissue, a risk factor for developing breast cancer.
Citrus fruits — Red and orange hues mean carotenoids, which defend against free radicals which cause cell damage; a basic risk factor in uncontrolled cell growth (cancer).
Berries — Berries are rich in rainbow colors, fiber, and relatively low in sugar; berries also contain polyphenols, which may have anti-cancer properties.
Asian Mushrooms — These mushrooms are one of the richest edible forms of Vitamin D, which affects the immune system, but may also enhance the activity of natural killer (NK) cells implicated in cancer formation.
By MONICA AUSLANDER MORENO, MS, RDN
Essence Nutrition, essencenutritionmiami.com @eatlikemonica