October was National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But just because leaves are largely fallen and pumpkins are patching up doesn’t mean that breast cancer awareness should wait another year. The Center for Disease Control shares that breast cancer is the most common kind of cancer in all women and the most common cause of cancer death among Hispanic women. It is the second most common form of cancer among white, black, Asian or Pacific Islander, and American Indian or Alaska Native women.
So what can we do about it? We can start by fighting breast cancer with our grocery lists. Recently, I spoke with nutritionist Mary Vance to get the 411 on top foods to fight cancer. As Mary told me, “eat a plant-based diet of whole foods and organic meats. And eat out of the box. Stay away from refined and processed foods that contain chemicals.” Done and deliciously done.
Further, Mary suggests antioxidant-rich foods that fight free radicals, the source of cellular and DNA damage. And organic foods are a must, as the chemicals used in herbicides and pesticides are stored in our body’s fat cells where they can cause hormonal imbalance and DNA damage.
But what to eat specifically?
Broccoli Yes, the green stuff your mother pushed onto your plate really might be the ultimate super food. Broccoli contains the highest levels of indole-3 carbinol, which experts report can slow cell proliferation. Researchers in Berkeley have found that broccoli can stop the growth of cancer cells – though they caution it is still in clinical trials with humans. In the meantime? Eat more broccoli.
Berries As Mary Vance shares, “blueberries and raspberries are especially high in cancer-fighting antioxidants. Antioxidants keep you looking young, too.” Strawberries and blackberries also contain ellagic acid, which is called a powerful cancer fighter.
Cod Liver Oil Not so tasty, true. But cod liver oil is an excellent source of vitamin D, a must for cancer prevention. Researchers suggest that Vitamin D slows the growth of cancer cells.
Ginger Research has shown that ginger can kill cancer cells. J. Rebecca Liu is an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor who studies cancer. As she told WebMD, ginger tricks cancer cells into “essentially commit suicide by digesting themselves.” And this is done all without harming surrounding cells.
Tomatoes The red favorite of salads is high in lycopene, which is an antioxidant that attacks those free radical baddies thought to trigger cancer. Some studies link it to a reduced rate of breast cancer. Experts suggest eating it with olive oil, as the oil serves to activate the lycopene.
Garlic Garlic contains “organic allyl sulfur components are effective inhibitors of the cancer process.” It is also thought to stimulate the immune system.
Tea Tea is high in flavanoids, which are known for their antioxidant benefits. As WebMD reports, one study “analyzing the lifestyle habits of nearly 3,000 people, showed that postmenopausal women who got the most flavonoids were 46 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than those who got the least.” We’ll drink to that.
Mushrooms Mary Vance explains fungi “such as shiitake and reishi boost immune function and attack cancer cells.” Mushrooms contain the lectin protein, which attacks cancerous cells and prevents them from multiplying.
Leafy Greens Spinach, lettuce, and Swiss chard – oh my! These foods contain cancer-fighting antioxidants and minerals. The American Institute for Cancer Research reports that some chemicals in these foods can limit the growth of some cancer cells.
Orange Juice Orange juice is awesome. It’s tasty as all heck – and it fights cancer. Organic juice is high in folate. Rachael Stolzenberg-Solomon is a researcher at the National Cancer Institute. As she told WebMD, “The thought is that when someone has low levels of folate, it’s more likely for mutations in DNA to occur.” Pour yourself a glass of orange juice and drink to good health!