Kathleen Tracy | HealthGreatness

In the war against breast cancer, women have some important ammunition literally at their fingertips: their diet.

It’s been well-established that a diet generous in fruit, veggies, and legumes and stingy in red meat, salt, and processed carbohydrates can help lower women’s chances by 20 percent of developing a certain type of breast cancer that accounts for one in four of all breast cancers.

More significant, researchers at Harvard Medical School point out that adopting a diet of carotenoid-rich foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, red peppers, and winter squash have a lower risk of breast cancer, especially those types that are more difficult to treat and tend to have a poorer survival rate.

Studies suggest adopting a healthy diet can prevent up to 38 percent of breast cancers in the United States.National Cancer Institute researcher Rachael Stolzenberg-Solomon says, “The easiest, least-expensive way to reduce your risk for cancer is just by eating a healthy diet.”

For example, fruits and veggies high vitamin B9 (folate) such as oranges, mangos, avocados, spinach, and romaine lettuce help fight cancer by preventing mutations in our DNA that can lead to cancer. Peaches and plums contain antioxidants that kill breast cancer cells while leaving normal cells unharmed. And watercress, which is practically calorie-free, is known to retard the growth of breast cancer cells plus as an added bonus it’s a great natural diuretic.

Besides fruits and vegetables, there are many other foods that pack an anti-cancer punch such as walnuts, which contain chemicals called glucosinolates that have anti-inflammatory properties and can stimulate the body’s natural antioxidant systems to block potentially cancer-causing free radicals. Walnuts and other food containing glucosinolates such as Brussels sprouts and cabbage are unique in that they can help protect your system from free-radicals for up to four days after being eaten.

A lot of current research is focusing on Vitamin D, which is actually a hormone. Initial findings suggest that women with higher vitamin D levels have a significantly lower risk of breast cancer, by as much as 50 percent. A related study found that women who spend a lot of time outdoors showed a similar lowered risk to breast cancer.

Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin because the ultra-violet rays of the sun stimulate our skin to produce the hormone. Sunscreen interferes with that process so many women are reluctant to expose their bare skin to the sun. Fortunately, we can get also vitamin D from a variety of foods including (low-fat) milk, cereal, cod, tuna, shrimp, and salmon. However, avoid getting Vitamin D from high-fat dairy foods like cream and whole milk because the fat in those foods may promote breast cancer.

Fiber is often mentioned as important to fighting colon cancer but high fiber foods like beans, lentils, and barley can also lower breast cancer risk. Insoluble fiber attaches to free estrogens in your digestive tract and removes them, reducing the body’s exposure to the hormone and by extension, lowering the risk of breast cancer. Soluble and insoluble fiber each reduces the risk of breast cancer—and they can help you lose those extra pounds, too.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition cited a study of more than 700,000 participants that found that for every 10 grams of added fiber daily the risk of developing breast cancer decreased by 7 percent. For maximum benefit, women should consume at least 35 grams of fiber a day.

The best part is that with such a variety of cancer-fighting foods available, your diet doesn’t have to be bland or boring. It can be both delicious and breast cancer-defying.