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Breast Cancer and Nutrition

Updated: Nov 15

Awarded Dietitian-Nutritionist, Maryann Gallucci, explains which healthy food we need to start incorporating into our lives to lower cancer risk

Maryann .Gallucci,MS, RDN, CDN, EP-C

All women are vulnerable to developing breast cancer, but certain women are at a higher risk. Although some risk factors can’t be controlled, such as family history, gene mutations, onset of menstruation, and menopause, other risk factors can be reduced by focusing on nutrition and lifestyle choices. 85-90% of breast cancers are due to genetic abnormalities that happen as a result of the aging process and them “wear and tear” of life in general, rather than inherited mutations.

Many Factors are Associated With the Increased Risk for Breast Cancer:

Weight is closely connected with breast cancer risk and risk increases for those with overweight or obesity after reaching menopause. Engaging in regular physical activity is associated with reduced breast cancer risk and is one way to help promote a healthy body weight.
Certain foods — high in dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients — may help protect against some cancers. These foods include a variety of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, such as:
 Legumes: Beans and peas, lentils, and soybeans  Whole grains: Oats, whole-grain barley, bulgur, whole rye, and whole-grain bread and cereals  Fruits: Citrus, berries, pomegranate and cherries  Cruciferous and dark, leafy green vegetables: Spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards and kale  Mushrooms: all varieties- cremini Portobello, white button, maitake, shiitake, reishi, oyster, and lion's mane.
Sulforaphane is a potent molecule that is derived from crucifers (broccoli, kale, cabbage, brussels sprouts, etc.) It actually does not exist until you cut/chop or chew a cruciferous vegetable. This action creates a reaction between myrosinase (an enzyme) and glucoraphanin (molecule) which both reside in cruciferous vegetables. Sulforaphane is one of the most potent phytochemicals we know. It can activate genes that help the body produce its own powerful antioxidants. It helps block a master inflammatory switch called Nf-kB in the body. It even helps block the actions of h-pylori bacteria in the stomach. The enzyme that helps produce sulforaphane is very heat-sensitive. Therefore, you always want to include some raw crucifers in your diet. If you do cook crucifers, keep the heat very low and for a minimal amount of time, such as steaming. Next to Sulforaphane, quercetin is the most important phytochemical in the health toolbox. Like Sulforaphane, it can activate a switch to turn on our own antioxidant defense mechanisms. It can also shut down the pro-inflammatory Nf-kB molecule. Quercetin is found in many foods; however, the following are the most nutrient-rich sources:  Capers  Aliums: shallots, onions, leeks, garlic  Berries: elderberries, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries apples  Mediterranean herbs: oregano, rosemary, thyme  Asparagus  Radishes (and their leaves)  Watercress  Radicchio  Fennel  Arugula
Individuals who ate 18 grams of mushrooms daily had a 45% lower risk of cancer compared to those who did not eat mushrooms.

Mushrooms are rich in vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants. A meta-analysis of 17 studies reviewing the relationship between mushrooms and cancer risk, shows that these superfoods may help guard against cancer. Even though shiitake, oyster, maitake, and king oyster mushrooms have higher amounts of the amino acid ergothioneine than white button, cremini, and portobello mushrooms, the researchers found that people who incorporated any variety of mushrooms into their daily diets had a lower risk of breast cancer. According to the findings, individuals who ate 18 grams of mushrooms daily had a 45% lower risk of cancer compared to those who did not eat mushrooms. Mushrooms are the highest dietary source of ergothioneine, which is a unique and potent antioxidant and cellular protector. Replenishing antioxidants in the body may help protect against oxidative stress and lower the risk of cancer. The results were highest for breast cancer risk reduction. Another study suggests that high consumption of mushrooms might be related to lower risks for hormone receptor breast cancers among premenopausal women. A nutritious, low-fat diet (30 grams or less) with plenty of fruits and green and orange vegetables can help reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. A high-fat diet increases the risk because fat triggers estrogen production that can fuel tumor growth. Alcohol intake also is linked with breast cancer risk. If you choose to drink, limit your intake to no more than one serving of alcohol per day. (A serving of alcohol is considered 1½ fluid ounces of hard liquor, 5 fluid ounces of wine, or 12 fluid ounces of beer.) Other foods to avoid or limit include processed meats: bacon, hot dogs, lunch meat and sausages, and fast foods. Also limit sugar-sweetened beverages such as soft drinks, and other sweetened beverages including alternative sweeteners. Improving your diet is one piece of the puzzle that can decrease your risk of developing cancer and improve your overall health by providing your body with the nutrients it needs to keep your immune system working optimally.

About Dietitian Nutritionist, Maryann Gallucci

MS, RDN, CDN, ACSM-EP-C, ACE-Health Coach.

✔️ Works in Private Practice providing nutrition counseling and fitness training.
✔️ Awarded “2021 Long Island Dietitian of the Year” by the Long Island Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
✔️ Adjunct Lecturer in the Family, Nutrition, and Exercise Sciences Department at Queens College.
✔️ Serves as the Nutrition Services and Payment Specialist Co-chair for the Long Island
✔️ Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
✔️A member of multiple Dietetic Practice Groups.

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