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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Top 10 Nutrition Tips

A healthy lifestyle can help prevent breast cancer, and also aid in recovery and through survivorship

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and since one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, it is important to be not only proactive but informed about the disease. We support looking out for your “girls!” This month, we are taking a look at different aspects of breast cancer—from screening and diagnosis to prevention and treatment, from fundraising and research to supporting people you know battling the disease.

Ellen Grimlie, a registered dietician at the Edith Sanford Breast Cancer Foundation, has dedicated her life to educating others on how to nourish their bodies, not only prevent breast cancer, but to aid in recovery and through survivorship. Here are her top nutrition tips that are not only helpful for breast cancer patients but for anyone looking to lead a healthier lifestyle. Ellen says, “It doesn’t matter where you are on the spectrum, middle age, with or without cancer; it is never too late to start.”

1. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Weight gain is often common during breast cancer treatment, so it’s important to eat right and exercise.

2. Exercise daily.

At least 150 minutes of physical activity per week is recommended. Shoot for 30 minutes a day.

3. Focus on plant-based foods.

Emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains and the legume family (hello, lentils!) as well as nuts and seeds in your daily diet.

4. Limit processed food.

Pre-packaged prepared foods tend to contain extra chemicals, so it’s better to shy away from those.

5. Cut back on red meat.

Reduce your intake of red meat, and its pesky saturated fats, to lower your risk of cancer.

6. Eat soy as whole foods.

Research has shown 1 to 2 servings of soy a day are safe for women as long as their intake consists of whole foods with soy, such as edemame, tofu, soymilk and soy nuts. These foods are a good source of fiber and many are calcium-fortified. Ellen recommends avoiding supplements with soy.

7. Incorporate deep orange vegetables in your diet.

Winter squash, carrots, sweet potatoes—these veggies are high in carotenoids and vitamin A, which are important for cancer prevention.

8. Cook your food properly for maximum benefits.

Nutrients in different vegetables change when they are cooked. For example, broccoli is best steamed for at least 30 seconds to maximize its benefits instead of eating it raw. On the flip side, if you are cooking broccoli, Ellen suggests not cooking it for more than 3 to 4 minutes to receive the most nutrients. Go online to do little research on your favorite veggies to max the nutrients.

9. Never eliminate an entire food group.

Specific to dieting, Ellen doesn’t agree with cutting out an entire food group. She recommends incorporating healthy grains (whole wheat) and proteins daily.

10. Try incorporating something new in your diet.

Ellen says, “I challenge my patients to try a new grain a week (such as quinoa or barley). Try a meatless Monday and you just might like it.”

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