In the US, 1 out of every 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in her life, and 1 out of every 883 men, reminding you that breast cancer doesn't only affect women. While the incidence of breast cancer has been dropping since the year 2000, it's still far higher than anyone would like. Breast cancer is the 2nd most commonly diagnosed cancer for American women, and it's estimated that over 41,000 women will die from it in 2019.
With statistics like these, it's worth it for everyone to do what they can to beat breast cancer. There is no guaranteed way in which you can prevent yourself from being diagnosed with breast cancer, but there are several steps that you can take to reduce your risk. For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, dozens of doctors and celebrities are pushing a 4-pronged approach to lowering your breast cancer risk.
4 Steps to Lower Your Risk of Breast Cancer
There are 4 simple recommendations for everybody to take to improve your overall health and help to reduce your risk of getting breast cancer:
- Drink less alcohol of all types
- Maintain a healthy weight, with a BMI of between 18.9 and 24.9
- Exercise regularly, especially vigorous exercise that makes your heart beat faster
- Eat a plant-based diet which includes whole grains, low-fat foods, and plenty of fiber
The Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet for Breast Cancer Risk
Eating a plant-based diet isn't a magic potion that will protect you against breast cancer, but one scientific study after another has shown that it can reduce your cancer risk and bring many other health benefits. Studies of people who live in cultures that eat mainly plant-based foods, like Japan, have shown that they also have lower levels of breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and other cancers of the digestive tract, as well as overall longer lifespans and better health.
Increase your fiber content
When you eat a plant-based diet, you'll be increasing your fiber intake, ideally through whole grains and raw fruit and vegetables. A high-fiber diet has been found to lower the risk of cancer, particularly bowel cancer and colorectal cancer.
Plant-based foods are also high in phytochemicals, which your body needs to help fight disease, fix damage to cells, and destroy pre-cancerous growths.
A healthy, balanced plant-based diet helps you raise your intake of a number of foods that have been found to specifically improve your chances of beating cancer. Foods that are anti-inflammatory and antioxidant are particularly effective. These reduce inflammation in your body, fighting cell damage, which can lead to cancer. Anti-inflammatory foods include:
- Broccoli, kake, spinach and other leafy green vegetables
- Berries like blueberries, bilberries, and cranberries
- Oily fish, like tuna, salmon, and sardines, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids
- Beans and legumes
- Nuts of all sorts
Avoid foods that raise the risk of cancer
Eating a plant-based diet also helps you avoid certain foods that raise your cancer risk. Think about it: when you eat more raw fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, you'll also be eating less red meat and processed foods. This way, you'll be consuming much less sodium and saturated fat, which are found in high levels in processed foods and animal protein but are present at very low levels, if at all, in a plant-based diet.
Improve your nutrition
Your plant-based diet should include as many colorful fruits and vegetables as possible. This helps you eat a range of vitamins and minerals, which strengthen your body's immune system and improves its ability to destroy cancerous cells before they take hold.
Although you can also take vitamin and mineral supplements, research has found that these elements are far more effective when you consume them in your food than when you take them as a supplement. Scientists aren’t sure why, but there seems to be something about the combination of vitamins and minerals within fruits and vegetables that makes your body process them and use them more effectively than when you consume them individually as supplements.
Maintain a healthy body weight
Finally, plant-based diets have been shown to be very effective at helping you maintain a healthy body weight. According to the American Institute of Cancer Research,
extra body fat increases the risk of developing 12 different cancers, including breast cancer.
Lower body weight also reduces your estrogen levels, which feed cancer cells and fuel inflammation. When you get most of your nutrition from plant-based foods, you’ll feel full for longer and consume fewer empty calories from sugar and fat, assisting in weight loss.
Plant-Based Diets are Rising in Popularity
The outstanding health benefits of a plant-based diet are making them increasingly popular. Celebrities like Jon Stewart, Alec Baldwin, and James Cameron have thrown their support behind the plant-based diet. Even people who aren't going totally plant-based have joined initiatives to reduce their consumption of animal protein, like the "meatless Monday" campaigns. Telling someone that you're vegan doesn't make them think you're crazy; instead, they're more likely to ask you for advice about cutting out animal protein.
It helps that more and more restaurants, catering services, and meal delivery companies are aware of the benefits of a plant-based diet and making it easy to make the switch. Companies like Purple Carrot, Veestro, and other meal-delivery services offer plant-based menus, so vegetarians and vegans can enjoy a varied and tasty range of meals. Both Purple Carrot and Veestro have special promotions this month in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month to give you that extra motivation to try out a plant-based diet.
Eating a Plant-Based Diet Improves Your Health
As you can see, there are many benefits to eating a plant-based diet, including reducing inflammation and maintaining healthy body weight as well as lowering your risk of developing breast cancer and other cancers. Breast Cancer Awareness Month, combined with special offers on plant-based meals, presents a great opportunity to try out a plant-based diet. Why not give it a shot?