Breast cancer strikes a devastating one in eight women in their lifetime. It’s the second leading cause of cancer death among women, with more than 40,500 dying from the disease every year in the United States alone.
But as frightening as those numbers sound, you don’t have to wait around wondering if you—or a loved one—will be the next victim.
Because while some factors are out of your control, experts say even if your genetics put you at a higher risk of breast cancer you can still slash your chances of a diagnosis. And the easiest way to do that is by staying active and eating a healthy, anti-cancer diet.
In fact, food is such a powerful solution that researchers estimate that simply making some changes to your diet could help prevent one out of every 10 cases of cancer.
Slash your risk of breast cancer with these foods
Following are four anti-cancer foods that could help you slash your risk of breast cancer.
1. Black beans:
Black beans are brimming with an incredible 15 to 29 grams of fiber per cup (depending on the variety). And according to Harvard researchers, for every 10 grams of fiber you gobble down in a day you can reduce your risk of breast cancer by another seven percent.1
Experts say that fiber helps tamp down on the amount of cancer-linked estrogen in your blood. But don’t just stop with black beans. Mix things up with other high fiber foods such as navy beans, chickpeas, acorn squash, artichokes, dried figs, avocados and berries.
Black beans are also rich in free-radical-fighting flavonoids and antioxidants. Try tossing some on top of salads, mixing them into burgers, or stuffing them into tacos or omelets with some salsa. (Bonus… eggs are packed with choline, which experts say could also slash your risk of breast cancer.)
Juicy, ripe cooked tomatoes don’t just taste terrific. Researchers say eating plenty of carotenoid packed foods, such as tomatoes, could also help slash your risk of breast cancer.
A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that women whose diets were full of antioxidant carotenoids had a 19 percent lower risk of breast cancer.2 And those ladies who ate more of the carotenoid called lycopene—found in tomatoes—had a 22 percent lower risk.
Cooking tomatoes breaks down cell walls, allowing your body to absorb more lycopene. Try slicing some cherry tomatoes in half and tossing them in a pan with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper for a simple and delicious side dish. Or cook up a batch of homemade spaghetti sauce.
Fatty fish such as wild caught salmon are a terrific source of the healthy essential fatty acids omega-3s. And while you may already know eating more fish is good for your brain and your heart, experts now say it could also slash your risk of breast cancer.
A meta-analysis published in BMJ found that women who ate the most fish had a 14 percent lower chance of a breast cancer diagnosis.3 Aim for two servings of fatty fish a week. Mix it up by switching fish. Mackerel, tuna, cod, sardines and even anchovies are all great sources of omega-3s.
4. Sweet potatoes:
Orange colored veggies such as sweet potatoes are jam packed with the cancer-fighting carotenoid beta-carotene. And researchers say women with the highest levels of beta-carotene have a 17 percent reduced risk of certain kinds of breast cancer.4
Other beta-carotene-rich foods include carrots, winter squash, spinach and kale. Try lightly sautéing or baking them with some organic, extra-virgin olive oil for even more protection against breast cancer.
A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found women who added oleic-acid rich olive oil to their Mediterranean diet had a 68 percent lower risk of malignant breast cancer than their peers who opted for corn oil.5
1. “Dietary Fiber Intake in Young Adults and Breast Cancer Risk,” Pediatrics, February 2016
2. “Circulating Carotenoids and Risk of Breast Cancer: Pooled Analysis of Eight Prospective Studies,” J Natl Cancer Inst. 2012 Dec 19; 104(24): 1905–1916
3. “Intake of fish and marine n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and risk of breast cancer: meta-analysis of data from 21 independent prospective cohort studies,” BMJ 2013; 346
4. “Chickpea (Cicer arietinum) and other plant-derived protease inhibitor concentrates inhibit breast and prostate cancer cell proliferation in vitro,” Nutr Cancer. 2012;64(5):741-8
5. “Mediterranean Diet and Invasive Breast Cancer Risk Among Women at High Cardiovascular Risk in the PREDIMED Trial,” JAMA Internal Medicine, 2015