The Anti-Cancer Diet

A powerful weapon in the fight against breast cancer is the food on your plate

Neelanjana Singh Updated: Mar 8, 2020 00:09:39 IST
The Anti-Cancer Diet All photos Shutterstock

Here’s some news that may be heartening for those with a family history of breast cancer. There is a growing body of evidencethat suggests that appropriate lifestyle modifications can significantly reduce the risk of this disease even in women genetically predisposed to breast cancer. The least expensive yet most powerful weapon in the preventive strategy is the food on your plate.

Trust Plants and Dairy

The general dictum is that a diet rich in plant-based foods has immense cancer-fighting power. Besides the several compounds present in fruits and vegetables that reduce the risk, it is the fibre present in them that lowers the oestrogen levels in the body (low oestrogen means low risk). Women who consume adequate low-fat dairy also seem to be better protected, probably because of the high calcium available through this food group. Also, a high-fibre plant-based diet prevents obesity, and maintaining a healthy weight is a well-established aspect of breast cancer prevention in postmenopausal women. Check thefollowing list of specific food groups that have cancer-fighting properties.

Cruciferous Cures

Broccoli and other vegetables from the cruciferous family such as cauliflower and cabbage (all colours) contain phytochemicals(glucosinolates), which produce a protective enzyme that may prevent the formation of cancer cells in the body. Eat them raw or lightly steamed for maximum benefits.

Garlic Goodness

What works are garlic cloves and not the supplements sold in health stores. For best results, chop cloves and let sit for 15 minutes before cooking or eating as this waiting period allows for the activation of beneficial enzymes present in this superfood.

Berry Powers

Include all kinds of berries in your diet because they are high in flavonoids, known for their anti-cancer properties. Eat strawberries and other local berries like mulberries and jamun. The cancer-fighting compound, carotenoids, found in tomatoes and pomegranate (they too are berries) make them potent warriors; eat them raw.

Tea Rules

Tea lovers will love this piece of news: all three kinds of tea—black, green and oolong—are good sources of flavonoids. A study conducted on 3,000 postmenopausal women indicates that flavonoids from tea protected them against breast cancer. However, this protection does not work for pre-menopausal women.

Spices Speak

A study in the British Medical Journal draws our attention to the power of spices that may help reduce the risk of death from cancers. All the spices stacked in your kitchen have beneficial properties. But the spice that is leading the crusade against cancer is turmeric, which has shown promise even against the most drug-resistant forms of breast cancer.

Is Soya Bad News for Breast Cancer?

img_20200115131317_240702361_huge_020320083555.jpgPhoto: Shutterstock

Women are wary of soya and flaxseeds as they contain high levels of phytoestrogens (substances found in plant foods that act like oestrogen). Both soya and its by-products (soya milk, tofu, edamame, soya nuts) and flaxseeds rank very high in the phytoestrogen content of foods. But recent studies have given them a clean chit—almost. The advisory for those with a diagnosis of breast cancer is to take limited portions: 1–2 tbs of flaxseeds and not more than 2 servings of soya in a day. One serving of soya translates into 250 ml soya milk, 125 g tofu or ¼ cup of soya nuts.


Neelanjana Singh, a nutrition therapist with 30 years experience, is a member of the national executive committee of the Indian Dietetic Association and author of Our Kid Eats Everything.
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