Food and lifestyle factors impact each step of the cancer process. You can affect whether a cancer cell is formed, if it multiplies, or if it dies off. Some lifestyle choices that can put you at a greater risk for breast cancer include red and processed meats, excess alcohol, environmental chemicals in foods, high body fat, inadequate antioxidants and fiber, and a sedentary lifestyle.
Fortunately, these are all things that we can change. Take the five-step challenge to be more health conscious and decrease your risk.
More: 13 Cancer-Prevention Tips
Step 1: Fill your plate with color and crunch.
Fruits and vegetables provide fiber and antioxidants that have been shown to protect against breast cancer. Aim for at least 5 ½-cup servings per day. High vegetable and fruit intakes may reduce your risk of developing cancer, prevent the reoccurrence of cancer, and lead to a better prognosis after cancer. The following plant chemicals are particularly beneficial for prevention.
Indoles in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, radish, and kale
Carotenoids in yellow, orange, and green fruits and vegetables such as citrus, sweet potatoes, carrots, and spinach
Flavonoids in tea, dark chocolate, berries, apples, and pears
To be sure that you are eating enough vegetables and fruits, incorporate them into every meal and snack that you eat. Find helpful recipes from the American Institute of Cancer Research.
Choose organic produce whenever possible. The Environmental Working Group publishes a “Dirty Dozen” list of conventionally grown produce that is highly contaminated in pesticide residues. Always choose organic for these varieties of produce. If organic isn’t available, find an alternate organic vegetable or fruit. Choose a food from the “Clean 15” list of conventionally grown produce that is lowest in pesticide residue.
More: Your Guide to Buying Organic
Step 2: Eat less red and processed meat.
When red meat is char-grilled, carcinogens are formed in the black char. Limit your intake to less than 6 oz. of red meat per week. When possible, choose grass-fed and/or organic meat. The nitrates and nitrites in most deli meats, sausage, bacon, hot dogs, and other processed meats are also linked to cancer. Avoid processed meats and choose brands such as Boar’s Head, Applegate Farms and other brands that are nitrate and nitrite-free.
Step 3: Eat more wild fish, poultry, whole soy, beans and lentils.
Replace red and processed meats with wild fish, poultry, edamame, tofu, beans and lentils. Experiment with fish and other seafood. Poaching is an easy, no-fuss way to cook fish for those who feel less confident. Seek out sustainable fish options from www.seafoodwatch.org. Although chicken and turkey can be prepared in thousands of different ways, people sometimes get bored of them. Fight taste fatigue by exploring different ethnic preparation methods to boost variety. Consider instituting “Meatless Monday,” and try out different soy foods, beans, lentils and whole grains. Meatless Mondays are also money savers since plant-based, protein-rich foods are much less expensive than animal protein.
More: 6 Reasons to Try a Plant-Based Diet