Reduce Breast Cancer Risk - Even During the Holidays

Posted on by Neal Barnard, MD, FACC

Give yourself the gift of health this year with simple ways to reduce your breast cancer risk, even during the holidays! Physicians Committee launched the Let’s Beat Breast Cancer campaign with four simple steps: choose a plant-based diet, exercise, limit alcohol, and aim for a healthy weight – to help prevent breast cancer from developing and make it less likely to come back if already diagnosed. Here are tips on how to stick with the four steps even during the busy holiday season. Red, Green and… Orange? Studies show women who consume the most carotenoid-rich foods are 19% less likely to develop breast cancer. Carotenoids are colorful orange and red pigments found in plants, and this time of year, deep orange beta-carotene is one of the most popular carotenoids on display. Fight back against breast cancer with sweet potatoes, butternut squash, red peppers, grapefruit and pumpkin. Deck the Halls and Exercise Travel, holiday parties, gift shopping and entertaining can all interfere with the usual exercise routines, but it’s still important to work up a sweat. But you don’t have to hit the gym – have a little fun and try something new! Participate in yoga to help curb holiday stress, go ice skating with visiting friends and family, or bundle up and take a walking tour of the holiday lights in your neighborhood. Regular exercise has been shown to strengthen immune defenses, which may help the body kill cancer cells that arise (along with the germs that can crash holiday get-togethers). Exercise also helps with weight loss, which decreases the odds of getting breast cancer after menopause. Visions of Purple Plums Danced In Their Heads Getting a good night sleep's can help maintain a healthy weight. Recent studies found that sleep-deprived people eat, on average, an extra 385 calories per day. So turn off the electronics at least an hour before bed, and keep your room cool and dark for optimal snoozing. If you do crave a midnight snack, plums are rich in antioxidants, which are helpful for reducing inflammation and protecting your cells from damage. Toast with Alcohol-Free Nog For each drink consumed per day, whether it’s wine, beer, or a cocktail, breast cancer risk goes up by 7% for premenopausal women and 13% for postmenopausal women. Swap the eggnog for vegan-nog, which can be found in almost every grocery store, or make your own with less added sugar. Make sure to skip the added alcohol! For a delicious mocktail, toast with a festive, sparkling, pomegranate “nojito.” Pomegranate has the added bonus of being rich in antioxidants and substances called ellagitannins that may help fight breast cancer cell growth. Sparkling Pomegranate Nojito Serves 5 • 1 lime, cut into 8 wedges • 1/2 cup fresh mint, destemmed and lightly packed • 1/4 cup agave nectar (or 1/4 teaspoon liquid stevia) • 1 cup pomegranate juice • 1 cup coconut water • 3 cups lime-flavored sparkling water (unsweetened) • Extra mint to garnish Muddle (mash) the lime wedges, mint, and agave or stevia in the bottom of a pitcher. Use a muddler or the back of a spoon or ladle. Add pomegranate juice, coconut water and sparkling water. Stir to combine. Pour into ice-filled glasses and garnish each with a sprig of mint. Gather the Family Around a Plant-Based Table Studies show that a plant-based diet can help reduce your risk for breast cancer. This year, serve dishes made with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and lentils for your holiday feast. Plant-based holiday recipes are nutritious and cancer fighting while still being delicious! To help prevent breast cancer, steer clear of highly processed foods like chips, candy and soda, even if they’re vegan. That doesn’t mean foregoing treats completely, though; holiday desserts can easily be adapted to be healthier and plant-based! There are delicious, better-for-you vegan cookies and desserts that everyone who gathers around the table will love. Fuel the body with cancer-fighting nutrients this holiday season and choose whole plant-based foods. Food is the foundation for good health and a gift your breasts will thank you for. Photo from here, with thanks.