Certain fruits and vegetables, fatty fish, fermented foods, beans, herbs and spices, whole grains, and walnuts can help reduce your risk of breast cancer. Steer clear of alcohol, fast food, fried foods, processed meats, added sugar, and refined carbs.
Lifestyle also plays a critical role. Research links
Here are 12 foods that may help reduce your risk of breast cancer and a few to avoid.
Keep in mind that many factors are associated with breast cancer development. While improving your diet can improve your overall health and reduce your cancer risk in general, it’s only one piece of the puzzle.
Even with a nutrient-rich diet, you still need regular breast cancer screenings like mammograms and manual checks. After all, early detection and diagnosis significantly increase survival rates. Ask a healthcare professional for advice about breast cancer screenings.
All the same, research suggests that these foods may lower your risk.
1. Leafy green vegetables
These are just a few of the leafy green vegetables that may have anticancer properties:
- mustard greens
Leafy green vegetables contain carotenoid antioxidants, including beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Higher blood levels of these antioxidants are
Some research has found that folate, a B vitamin concentrated in leafy green vegetables, may help protect against breast cancer. Research is mixed overall on whether folate intake has a significant effect, positive or negative, on breast cancer risk. More studies are needed.
2. Cruciferous vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables, including cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli, may help lower your risk of breast cancer.
Cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolate compounds, which your body can convert into molecules called isothiocyanates. These have significant anticancer potential.
Notably, a study involving 1,493 Southern Chinese women linked higher total cruciferous vegetable intake to a reduced risk of breast cancer.
3. Allium vegetables
Garlic, onions, and leeks are all allium vegetables. They boast an array of nutrients, including organosulfur compounds, flavonoid antioxidants, and vitamin C. These may have powerful anticancer properties.
Likewise, a study involving 285 Iranian women found that a high intake of garlic and leeks may protect against breast cancer.
High intake of raw onion may have a small protective effect as well. Interestingly, the study also found that high consumption of cooked onion was associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.
Thus, more research on onions and breast health is needed.
4. Citrus fruits
Citrus fruits include:
Citrus fruits and their peels are teeming with compounds that may protect against breast cancer, including:
- vitamin C
- carotenoids like beta-cryptoxanthin and beta-carotene
- flavonoid antioxidants like quercetin, hesperetin, and naringenin
In fact, research ties citrus fruit to a reduced risk of many cancers, including breast cancer. An older 2013 literature review of six studies involving 8,393 people linked high citrus intake to a 10% reduction in breast cancer risk.
Regularly enjoying berries may help lower your risk of certain cancers, including breast cancer.
Antioxidants in berries, including flavonoids and anthocyanins, have been shown to protect against cellular damage and the development and spread of cancer cells.
6. Peaches, apples, pears, and grapes
Fruits — specifically peaches, apples, pears, and grapes — have been shown to safeguard against breast cancer.
In the large 2013 study mentioned above, women who consumed at least two servings of peaches each week had up to a 41% reduced risk of developing estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer.
Some test-tube studies also show that certain compounds found in grapes — including flavonoids and anthocyanins — can protect against breast cancer cells. More research involving humans is needed.
7. Fatty fish
Some studies show that eating fatty fish may specifically reduce your risk of breast cancer.
Other studies on fish consumption and its fatty acids report similar findings.
8. Fermented foods
Fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, miso, and sauerkraut contain probiotics and other nutrients that
A 2015 literature review of 27 studies linked the consumption of dairy products, including fermented dairy products like yogurt, to a reduced risk of breast cancer in both Western and Asian populations.
Test-tube studies and animal research
Beans are loaded with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Specifically, their high fiber content may protect against breast cancer.
Additionally, in a
10. Herbs and spices
Herbs and spices contain plant compounds that may help protect against breast cancer. These include vitamins, fatty acids, and polyphenol antioxidants.
For example, oregano boasts the antioxidants carvacrol and rosmarinic acid. A 2017 test-tube study found that these antioxidants exhibit significant anticancer effects against aggressive breast cancer cell lines.
As many other herbs and spices have powerful
11. Whole grains
Whole grains like wheat, brown rice, barley, quinoa, and rye are
What’s more, they may also possess powerful cancer-fighting properties.
In fact, one
Furthermore, other research suggests that adding whole grains to your diet could also protect against several other types of cancer, including pancreatic, colorectal, stomach, and esophageal cancers.
Walnuts have many benefits and are a great source of heart-healthy fats, including alpha-linolenic acid.
Interestingly, some research suggests that adding walnuts and other types of nuts to your diet could even help protect against breast cancer.
According to a 2015 study involving 201 people, those who consumed the highest amount of walnuts, peanuts, and almonds each week were 2–3 times less likely to develop breast cancer than those who didn’t consume any nuts.
Another small study looked at the effect of walnuts on women with breast cancer. The researchers found that consuming 2 ounces (57 grams) of walnuts each day for 2–3 weeks led to significant changes in levels of specific genes that control the growth and spread of breast cancer cells.
In addition, one
While certain foods may protect against breast cancer, others may increase your risk.
As such, it’s best to reduce your intake of the following foods and beverages — or avoid them altogether:
- Alcohol: Alcohol use, especially heavy drinking, may
significantly increaseyour risk of breast cancer.
- Fast food: Eating fast food regularly has many downsides, including an
increased riskof heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and breast cancer.
- Fried foods: Research shows that a diet high in fried foods may significantly increase your risk of breast cancer. Indeed, in a study involving 620 Iranian women under 50 years old, fried food intake was the largest risk factor for breast cancer development.
- Processed meats: Processed meats like bacon and sausage may raise your risk of breast cancer. A
2018 literature reviewof 18 studies linked highly processed meat intake to a 9% greater breast cancer risk.
- Added sugar: A diet high in added sugar may significantly
raise your riskof breast cancer by increasing inflammation and the expression of certain enzymes related to cancer growth and spread.
- Refined carbs: Diets high in refined carbs, including the typical Western diet,
may increasebreast cancer risk. Try replacing refined carbs like white bread and sugary baked goods with whole grain products and nutrient-dense veggies.
Soy and breast cancer
Many people also wonder whether soy products — such as tofu, soy milk, and edamame — can affect their risk of breast cancer. Research is mixed.
According to a
What’s more, soy intake may actually improve outcomes and help protect against recurrence in people diagnosed with breast cancer.
There’s no doubt that your diet can help prevent chronic diseases, including breast cancer. However, many other lifestyle choices may affect your cancer risk too.
For example, engaging in regular exercise, getting enough rest, and avoiding smoking offer
Furthermore, some research suggests that certain skin care products may increase breast cancer risk.
For example, many moisturizers, cosmetics, and hair products contain parabens, a type of chemical that could play a role in the development of breast cancer. Parabens are
Exposure to pesticides, as well as endocrine disruptors such as Bisphenol A (BPA) that are found in materials like plastic, may raise breast cancer risk too.
Thus, opting for natural skin care, gardening, and cleaning products may decrease your breast cancer risk.
Overall, cancer risk is complex but certainly influenced by your diet.
Following a nutritious diet rich in foods like leafy greens, citrus fruits, and fatty fish may help reduce breast cancer risk. It may be equally important to limit or avoid items like alcohol, highly processed meats, and sugary foods and beverages.
Keep in mind that regular medical appointments and breast cancer screenings are critical for early detection and diagnosis. Speak with a healthcare professional if you have questions about your breast cancer risk or the screening process.