Part of being the grown-ass boss lady you are means eating whatever you want. No parents, no rules! Ice cream for dinner! Wine for dessert! But you do have two very important things depending on you to do them a solid, and those are your boobs. (See what I did there.)
Dad Mom jokes aside, one of the best paths to breast health is through the mouth. “Eating a healthy diet supports breast health by reducing inflammation, helping maintain a healthy weight, and improving metabolic health, all of which may help reduce, but not eliminate, breast cancer risk,” explains Cathy Leman, breast cancer survivor, registered dietitian, and founder of Higher Ground Breast Cancer Survival and Dam Mad About Breast Cancer. “A healthy diet gives your body nutrients for repair and growth, provides energy, and helps stabilize blood sugar and blood pressure.”
Breast cancer is the most common cancer worldwide, affecting one in eight women, and even many men. Although some risk factors can’t be avoided (i.e., family history), adopting a breast-friendly diet is a great way to lessen the risk, according to Ginger Muscalli, RD LDN at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, a two-time breast cancer survivor. “There are many factors that lead to healthy breasts and just as many unknowns as to why individuals can be unfortunate if given the diagnosis of breast cancer. With the combination of motivation and moderation, there are many foods that can have a positive impact on breast health. I am a survivor, and always eating for the three of us!”
Care for your pair with these 15 boob-friendly foods Leman and Muscalli recommend.
1. Arugula and kale
True, all leafy greens are amazing for your body, but these two are supercharged with health benefits. Arugula and kale are members of the cruciferous vegetable family and are great sources of fiber and carotenoids, two plant elements that may be beneficial in decreasing the risk of estrogen receptor-negative (ER-) breast cancer.
This little bulb is packed with vitamin C and antioxidants, which are great for promoting healthy breast tissue. Buy it whole and crush fresh cloves into your recipes for the solid benefits.
“Due to their high fiber content, legumes of all types are beneficial,” Leman says. “Eating a diet high in fiber may reduce the risk of an initial diagnosis as well as recurrence. One study found that for every 10 grams of fiber eaten daily, the risk of breast cancer was five percent lower. Dietary fiber can also be fermented by gut bacteria to short-chain fatty acids, which help support a healthy microbiome.”
4. Green tea
Green tea contains catechins, which are natural antioxidants. “Green tea can affect people in a variety of ways,” warns Muscalli. “Some people get antsy when drinking green tea. I always say to start off slowly and increase to the amount they can have; maybe one at dinner or one at lunch, and then maybe two cups a day.”
5. Fatty fish
Muscalli says some studies have found that fatty fish can actually reduce the risk of breast cancer due to their high levels of selenium and omega-3s. Check the Environmental Defense Fund’s seafood selector to find the best choices of salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, swordfish, bluefin tuna, and trout, or just buy from a credible source, like this sustainably wild-caught Wild Atlantic Sockeye Salmon or these responsibly-sourced Swordfish Steaks.
6. Blueberries and blackberries
While all berries are loaded with flavonoids, vitamin C, and manganese, blueberries and blackberries have the potential to reduce the risk of breast cancer due to their abundance of phytochemicals like cyanidin, kaempferol and resveratrol. “Studies have shown that these phytochemicals may interfere with key pathways, as well as trigger cell death (apoptosis) to potentially reduce the risk for recurrence,” Leman explains.
7. Brightly colored produce
Vibrant veggies like carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts contain carotenoids and antioxidants, which may reduce incidences of breast cancer.
Fermented foods like yogurt contain probiotics, which promote a healthy gut and immune system. “This assists with digestion,” Muscalli adds. “It helps us stay regular and rid the body of toxins. A lot of times people with breast cancer are found to also have colon cancer, and a lot of that is due to eating habits.”
9. Barley and oats
“While more data is needed to draw firm conclusions, we do know that whole grains are good sources of insoluble fiber and contain bioactive compounds such as phenolic acids and anthocyanins, both of which are beneficial to a breast health diet,” Leman says.
10. Flax seed
Whether eaten as a seed or as an oil, flaxseed contains omega-3 and is rich in antioxidants. “Studies show flaxseed oil may help in preventing the growth of breast tumors,” says Muscalli. “Everyone is different, but I typically recommend a tablespoon a day for most of my clients. I have some clients that get up in the morning and put a tablespoon on their whole-wheat toast with cinnamon, but it’s also really easy to add a tablespoon to a salad.”
Recent research has found that certain properties of an onion—namely vitamin C, flavonols, and loads of other antioxidants—could help reduce the risk of breast cancer, says Muscalli.
There are so many benefits to eating a variety of nuts, like the number of phytosterols that walnuts, Brazil nuts, and peanuts carry. “Phytosterols bind to estrogen receptors,” explains Muscalli. “Estrogen has been known to fuel some breast tumors, so eating foods rich in phytosterols can help to regulate estrogen levels.”
13. Citrus fruits
Oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes all provide antibiotics, vitamin C, and folate to boost the immune system and reduce inflammation.
14. Okay, all fruits
A diet rich in fruits has so many benefits for the body, and adding a rotation of peaches, pears, apples, grapes, and bananas can boost levels of potassium and vitamin C, two nutrients vital to keeping the body strong and healthy.
15. Herbs and spices
Spices like curcumin, ginger, cinnamon, basil, and turmeric contain neutraceuticals that may regulate signaling pathways and reduce inflammation. “More research is needed, but some spices have been found to have anti-cancer properties,” Muscalli notes. “Certain combinations of them don’t affect healthy breast tissue, but they can prevent free radicals from forming. We don’t know why just yet, but we know there’s something happening there.”