One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Cancer is a complicated disease with many causes and unknowns, yet far too often, individuals with cancer blame themselves. While certain lifestyle changes can reduce breast cancer risk, other risk factors cannot be changed. No matter how healthy a person’s lifestyle may be, a cancer diagnosis is still possible.
Common Unmodifiable Risk Factors
- Being Female
- Family History
- Race, Access to Screening, and Healthcare
- Dense Breast Tissue
Common Modifiable Risk Factors
- Personal behaviors such as alcohol consumption, nutrition, lifestyle, and physical activity
- Certain decisions about having children and taking medicines that contain hormones
“Maintaining a healthy weight” is frequently labeled as a modifiable risk factor; however, it’s important to note that weight is not a behavior. Instructions like “maintain a healthy weight” command a focus on tracking weight and numbers rather than taking actionable, sustainable steps that support overall well-being. The diet industry thrives from individuals desiring quick weight loss; however, the research is clear that dieting leads to more harm than good and weight gain rather than weight loss in the long term.
Shifting the Focus From Weight to Well-being
Believe it or not, research on Intuitive Eating suggests that those who give themselves unconditional permission to eat consume more nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables than those who engage in chronic dieting. In other words, the best way to incorporate more nutrient-dense foods, including those that aid in cancer prevention, is to make all foods permissible.
Nutrition misinformation and myths regarding cancer are plentiful. These claims often label one food as the sole cause of cancer. No one food causes or prevents cancer, and false claims contribute to guilt and shame related to a cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Food Provides Energy. It’s Not the Enemy.
Consider focusing on what food does FOR your body rather than worrying about what food does TO your body. Rejecting the diet mentality and adopting gentle nutrition relieves stress and improves the quality of life while also helping to prevent chronic disease. Here are some examples of what to ADD to your eating pattern:
- Aids in digestion with the removal of waste, toxins, and cholesterol from the body, therefore regulating inflammation, blood pressure, and blood flow.
- Look for fiber in fruits, veggies, seeds, whole grains, beans, and legumes.
- Fight oxidation in the body, meaning antioxidants fight the formation of potentially cancerous cells caused by the oxidation reaction. The prevention of such reactions helps keep inflammation at bay.
- Find antioxidants in foods such as fruits, vegetables, dark chocolate, nuts, seeds, wheat, and rice. Make your plates colorful – eat the rainbow!
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS:
- Aid in hormone regulation, blood clotting, and inflammation. Irregular hormone production and inflammation are associated with chronic diseases, including breast cancer.
- Look for omega-3s in fish, canola oil, flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts.
There are MANY risk factors outside of nutrition alone associated with breast cancer, so rest assured that diet alone is not the sole cause of cancer or route to cancer prevention. Our mission at Memphis Nutrition Group is to help individuals and families reconnect with their bodies, find confidence and clarity in their everyday choices, and create a peaceful, balanced approach to food that tastes good and feels even better. If you’re experiencing fear, confusion, guilt, or shame regarding eating or nutrition, reach out to a Registered Dietitian for guidance and support.
Jennifer Bookout RDN, LDN is a nutrition therapist at Memphis Nutrition Group, a nutrition and lifestyle counseling practice offering in-person and virtual nutrition therapy specializing in a non-diet, weight-neutral approach. Memphis Nutrition Group helps individuals reconnect with their bodies, find confidence and clarity in everyday choices, and create a peaceful, balanced approach to food that tastes good and feels even better. Contact Memphis Nutrition Group at 901.343.6146 or visit MemphisNutritionGroup.com for more information.
By Jennifer Bookout RDN, LDN