By Carleton Rivers, RD
The American Cancer Society estimated that in 2013 there would be 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer among women. However, women are not the only ones affected. It was estimated that there would be an additional 2,240 new cases among men. If you think your family genes put you at higher risk for developing breast cancer and there is not much you can do about it, think again. Although there is no way to completely prevent breast cancer, and there are certain factors (like being a woman and getting older) that are unavoidable, research has shown that living a healthy lifestyle may help lower your chances of getting breast cancer. And even if you are diagnosed, living a healthy lifestyle may increase your odds for survival. Celebrate National Breast Cancer Awareness Month with us this October and learn how a healthy diet can reduce your risk of developing breast cancer.
The first things that come to my mind when thinking of cancer and nutrition are antioxidants, a type of nutrient. Simply put, antioxidants are one of nature’s ways of helping you fight some of the bad actions that occur in your body. These nutrients pack a big punch against free radicals that are produced in your body. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cells through oxidative stress, which plays a role in cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and some eye diseases. Free radicals can be produced when your body is converting food into energy and when you are exercising. Environmental exposures like tobacco smoke, radiation, and pollution also produce free radicals in the body. So you can see why eating healthy is so important! Antioxidants work by counteracting this oxidative stress and helping to lower your risk of developing these diseases.
So, where are these gems found? Antioxidants can be found in a bunch of different foods including fruits and vegetables, nuts, grains, some meats, poultry, and fish. The nutrients that are considered antioxidants include beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, selenium, and vitamins A, C, and E. Researchers have not shown that antioxidant supplements are beneficial in preventing diseases.