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Let's Beat Breast Cancer » a four-pronged approach

October is a busy time. Autumn has started, it’s flu season, for students it may be midterm season, some people take part in Halloween or Yom Kippur, and it’s even National Pizza Month in the states.

But possibly the most important of all, is that it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

We've partnered with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine to help share their message: four simple steps we can take to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

What is breast cancer awareness month?

Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer that mostly impacts women (although it may occur in men). Breast Cancer Awareness Month helps fund research, provides one of the largest cancer support systems, and advocates for change in our society. It's also meant to:

  • Raise awareness on breast cancer.

  • Help bring communities together.

  • Show life is greater than breast cancer.

The good news is that prevention, detection, diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer has made considerable progress with the help of many. But with over 2 million new cases in 2018, there is still work to be done and we can help by working together to support this important cause!

four pillars to help beat breast cancer

Our food choices and lifestyle can minimize the risk of developing breast cancer, and can also help after a breast cancer diagnosis. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, in collaboration with breast cancer surgeon Kristi Funk, MD, created the following four proven steps that help protect our breast and overall health.

PILLAR #1 - Choose more plant-based foods

As we've said before, plant-based foods are full of vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants. They can also help lower our estrogen levels. Estrogen is a hormone that promotes the female characteristics in our bodies and lower levels of it have been associated with a lower risk of breast cancer.

Here are three possible approaches to help choose more plant-based foods:

Load up on the veggies!

Any and all veggies are great, and especially when we eat a variety of it. Think: eating the rainbow! Cruciferous veggies are particularly noteworthy, and include broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts.

These can help our body get rid of cancer causing chemicals.

Never been a fan of kale? Try Massaging it!

We're not the only ones that enjoy a good massage. Massaging kale helps break it down to become more soft and tender. This makes it much more enjoyable to eat raw, and decreases the bitter taste.

Featured Recipe: Massaged Umami Kale Salad

Cauliflower is a great staple for meal prepping

By making a double batch of roasted cauliflower, you can meal prep for the week! Cauliflower and curry make a delicious combo. You can also add your roasted cauliflower to grain bowls, stir-frys and salads.

Featured Recipe: Roasted Cauliflower Lentil Curry

Enjoy soy

There’s a lot of conflicting info out there on soy.

Enjoying soy products, such as tofu or soy milk, especially early in life can help lower the risk of breast cancer. This study even showed a 30% reduction in the risk of breast cancer with the help of soy.

But how does it work? Basically, estrogen-like plant-based compounds in soy products have a similar shape to real estrogen and can act as a protective substance. Because of this, they're able to bind to receptors in our intestines which are normally for estrogen that our body produces or estrogen we consume in animal-based foods such as meat. Consuming the plant-based estrogen-like compounds limits our body from absorbing real estrogen (that we potentially have too much of) which can help drive levels of estrogen in our bodies down.

Studies that show soy associated with a higher breast cancer risk are usually done on animals that process soy differently than humans or explore unusual high doses.

Moderation is still important. Studies involving adults benefits are associated with around 2-4 servings per day. Overall, 2-3 servings a day of soy foods is thought to be beneficial. Some examples of a serving size of soy foods are:

  • Cooked soybeans - 175 mL (3/4 cup)

  • Edamame - 175 mL (3/4 cup)

  • Tofu - 175 mL (3/4 cup)

  • Roasted soy nuts - 60 mL (1/4 cup)

  • Soy beverages - 250 mL (1 cup)

Overall, eating soy is linked to reducing the risk of breast cancer, especially for survivors. Need some inspiration? Look no further!

Featured Recipe: Speedy Vegan Pad Thai

Featured Recipe(s): Smoothies using Soy Milk

If you'd like to learn more about soy, we have a whole article about it! Check it out here

Avoid processed meats

Processed meats including hot dogs, bacon, and lunch meats have been found to increase the risk of breast cancer - in addition to colon, prostate, and pancreatic cancer. Beans, chickpeas, lentils, and coconut bacon can make a satisfying alternatives to processed meats.

If necessary, there are also plant-based meat-like alternatives such as vegan hotdogs, vegan burger patties, and other soy-based lunch meats. When consuming these commercial alternatives, aim to consume them in moderation, as they tend to be quite processed and high in sodium.

Featured Recipe: Vegan Tofu Chorizo

PILLAR #2 - Exercise regularly

There are many benefits that come with enjoying exercise regularly.

Research suggests that exercise supports our wellbeing, but also strengthens our immune defence system, which may help our bodies kill cancerous cells.

Sitting is the new smoking. Research suggests there are risks with sitting down all day, and breaking up sedentary behaviours is helpful. This may be especially relevant for office workers, students, or those sitting at a desk all day.

Some ideas to break up sitting all day are:

  • Set your alarm to stand up every hour - this is also a great chance to walk around and get a drink of water!

  • Get a light stretch in during breaks.