Since October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and there are several organizations that have joined together to promote awareness of breast cancer issues, I thought I would take this opportunity to discuss how nutrition relates to breast cancer prevention. When it comes to breast cancer, a woman’s weight is important.
According to the American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention, evidence shows that postmenopausal women are at increased risk of developing breast cancer if they are at a higher weight, or if they have gained weight during adulthood.
So, what does this mean to the everyday person? The likelihood of a diagnosis of breast cancer can be reduced in a postmenopausal woman if she maintains a healthy weight. This can be accomplished by restricting calories, and regular, physical activity.
Sounds simple, right? Well, it's a straight-forward recommendation, but achieving a healthy weight is a real challenge for many people. Currently, two-thirds of the American population is overweight or obese.
Making small changes that become part of your everyday routine can go a long way toward achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. It's important to make changes that you can continue for a lifetime.
Here are some basic, daily tips to work toward a healthy weight:
Limit empty calories. I like to call these “special occasion” foods. Items like cake, cookies, pie, ice cream, or candy can certainly be consumed occasionally, but should not be consumed daily. Limit your intake of any one of these items to a birthday party or a special holiday event. And, stick to a reasonable portion size.
Emphasize plant-based foods. Foods such as fruits and vegetables are nutrient-dense without being calorie-dense. This means you get a lot of nutritional bang for your calorie buck! These foods provide a wide range of vitamins and minerals as well as water and fiber. They will help you feel full and satisfied at a meal. Aim for at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Carry a banana or apple with you to work. Eat seasonal, fresh produce to keep the cost down.
Limit or avoid alcohol. Alcohol contains seven calories per gram. This translates to 108 to 144 calories per bottle of beer, 96 calories in 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor, or about 100 calories in 5 ounces of wine. Keep in mind, many wine glasses hold 12 to 16 ounces: How much wine do you pour into your wine glass?
Don’t forget to add the calories from any mixers that are used, such as juice or soda. Calories from alcoholic beverages can add up quickly. Another good reason to limit or avoid alcohol intake: Alcohol intake itself is also associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
Stay physically active. Limit your sitting time. Go for a walk during a break at work. If you're going to watch TV, stand and do your ironing, or walk in place during commercial breaks. For maximum benefit, aim for 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity and gradually increase to 45 to 60 minutes at least five days per week. But remember, any physical activity is better than no physical activity.
These are just a few suggestions to get you started toward achieving or maintaining a healthy weight to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer!
- National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Available at http://www.nbcam.org/.
- Health.gov. Dietary Guidelines for Americans: Chapter 9 Alcoholic Beverages. Available at http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/document/html/chapter9.htm.