BY Eileen Z. Fuentes (@EileenZFuentes)
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Television shows, magazines, and products are all proudly bearing pink ribbons. Even the George Washington Bridge is being adorned with glowing pink lights this month to raise awareness. People everywhere have participated in one of the many cancer walks for themselves or a loved one. I myself did that walk over 10 years ago. As a matter of fact, I did it twice but in September of 2008, I too was diagnosed with breast cancer. This was a surprise because I was young, nursed my 3 children and had no family history. At the time, I wasn’t aware that breast cancer affects a whopping 1 in 8 women and there is no cure despite the pink crusade.
It has been three years since that fateful day and I have grown to embrace the diagnosis as the quality of my life has improved substantially. I have used nutrition as a way to keep myself healthy and would like to share some little known information on the healing power of food and it’s direct link to cancer prevention.
1. Green leafy vegetables can purify the blood and powerhouses like broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables can combat breast cancer by converting a cancer-promoting estrogen into a more protective variety.
2. Watercress has been shown to suppress breast cancer cell development.
3. Mushrooms such as shitake and maitake strengthen the immune system. They are also loaded with vitamin D. Breast cancer has been linked to vitamin D deficiency.
4. Medicinal herbs like tumeric, garlic, and ginger can act as a powerful anti-inflammatory and antibiotic.
5. Berries are full of powerful antioxidants.
6. Healthy fats such as omega 3, avocado, flaxseed and olive oil may reduce cancer cell growth and the spread of tumors.
7. The polyphenols in matcha green tea may inhibit the growth and spread of certain breast cancer types. It also may improve the survival rates of people with cancer.
8. Beans appear to inhibit cancer cells from multiplying.
9. Root vegetables such as yams, sweet potatoes, squash can inhibit the development of certain types of cancers.
10. Cancer has been shown to feed on sugar so you should avoid it and artificial sweeteners as well. Use natural sweeteners instead like agave nectar, raw honey, maple syrup, and rice syrup. *You should also minimize your intake of dairy, red meat, fried and processed foods.
In addition to nutrition, I’ve learned about other lifestyle changes that can drastically affect outcomes. For example, daily outdoor walks have shown to reduce your risk by up to 50% and mind/body exercises such as yoga, qigong, tai chi, and meditation can drastically reduce stress, which has been linked to the disease. But the most important lesson for me has been about my support systems. There is nothing that a person facing a health challenge appreciates more than a helping hand. To learn more about prevention, go to anticancerbook.com and watch this video. To learn more about food therapy, click here.
Last year, my friends and I attended a breast cancer conference presented by Columbia University Medical Center with keynote speaker Dara P. Richardson-Heron, a 13-year cancer survivor, a Physician and the CEO of The Greater New York City Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. She was truly inspiring and when her talk was over, I proudly walked over to her wearing my “Eat Real Food” t-shirt and had a brief but honest conversation about the use of healing foods and integrative therapies to support the conventional treatment model. You can see her doing the same on the video below with Dr. Oz, a practicing Physician in our own neighborhood.