Is your daughter’s favorite meal a nice steak with mashed potatoes? Or is picking up a burger and fries on the way home from sports practice a frequent habit? Or is her idea of fruit and veggies, ketchup and relish? These foods may be tasty – who doesn’t love a nice steak or crispy fries dipped in ketchup? But these food choices could increase your daughter’s risk for breast cancer down the road.
The Nurses Health Study II
The original Nurses’ Health Study, funded by the National Institute of Health, looked at the long-term impact of oral contraception on women’s health. Female nurses were selected for their health awareness and appreciation of filling out an accurate health history. The 121,700 returned questionnaires shed light not only on the cancer and heart disease risk with the use of oral contraception, but also the impact of smoking. The Nurses’ Health Study II in 1989 focused on additional lifestyle factors and behaviors and their connection to over 30 different diseases in a younger population – 116,430 women aged 25-42. This second study has provided insight to the link between diet and breast cancer risk.
Dietary fiber and breast cancer
A prospective study reported in the March, 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics looked at the connection between dietary fiber intake during high school years and premenopausal breast cancer risk. After statistical analysis they found a connection between the amount of dietary fiber intake, particularly fruit and vegetable fiber, and risk of breast cancer. Higher consumption of dietary fiber was associated with reduced breast cancer risk. In fact they found:
“a 13% lower breast cancer risk per 10 g/day fiber increment during early adulthood and 14% lower breast cancer risk per 10 g/day fiber increment during adolescence.”
In other words, for every 10 g of dietary fiber eaten daily, there was a 13% lower risk of breast cancer. The American Heart Association (the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines do not state specific dietary fiber intake) recommends that females between the ages of 14-18 get 26 g of fiber daily, and males consume 38 g. Foods highest in fiber are nuts and seeds, legumes, foods made with whole grains, and fruit and vegetables. An example excellent dietary fiber: a half cup of beans delivers at least 8 g of fiber depending on the bean type. Topping salads, adding to soups or having as a side dish will give you a great dose of cancer prevention.
Red meat consumption linked to breast cancer
A study reported in the October, 2014 International Journal of Cancer looked at the connection between consumption of different protein sources and risk of breast cancer, also looking at data from the Nurses’ Health Study II. They found that the more red meat consumed during the adolescent years, the greater the premenopausal breast cancer risk. They also found that replacing some of the red meat with other protein sources like fish, poultry, nuts and beans reduced the risk for breast cancer.
Less red meat, more fruits and veggies
The answer is pretty obvious. Red meat is high in saturated fat, expensive and has a large carbon footprint, and now there’s a link to red meat consumption and breast cancer. Additionally, not consuming enough fiber from fruits and veggies, beans, nuts, and whole grains, also puts your daughter’s breast health at risk.
Food is health promoting…or health stealing
It really comes down to a mindset. It’s finding the balance between food that is nurturing and nourishing. I don’t expect to love everything I eat, but I try to prepare them in ways to make them tasty. I feel sorry for the kids who never grew up eating vegetables and only ate meals that came out of a box from a fast food restaurant. If that’s the only way someone has eaten, then the concept of learning how to plan and prepare a meal, let alone try new foods, can be daunting.
Tips For Eating Health Promoting Foods
- Keep it simple. Make something in a crock-pot, make a soup or try some of these one pan dinners. Find 5 recipes that you like, write them down on index cards or on your phone notes along with the list of ingredients, and keep them with you so you always have them available when you shop.
- Make this an automatic thought: “how can I add more veggies to this meal?” I add extra frozen or fresh veggies to soups, casseroles and even to my breakfast smoothie. i always have at least a box of frozen spinach and broccoli in my freezer. I add cabbage (which has a really long frig life) to wraps, salads, and even soups. I keep cut up fresh veggies in my frig to snack on with humus all the time. I even mash steamed cauliflower to add to my mashed potatoes. I try to get at least 3-4 cups a day.
- Cutting down on red meat really comes down to finding other fish, poultry or meatless recipes you like. If you take the time on the first suggestion, you will find that beef disappears, or will be eaten less often.
- Your freezer is your way to convenience. Double or even triple recipes. There isn’t one dinner that I’ve made that hasn’t frozen well. You can even portion extras servings into individual containers to take on the go, or when you don’t have time to prepare a meal.
- Know that you are eating this way for you and your daughter’s health in the future. Many of us make regular deposits in retirement accounts for a happy future; how many of us are making regular deposits in our daily lives for our or our family’s future health? What’s the point of having money if you don’t have good health to enjoy it? At least take these steps for your daughter’s sake.