There are new findings on breast and other types of cancer nearly every day. Cancer is a devastating disease no matter where it is located or how aggressive it is. While most women keep up with their self breast exams and make sure that they get their mammograms and other health tests, there is still more that can be done. Some of the risk factors of breast cancer, such as family history and genetics, cannot be changed, of course, but the need for good nutrition and exercise can be. Up to 90% of all breast cancers are found in women who had no hereditary link to the disease at all (Source: Perry, 2008). Here are some of the findings from recent studies that are important to note in the fight against breast cancer:
– Body weight may play a more important role in breast cancer than previously thought. After age 35, the more weight that a woman puts on, the more she increases her risk of breast cancer. These increased risks range from 32% for those who gained 22 pounds after age 50 to 223% more risk for those who gained more than 66 pounds between the ages of 35 and 50. (Source: National Cancer Institute)
– Breast cancer patients who are overweight to obese tend to have more aggressive forms of the disease and had worse outcomes than those who fall in the more normal weight ranges. Fat tissues produce hormones as well as growth factors, including estrogen and insulin, which promote the growth of the tumors.
– Women who log in five hours of more of exercise per week have a 31% lowered risk of in situ breast cancer and a 20% lowered risk of invasive breast cancer. Additionally, women who did at least moderate exercise at least three hours per week were about 50% less likely to die from the disease (Source: The Nurse’s Health Study, 2005).
– Hormone replacement therapy also ups a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer by as much as 6% for every year that she takes the medications.
– Women who have taken hormone replacement drugs for as little as five years tended to have less detectable forms of breast cancer that are found in later and less treatable stages.
– Drinking one alcoholic beverage daily ups the risk of breast cancer by 32%. Women who drink more than three drinks per day upped their risk by 51%. (Source: The National Cancer Institute)
– The use of certain chemicals may up the risk of breast and other forms of cancer. These chemicals, called endocrine disrupting chemicals, are found in detergents, garden pesticides, food additives, makeup, cleaning solutions, and can be found in prescription drugs. Another common source of these chemicals is BPA which is found in plastic such as water bottles and baby bottles. These chemicals are currently being banned but there are ways to reduce your risk of exposure from them.
One of the most important considerations is for better overall health. It is almost impossible to completely eliminate all of the known risk factors for breast cancer, so the focus should be on getting well and being healthy from head to toe. Better health can lead to better health habits as well, including getting the recommended screening tests and keeping up with monthly self breast exams even after menopause. Eating better and getting exercise can also help to reduce weight, which is a risk factor not only for breast cancer but for other forms of cancer and diseases as well.
Both the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society recommend a diet that is high in fiber, fruits, and vegetables with little to no saturated fats and limited red meats. Vegetarian protein sources are actually more beneficial to the healthy diet than most animal proteins.
The Building Blocks of a Healthy Diet
No matter whether you choose to eliminate animal products from your diet or you feel that you cannot, there are three macronutrients and several micronutrients that your diet must contain in the right amounts to be considered healthy and well-balanced. The micronutrients are the vitamins, minerals and trace elements that are needed for overall good health. Antioxidants, which protect our bodies from the effects of free radicals, are necessary and include many of these vitamins and minerals, making them doubly important.
The macronutrients are the building blocks that all foods can be broken down into: proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. All three of these are vital and must be eaten in the right amounts and of the right types for the best health and well being.
Carbohydrates — For many people, carbs have always been the “bad” guy, the part of the diet that they have to eliminate. They follow one diet or another that vilifies carbohydrates, not knowing how important they are. Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy in the body and the only form of energy that can be used by the brain at all.
There are two kinds of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are the bad guys, the ones that should be avoided at all costs. They are quick to digest, cause the body to go into sugar overdrive and are the reason that many of us end up gaining weight. Simple carbohydrates are found in things like sodas, candies, cookies, and cakes. Think white sugar/white flour.
Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are more slowly digested and absorbed by the body, which does not cause the dangerous sugar spikes of other foods. Because they are digested so slowly, the body does not simply stash the energy away and takes longer to register hunger again, allowing you to eat less food over the course of the day. Complex carbohydrates include whole grain foods like breads and pastas.
Carbohydrates should make up the majority of the daily calorie intake in a healthy diet.
Fats — A few years ago, there were a number of new diets that tried to eliminate all fat from the diet. These backfired miserably. Fat actually plays a major role in good health after all, and the craving for it may drive the average person into a veritable feeding frenzy. It is also used as a secondary energy source and still has a place in the diet. The difference between healthy fats and unhealthy fats is simple: healthy fats may work to protect the heart, while the unhealthy fats destroy it by building artery-clogging plaque. Healthy fats include those that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids like olives, olive oils, nuts and nut oils and the avocado. Bonus information: avocadoes are actually fruits rather than vegetables.
Proteins — Protein comes from animal and plant sources. All animal proteins and soy proteins are complete because they have all of the eight essential amino acids in them, while all other plant proteins are lacking one or more and are considered incomplete. There is some controversy about whether or not soy protein is beneficial to those who have or are at risk for developing breast cancer, so always follow the advice of your personal doctor.
Protein plays a major role in every cell and function of the body and should make up the second largest portion of the daily calories. The American Heart Association guidelines say that protein should make up no more than 35% of these calories per day.
Profect — Profect and Proasis are protein supplements from Protica (www.protica.com). Proasis is the first liquid supplement that is all-natural and eliminates a number of the allergenic ingredients found in other supplement types. Both have high quality, easily digestible protein (25 grams per serving) and come in a number of strengths and flavors for convenience.
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