The triple-negative diet to fight breast cancer
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’ve pulled the following excerpt from Surviving Triple-Negative Breast Cancer: Hope, Treatment, and Recovery by Patricia Prijatel. She provides a quick guide on how to eat healthy in order to better fight the disease.
This is the approach I take, based on the research I have done. It works for me, but you have to find what works best for you. Choose an approach you know you can stick to. Don’t try to be Super Healthy Cancer Woman — that just adds more stress. Aim to be as healthy as you can be, and allow yourself to fall off the wagon occasionally. That is the only way you will stay on long-term.
Breakfast: According to the National Weight Control Registry at Brown University Medical School, 78 percent of the people who lost more than 30 pounds and kept it off for more than a year regularly ate breakfast. I always eat breakfast; my two approaches to it:
- A breakfast smoothie with blueberries (antioxidants), flax- seeds (cancer-fighting fiber), bananas, black cherry (more anti- oxidants) juice, and yogurt (bone-building and cancer-fighting calcium). This gives me two servings of fruits and one serving of calcium. Make sure you use ground flaxseed, because whole seeds just go right through you. And once they are ground, store them in the refrigerator.
- Cooked oatmeal with blueberries. It’s simple—just follow the directions for one serving on the oatmeal box, and add about1/2 cup of blueberries. Oatmeal soaks up cholesterol, so it is good for your heart as well.
Mid-morning snack: A piece of fruit, 1/8 cup of seeds, and 6–8 almonds.
Lunch: Eat a hearty but healthy lunch — you should expend more calories here than at dinner. I opt for soups, salads, whole-wheat pasta dishes, or sandwiches with low-fat whole-wheat bread. I look for combinations of spinach, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, romaine, and other dark greens; low-fat cheeses or yogurt; and whole grains. Tuna or egg salad sandwiches made with low-fat mayonnaise or yogurt and low-fat whole-wheat bread; 1/2 fresh bell pepper sliced; and a spinach salad makes a nice little lunch. I often treat myself to a scoop of frozen yogurt for dessert. One scoop is enough to satisfy me. (Usually.)
Midday snack: Some of my favorites:
- Broccoli and cauliflower dipped in hummus.
- Whole-wheat crackers and organic low-fat cheese.
- Popcorn (a whole grain that folks tend to ignore) with a light covering of sea salt. No butter.
- Homemade trail mix of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, raisins, unsweetened dried cranberries, and almonds. You need no extra salt or sugar.
- Strips of bell peppers, powerful antioxidants high in vitamin C and E. (Red peppers are especially nutrient-rich; a small one contains 46 percent of your daily requirement of vitamin A and 158 percent of your vitamin C. By contrast, a green pepper of the same size has 5 percent of your daily vitamin A and 99 percent of your vitamin C.)
Juiced veggies every evening: This includes three to four carrots, one to two leaves of kale, 1/8 cabbage, one bunch parsley, one stalk celery, 1/4 apple, and 1/4 lemon. My super-juicing husband uses an auger juicer that takes the pulp out and leaves only the juice. This gives me two to three servings of veggies and is heavy on cancer-fighting cruciferous vegetables — kale and cabbage. The lemon, apple, and celery really help the taste.
Dinner: I go mostly vegetarian, with some fish and seafood.
- I have come to love sushi made with avocados, eggs, cucumbers, and celery (I’m not ready to try raw fish).
- Menus planned around broiled or baked fish or meat are good; combine this with steamed vegetables, brown rice, or sweet potatoes.
- Stir-fry is an easy way to combine brown rice, shrimp or chicken, and veggies such as broccoli and bok choy. Avoid cheese sauces and gravy — these are delicious gutters of calories.
- Soup and salad is healthy and easy. A cup of tomato soup and a spinach salad with vinaigrette gives you a couple of servings of vegetables with minimal calories. Bean soup can be a great source of protein as well as vitamins and minerals.
- For dessert, consider angel food cake, frozen yogurt, or a few squares of dark chocolate, which, yes, is an antioxidant. Milk chocolate is not.
Patricia Prijatel is author of Surviving Triple-Negative Breast Cancer, published by Oxford University Press. She is the E.T. Meredith Distinguished Professor Emerita of Journalism at Drake University. She is doing a webcast with the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation on 16 October 2012. Read her previous blog posts: “Just what is triple-negative breast cancer?” and “Fighting Triple-Negative Breast Cancer.”