Angelina Jolie's decision to undergo a double mastectomy to decrease her risk of breast cancer sends an important message to Latinas: we can make choices to reduce our own risk of cancer. I know this very well. Breast cancer runs and has affected to various degrees people in my familia.
That's why I am taking steps to minimize my risk by maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle and became a vegetarian.
¡It's Meatless Monday every day in mi casa!
In addition to looking and feeling great, regularly following a plant-based diet helps lower your risk of many cancers, according to the American Institute on Cancer Research.
Many plantas--a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans--also are naturally packed with cancer-fighting substances.
7 Plant Foods with Cancer-Fighting Properties
- Broccoli and cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and Brussels sprouts: Eat these veggies raw or steamed to load up on cancer-fighting flavonoids. Try these broccoli recipes.
- Tomatoes: Lycopene in tomatoes protects against prostate cancer, especially when cooked. Fresh marinara sauce, anyone?
- Berries: Strawberries and blueberries are rich in antioxidants that neutralize cancer-causing free radicals. Add a handful to your cereal, fruit salad, or smoothie.
- Leafy greens: Spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, collard greens, and Swiss chard are excellent sources of fiber, folate, carotenoids, and anti-oxidants which inhibit the growth of non-estrogen-dependent breast, skin, lung, and stomach cancer cells. I recommend green smoothies to get more of these leaves in Nutrition: ¡Go Green for your Health!.
- Carrots: Check out these creative carrot recipes to stock up on healthy beta-carotene, an antioxidant which may protect cells from toxin damage.
- Apples: Dietary fiber and vitamin C help this fruit lower the risk of colon cancer. An apple a day...
- Beans and legumes: Phytochemicals in frijoles and lentils have been shown to slow or prevent damage to the DNA, the basis of cancer.
While researchers have yet to identify links between specific foods and estrogen-dependent breast cancer, cruciferous vegetables, and foods high in fiber (whole grains, beans, and almonds) have been shown to eliminate excess estrogen in the body, which can reduce your risk.
3 Cancer-Linked Foods to Avoid
- Processed meats: Carne that has been salted, cured, smoked, or treated with preservatives increases the risk of colon cancer. ¡Adios, hotdogs!
- Sugary drinks and snacks: Sugar is a source of energy for harmful carcinogens in the body and may help tumor growth. Swap the soda for a healthier beverage. I recommend flavored waters in Nutrition: 5 Easy Ways to Add More Water to Your Diet.
- Alcohol: Drinking in excess increases your risk of mouth, liver, colon, and esophagus cancer. Even one drink a day can increase your risk of breast cancer so save the spirits for special occasions.
No diet or lifestyle guarantees you will be cancer-free. In Salud: Angelina Jolie's Decision and a Latina Guide to Breast Health, The Wise Latina Club encourages regular screening and being aware of your family history.
Chicas, adopting these guidelines may mean a drastic change in diet. But nothing is more important than your health. Pile cancer-fighting veggies on your plate every day. When taking care of yourself and loved ones consists of eating fresh, delicious foods that keep you looking and feeling your best, it's an easy choice to make.
¿Need Meatless Monday inspiration? Click here to read more of my recipes.
A teacher by day, The Wise Latina Club’s Natalie Wagner Fierro is the co-founder of the Institute for Student Health. She equally loves food (cooking or dining in Washington’s restaurants) and burning calories by distance running, practicing yoga, and archery. Click here to read more about and connect with Natalie.Which cancer-fighting foods are a part of your diet?