Breast Cancer – Plant Foods are Powerful

breast cancer 6October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so it’s a good time to remind women and the men who love them that a plant-based diet is the best diet for both avoiding and battling the disease.

Breast cancer is a very complicated disease but here are just a few of the ways that a veg diet helps. Cancer, including breast cancer, can be caused by toxic chemicals found in the environment, called carcinogens, that greatly concentrate in animal tissue and then get transferred to us when we eat animal-derived foods. Also, other carcinogens called heterocyclic amines, or HCA’s for short, form when meat is cooked. By consuming a plant based diet you can avoid almost all of these dangerous carcinogens.

Another way veg diets help you avoid breast cancer is by keeping your cholesterol low. While many people only think of cholesterol levels in terms of heart disease, it turns out that one of cholesterol’s metabolic breakdown products, 27 hydroxycholesterol (27HC for short), has been discovered by medical researchers to be a powerful cancer promoter. The lower the cholesterol level, the lower the level of 27HC.

While animal-derived foods can increase the risk of breast cancer, several substances found in plant foods can decrease the risk. For instance, some studies show that a group of phytonutrients, that is nutrients only found in plant foods, called carotenoids can reduce breast cancer risk. Very intriguing recent research has also shown that salicylates, aspirin-like phytonutrients, found in certain plant foods inhibit human breast cancer cells. Raisins, raspberries, almonds, zucchini and green bell peppers are just a few examples of good sources of salicylates.

While we’re discussing how plant foods help, we must say a few words about the benefits of soy products. It turns out that soy foods really do help. For instance, a report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that generous amounts of soy in the diet reduced the risk of both premenopausal and post menopausal breast cancer by a third. A report in Cancer Epidemiology showed that breast cancer patients who consumed generous amounts of soy cut their risk of the cancer recurring by over half. Even the Journal of the American Medical Association says, “Patients with breast cancer can be assured that enjoying a soy latte or indulging in Pad Thai with tofu causes no harm and, when consumed in plentiful amounts, may reduce risk of disease recurrence”

Some patients, with triple negative breast cancer, currently have limited treatment options because their tumor cells lack the three receptors commonly targeted in hormone or chemotherapy. But even here a plant-based diet can help make a new treatment currently under development more effective.

Perhaps the best part of using a plant-based diet to reduce the risk and enhance the treatment of breast cancer is that it’s very safe and has no side effects, and in the meantime it also reduces the risk of other diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

Important note: This article is only for general information. Please consult your doctor for specific advice in your case.


About Vegetarians of Washington

Vegetarians of Washington is a large non-profit vegetarian society based in Seattle, WA. We encourage people to discover the advantages and experience the pleasures of vegetarian food. We welcome everyone, whether you're an experienced vegetarian, a beginner or just curious. You don't have to be a vegetarian to join our organization, or to follow our blog! We run the largest vegetarian food festival in the country, Seattle's Vegfest, held in the Seattle Center in March each year. We also host monthly dining events and give free nutrition and cooking classes. We've written several nationally published books, including our latest book "In Pursuit of Great Food: A Plant-based shopping guide", which provides valuable information on what to buy and how to choose great food. Our other books include "Say No to Meat" which gives the information and real-world advice that new vegetarians need the most, in an easy question-and-answer style, the fact-filled "The Vegetarian Solution", and a wide range of delicious recipes in "The Veg-Feasting Cookbook". All our books are available in local bookstores, and via our website or


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