Breast Cancer Nutrition Tips: How to Eat Well During Treatment

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, your diet may be the last thing on your mind right now. But it’s very important to focus on this aspect of your health, since a good diet can help your body heal as quickly as possible during treatment.

If you’re looking for a way to improve your energy, strength and overall wellness during breast cancer treatment, incorporate these tips into your diet.

What You Should Eat on a Daily Basis

One of the best ways to stay healthy during breast cancer treatment is to make fruits and vegetables part of your diet every day. In particular, you should eat five to nine servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables. While it's common to see recommendations for leafy greens, you should also incorporate other colorful fruits and vegetables.

The many colors in fruits and vegetables indicate the presence of phytochemicals, all of which work to protect our bodies in different ways. Colorful fresh food foods including those that are blue, yellow, orange, green or red play a significant role in helping to protect your body.

You should have at least one serving of whole grains each day since nutrition from these foods can help to reduce inflammation. Whole grains like bulgur, quinoa, buckwheat, oats, brown rice, barley, rye and corn contain complex carbohydrates, a little bit of protein and fat, a good amount of fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals, that all help to protect the body.

Protein is also essential, to help maintain body functions and weight. Losing weight during chemotherapy can make you feel sicker from the treatment and may result in treatment breaks.

Some great ways to incorporate protein into your diet include eggs, peanut butter, yogurt, turkey, chicken and seafood, as well as legumes, such as beans and peas.

One type of food you can eat during breast cancer treatment might surprise you: soy. Many people assume that soy and breast cancer don't go together, since they have heard soy can increase the risk of cancer or allow it to come back after treatment.

However, this is based on old research that turned out to be misleading. According to recent studies, unprocessed soy, such as in soybeans, soymilk and tofu are safe to eat. Highly processed soy products, such as vegan hot dogs and hamburgers, are not a healthy option, since much of the beneficial plant properties are lost in manufacturing.

Foods to Limit During Breast Cancer Treatment

Processed foods including high-sodium, high-fat lunchmeat, bacon and sausage should be limited as much as possible. You should also limit red meat - including beef, pork and lamb - to once a month if you want the healthiest diet during breast cancer treatment.

How to Manage Your Diet When Treatment Gives You Nausea

These diet guidelines are best for patients who have minimal side effects from breast cancer treatment. It’s common to experience nausea or loss of appetite during treatment. But you need to focus on getting enough healthy calories every day to keep up your energy, fight off infection and avoid losing a lot of weight during treatment.

Poor nutrition during breast cancer treatment can lead to more serious side effects and complications. You need proper nutrition and enough calories every day. If you struggle to eat as much as you should, scheduling several small meals throughout the day should help.

It’s important to lean on your oncology nutritionist during treatment to make sure you are doing your part to make your treatment and future health successful.

Overall, it’s important to keep a healthy diet during breast cancer treatment. Doing so can help your body recover, keep your weight steady and avoid fatigue. So if you have questions about your own diet, your oncology nutritionist can provide you with additional guidelines tailored to your unique needs as you undergo breast cancer treatment.

We are here to help.

If you have questions about the MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute or are ready to schedule a consultation with one of our specialists, call us at 202-295-0513 or click the request a consultation button.

I Have Breast Cancer, Can I Eat Soy?

Since your diagnosis of breast cancer, you probably have many questions about your disease and treatment. Once you enter the world of doctors, specialists, nurses and paperwork, you may not have the time or ability to touch base with your physician about every concern.

When you head to internet search engines to find out more, remember that the results will include massive amounts of information from a wide range of sources. Unfortunately, much information you will find is not based on high-quality scientific research and not all of the sources are reputable. There are a lot of cancer myths out there, and you may find distinguishing fact from fiction to be a challenge.

Soy and Breast Cancer: What’s the Connection?

If you search the internet using the keyword phrase “soy and,” you will find that the number one auto-complete is “breast cancer.” Search engines create auto-complete suggestions based on a prediction of what their readers are looking for as indicated by popularity of terms and search activity. The auto-complete phrase “soy and breast cancer” is an indication of just how many people are looking for answers about the link between the two.

As you research the connections and implications of soy and breast cancer, you will also find a lot of conflicting information.

So what’s the truth about soy and is there a connection to breast cancer?

Soy contains what is called phytoestrogens known as isoflavones. Just like the words phyto and estrogen imply, they are a form of hormone derived from plants. Phytoestrogen is similar to human estrogen; but only the human form of estrogen is linked to breast cancer. Scientific research has shown that natural exposure to the human hormones estrogen and progesterone are common causes of breast cancer and that women who are sensitive exposure to these hormones are at higher risk for breast cancer.

The connection between estrogens and breast cancer and the early faulty assumption that this also pertains to phytoestrogens in soy, resulted in a number of publications investigating the link between the breast cancer and soy.

The Truth About Soy and Breast Cancer

While early studies did indeed suggest that increased soy consumption could lead to breast cancer, later studies have disproved this claim and emerging research suggest that they may in fact reduce the risk.

In fact, recent studies on the subject indicate that while phytoestrogens do exist in soybeans and other soy products, the estrogen is not a hormone recognized in humans; therefore, it doesn’t have a causal link with breast cancer. Advanced studies of plant and human hormones reveal that different types of estrogen can’t cross over to be used by other species.

The upshot? Evidence suggests that women with a history of hormone positive breast cancer who consume the most soy phytoestrogens have the lowest risk of breast cancer recurrence. The recommendation is: enjoy phytoestrogen-rich foods if you like them. Avoid them if you don't. The choice is yours.

The Benefits of Soy

Even more surprising, the latest research suggests that soy can protect women from breast cancer. Keep in mind that the interaction between the compounds in soy and your body depends significantly on what types of soy products you choose. Unprocessed soy like soybeans, edamame, tofu, tempeh and soymilk are healthy choices and may offer a level of protection for breast tissue.

Highly processed soy products like protein powders, soy burgers and soy bacon, on the other hand, are not as healthy. The reason is probably because they contain less fiber, more fat, especially saturated, and more salt. Highly processed foods of any sort should be avoided. If you want to include soy in your diet, make sure you choose the unprocessed versions.

To Find Out More

When you’re looking for more information about your breast cancer and trying to separate fact from fiction, it helps to turn to trusted sources. You can rely on the highly researched scientific data and advice about breast cancer available from:

Your oncology nutritionists are also an excellent source of information. By relying on valid sources, you can rest assured knowing you are getting the most up-to-date information about your breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.

We are here to help.

If you have questions about the MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute or are ready to schedule a consultation with one of our specialists, call us at 202-295-0513 or click the request a consultation button.