Cooking for Breast Cancer Prevention
Cooking and preparing healthy foods in your kitchen can be one of the best tools for breast cancer prevention.
Lifestyle factors, including diet and exercise, play a significant role in prevention. “A woman can reduce her risk of breast cancer through simple steps like following a healthy diet, exercising and maintaining a normal weight,” said Julie Reiland, MD, breast surgeon with Avera Medical Group Comprehensive Breast Care.
Even a half hour of walking, six days a week, along with maintaining a normal weight, can decrease the risk of developing breast cancer by as much as 40 percent, Reiland noted.
A healthy diet helps with weight management, which is critical to breast cancer prevention. “The risk of breast cancer is reduced when women lose fat. The majority of breast cancers use estrogen as fuel to make more cancer cells. By losing fat, you’re reducing the amount of estrogen your body makes,” Reiland said.
While healthy foods aren’t a cure-all against breast cancer, new research suggests it may help. A recent study carried out in Spain and published in JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association) Internal Medicine suggests that a Mediterranean diet, including extra-virgin olive oil, may help prevent breast cancer, compared with a low-fat diet. This diet, emphasizing vegetables, fruit, whole grains, fish, lean meats and olive oil, has also been shown to reduce heart disease.
Healthy cooking and eating tips
- Eating healthy is really about going back to the basics: Start with good ingredients and plan your meals ahead of time. “Have something in your fridge at home to avoid eating everything in sight when you’re hungry. Bring a healthy snack or lunch to work — it’s cheaper and better for you. It’s all about planning,” Reiland said.
- Choose a high quality extra-virgin olive oil, preferably one from California, which has stricter labeling and grading standards than Italy, recommends Drew Laberis, Executive Chef at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center. Look for the California certification on the label.
- Extra-virgin olive oil is versatile in cooking. Try swapping out bottled dressings, which are often high in calories and sodium, with a homemade dressing of olive oil and vinegar. Use a ratio of three parts olive oil to one part vinegar.
- Use fresh herbs instead of bottled spices. To preserve herbs, let them air dry, place in a plastic bag, and then freeze. Laberis recommends mixing herbs to create flavor profiles. For example, mix oregano, mint and lemon juice for a Greek mix. Cumin and oregano create a versatile Mexican mix.
Chicken and Grain 'Waldorf' Salad
- 1 cup Kamut (or other ancient grain)
- ½ cup cooked chicken breast, chopped
- ½ cup apples, chopped
- ½ cup craisins
- ½ cup cucumbers
- ½ cup grapes, halved
- ½ cup walnuts
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- ¼ cup feta cheese (or your favorite cheese)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Lemon juice to taste
- Dressing to taste (recipe below)
Directions: Cook the Kamut in boiling salted water (similar to pasta or rice) and drain excess water when grain is tender. Add remaining ingredients. Season to taste.
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ cup sherry vinegar (champagne, red wine and balsamic all work great as well)
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoons fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons shallots, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
Directions: In medium mixing bowl combine vinegar, salt, pepper and shallots. Slowly whisk in oil until well incorporated; season to taste. Note: If you prefer a less acidic dressing, add more oil, and add less oil if you prefer a sharp dressing.
Source: Drew Laberis, Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center Executive Chef