Q: I've heard that fruits and vegetables are good for reducing breast cancer risk, but are some better than others?
A: First, eating more fruits and vegetables is a good plan for reducing your risk of just about everything, including breast cancer. But yes, when it comes to preventing breast cancer specifically, new research reveals that not all fruits and vegetables are created equal.
According to a review of 24 different studies on the relationship between breast cancer, reported food intake, and blood levels of carotenoids (the antioxidants that give foods such as carrots, spinach, and tomatoes their rich color), only three out of the seven different carotenoids studied can help fight breast cancer: beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and lutein. Higher levels of these three compounds in your blood can reduce reduce your risk of developing breast cancer by up to 30 percent.
How Carotenoids Help Fight Breast Cancer
As I mentioned above, carotenoids are antioxidants. For that reason they help protect against free radicals (oxidative stress) which work to damage your DNA, yielding cancer-causing mutations. Beta-carotene in particular can block cell growth and initiate cell death; this is extremely important, considering that cancer is fundamentally a disease of uncontrollable cell growth.
Top 5 Foods to Help Prevent Breast Cancer
- Butternut Squash
To pack more beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and lutein into your diet, it doesn't get any better than these superfoods. Kale is truly the superhero in the bunch with sky-high levels of all three key carotenoids. Here are three of my favorite ways to fit more kale into my diet—without eating salads for every meal: