Now that National Breast Cancer Awareness Month has begun, many doctors and nutritionists are dishing out dietary advice to help women ward off the deadly disease. After reviewing the latest research, responsible medical experts, including those with the American Cancer Society and New York’s Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care, have come to a consensus: Women should eat a plant-based diet rich in phytochemicals, which fight inflammation and knock out carcinogens. This invaluable advice should shift our focus from wearing pink to eating green — in other words, to eating wholesome vegan foods.
While fruits, vegetables, beans, grains and soy foods contain cancer-fighting phytochemicals, all that animal-based foods have to offer are cholesterol and cancer-causing substances, including concentrated protein, hormones and saturated fat. As many as one-third of common types of cancer, including breast cancer, are linked to excess weight and inactivity, and it’s much easier to maintain a healthy weight if you eat vegan foods. They tend to be low in fat and calories, unlike fatty animal-based foods, such as hamburgers, chicken and cheese. Studies even show that vegans are nine times less likely to be obese than meat-eaters and that vegans are about 40 percent less likely to get cancer than nonvegans. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that October is also World Vegetarian Awareness Month.
A Washington State University professor recently identified more than 40 plant-based compounds that help slow the progression of cancer. His findings, which are published in the journal Cancer and Metastasis Reviews, support the claim that people who eat a plant-based diet are less likely to get cancer.
High-fat animal-based foods raise estrogen levels, accelerating the growth of cancer cells. In contrast, plant-based foods tend to keep estrogen at a safe level. Researchers with Boston University tracked more than 50,000 African-American women for 12 years– 1,300 of them developed breast cancer, and 35 percent of the cases were estrogen receptor-negative, a highly aggressive form of the disease.
The women who ate at least two servings of vegetables a day were 43 percent less likely to develop highly aggressive breast cancer than those who ate less than four servings of vegetables per week. Women who eat carrots and cruciferous vegetables, in particular, seem to have a reduced risk of breast cancer.
The lead researcher noted that high vegetable consumption offers significant health benefits, including protection against cancer. This conclusion is hardly an earth-shattering revelation, but it should give both men and women some food for thought. People who are concerned about cancer — or heart disease, diabetes and other health conditions — would be wise to choose vegan foods.
Another study, conducted by the University of Utah, found that women who eat healthy “native” Mexican foods, including beans, spices and tomato-based sauces, have a 32 percent lower risk of breast cancer than women who eat a typical Western-style diet, which is heavy in meat and cheese.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell, who stars in the acclaimed documentary Forks Over Knives, says that “no chemical carcinogen is nearly so important in causing human cancer as animal protein.” He urges people to eat vegan meals in order to prevent cancer and other common diseases. More doctors should follow his example. While many physicians can perform mastectomies, administer chemotherapy and offer other important medical services, the ones who give patients preventive dietary advice will ultimately be the real lifesavers.