It’s no secret that good nutrition is a key component in breast health and disease prevention.
But sometimes it takes a little reminding as to what good nutrition really is, and there is no better time for a primer than during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
To improve your health, a good place to start is to know your body mass index, said Pamela Rochford, a registered dietitian and board certified specialist in oncology nutrition at Mercy Medical Center in Canton, Ohio. In a nutshell, BMI is a measure of body fat based on a your weight and height.
“If your BMI is greater than 25, there is an increased risk factor for breast cancer,” said Rochford, who has been a nutritionist at Mercy for 19 years. To easily calculate your BMI, visit the American Institute For Cancer Research at www.aicr.org.
Staying within your healthy BMI range throughout life is important for lowering your cancer risk.
“Yoyo-ing is not good,” the North Canton resident said. “It’s about maintaining a good weight.”
This isn’t cutting edge technology, as you know. Shed excess pounds. Don’t smoke. Exercise. Eat right.
“It’s the same old stuff we’ve always heard,” she said. “Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, eat whole grains, and lower your fat intake overall.”
But good health also means educating yourself about the latest nutrition news, such as the benefits of such as fiber, beta-carotene and Omega-3.
In regards to breast cancer, fiber helps keep weight under control. Beta-carotene helps the immune system fight infection. Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to play an important role in reducing inflammation throughout the body.
“Omega-3 in fish and plants are known to reduce tumor growth,” Rochford said.
Mostly, it’s all about balance, she said. Yes, walnuts are an awesome source of Omega-3. But if you eat them by handfuls every day, you’ll increase your calorie and fat intake.
“So just sprinkle some on top of a salad,” she said.
The same with eating too much fish to boost your Omega-3. Fish and shellfish concentrate mercury in their bodies, and eating too much fish puts you at risk for exposure to mercury.
“You don’t want to go overboard with anything,” Rochford said. “You have to look at (nutrition) as not just one thing in particular, but a lot of different factors.” Eating a variety of food increases your likelihood of covering all your nutritional bases. And don’t get caught up in downing supplements to boost your nutrients, she added.
“Food, in my opinion,” she said, “is always better than supplements.”
REDUCE YOUR RISK OF BREAST CANCER WITH GOOD NUTRITION
Tips from Pamela Rochford, a registered dietitian and board certified specialist in oncology nutrition in Canton, Ohio.
Unprocessed Foods - The less processed, the better. Think fresh, locally grown, raw foods. “And if you can’t get fresh, the next best is fresh frozen,” Rochford says.
Fish - Boost your Omega-3 intake with fish. Sardines have the highest content. Not a fan? Go for these, ranked in order by highest levels: Salmon (wild-caught has more than farm-raised), canned albacore tuna, mussel and rainbow trout.
Flaxseed - Flaxseed and flaxseed oil are rich sources of essential fatty acids. A teaspoon or two a day is a good rule of thumb, Rochford said.
Oils - Cook with good fats such as canola or soybean oil. “Make salad vinaigrettes with healthful oils such as macadamia, walnut and olive oil,” Rochford said.
Nuts and seeds - Add loads of flavor, texture and healthy Omega-3 oils to dishes by including walnuts, butternuts, pine nuts and seeds such as poppy, pumpkin and sesame.
Leafy greens - So what if there’s spinach in your teeth? Spinach, along with other leafy greens such as kale and chard, are low-fat, high-fiber foods rich in nutrients.
Legumes - Chili, anyone? “Beans have lots of fiber, but you don’t think about them as having Omega-3. Northern, kidney, soy and navy actually have Omega-3,” Rochford said.
Cruceriferous vegetables - Eat your broccoli, just like mom said. And lots of other fresh, high-fiber veggies, such as Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage. “Eat foods high in beta-carotene and anti-oxidants,” Rochford says.