A diagnosis of breast cancer can be one of the most frightening experiences a woman can have. No matter what the course of treatment, nutrition should be a vital component. The exact path that nutrition therapy takes may differ for each patient and their course of treatment, but the core focus on weight maintenance or weight loss remains the same.
Many breast cancer patients find themselves gaining weight throughout treatment. It’s not completely clear why this occurs, but possible explanations may be related to body composition changes. Muscle tissue is lost while fat matter is gained. This can be a result of treatment itself or in combination of reduced physical activity levels and poor dietary intake. Focusing on healthy eating patterns and nutrient-dense foods can help the body function optimally.
Quality nutrition can be found in plant-based proteins, high-fiber whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, plenty of fluids and heart-healthy fats. This can be accomplished by consuming ≥ 5 servings of colorful fruits and vegetables, 100% whole wheat/whole grain products, beans, water and healthy fats such as cold-water fish and walnuts.
Here are some quick reminders of healthful eating during treatment and survivorship :
• Eat more fruits and vegetables. Eating more produce might be the single best diet change you can make to improve your nutrient intake. Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, low in calories and are packed with phytochemicals and antioxidants that help protect our cells and tissues. Think simple first. Try swapping an apple for crackers as a healthy snack. Slice up a banana or berries to put in oatmeal. Keep pre-cut raw vegetables readily available to add to salads or snack on by themselves. If you already consume at least five servings of produce per day, focus on including a variety of vibrantly colored items to maximize your phytochemical and antioxidant intake.
• Eat less red meat. A diet high in red meat has been linked to an increased risk of certain cancers. An easy way to cut back on eating red meat is to substitute fish or plant-based sources of protein for burgers, sausages, bacon and steaks. Plant proteins include beans, lentils, nuts and high-protein grains, such as quinoa. For a great plant-based protein meal, try this heart-healthy, black-bean burrito recipe http://bit.ly/16vUtYx
• Limit sodium. Did you know that salting one’s food only contributes to about 5-10% of one’s total daily sodium intake? Most of the salt Americans consume comes directly from packaged and processed foods. While it’s important not to add extra salt to food, it’s also important to evaluate the sodium content of the foods you consume on a regular basis. Excessive consumption of salt and sodium-preserved foods is not only a cause of hypertension but it may also be linked to certain cancers. Try limiting the consumption of pre-packaged foods, dinners, canned soups and fast food. Look for “no salt added” canned foods and salt-free seasoning mixes such as Mrs. Dash products.
• Limit alcoholic drinks. According to the National Cancer Institute, a large sum of studies show a positive link between increased alcohol consumption and the risk of breast cancer in women. If you choose to drink an alcoholic beverage, decrease your risk associated with alcohol consumption by limiting your intake to no more than two drinks per day for men, and one per day for women. These recommendations are similar to those put forth by the American Heart Association for protection against heart disease.
• Follow “The Plate Method.” If your diet needs improvement, incorporating all these ideas might seem intimidating. A great way to simplify these recommendations is to adopt what is called “The Plate Method.” To do this, divide your plate visually into fourths when serving foods at a meal. Fill one fourth with vegetables, one fourth with fruit, one fourth with lean protein foods, and one fourth with whole grains. Following this pattern will help ensure you are eating a well-balanced diet high in important nutrients and lower in fat and calories. To find more information and great tips, visit www.ChooseMyPlate.gov.
It’s important to remember that an improvement in diet can increase well-being, promote post-op healing, reduce the risk of co-morbidities during and after cancer and provide a sense of active participation in one’s healing process. One study showed that even in the absence of weight loss, consuming a diet high in plant foods in combination of 30 minutes of daily physical activity can provide a survival benefit. To help improve the quality of your diet and balance the right amount of nutrients for you, please contact Springfield Clinic Nutrition and Dietetics.