Combatting Breast Cancer Through Nutrition

A number of readers have asked for me to post this article on breast cancer nutrition. Here you go…  You can also read my food column weekly at Click on Columns on the menu bar.

 Eating Well To Combat Breast Cancer
By Chef Alan Zox –
October 20, 2015

Breast cancer is one of those diseases that more and more Americans experience either as a patient or a family member or friend of someone who has contracted the disease. But while the disease is frightening in many profound ways, it is not necessarily deadly nor undefeatable.
The five-year observed survival rate as reported by the National Cancer Institute’s database tells us that the percentage of patients who live at least five years after being diagnosed with cancer is encouraging and many of these patients live much longer.

It is also important to realize that such statistics are based on the stage of the cancer when it was first diagnosed. These do not apply to cancers that later come back or spread, but they do show that survival is still high after several years. Of course, those of us who contract the disease naturally seek to live as long as possible. The question becomes how do we maximize this likelihood?

There is no certainty here but lots of information worth considering strongly suggests that what we eat and what kind of nutrition we maintain is very important to longevity. In short, diet is responsible for 30 to 40 percent of all cancers, however, no food or diet can prevent you from getting cancer. But some foods can make your body the healthiest it can be, boost your immune system, and help keep your risk for breast cancer as low as possible.
Having fresh fruits, vegetables and legumes as part of your diet will help reduce your risk of breast cancer.

Research has shown that getting the nutrients you need from a variety of foods, especially fruits, vegetables, legumes like peas and beans, and whole grains, can make you feel your best and give your body the energy it needs. But caveat emptor—buyer beware—about eating any foods grown with pesticides including seafood, vegetables, fruits or animal by-products. On the other hand, animal studies show that organically grown foods may protect against unhealthy cell changes associated with pesticide use. Further, from personal experience I have discovered that chickens or beef grown organically taste better while also being better for you.

One telling research finding is that breast cancer is less common in countries where the typical diet is plant-based and low in total fat (polyunsaturated fat and saturated fat). Still, research on adult women in the United States hasn’t found breast cancer risk to be related to dietary fat intake. But one study suggests that girls who eat a high-fat diet during puberty, even if they don’t become overweight or obese as they grow older, may have a higher risk of developing breast cancer later in life. To learn more about these and other breast cancer insights, get a copy of a booklet that elaborates on healthy living called Think Pink, Live Green by president and founder Marisa Weiss, MD.

Here are a few other healthy eating steps you can take to combat breast cancer through nutrition as recommended by the National Cancer Institute:

1. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
2. Buy a new fruit or vegetable every time you go to the grocery store.
3. Add chopped squash, mushrooms, onions or carrots to jarred or fresh spaghetti sauce.
4. Eat tomatoes, ideally from farmers markets or your own garden—raw in salad, sandwiches, salsa, juice or cooked in sauces.
5. Eat whole fruit rather than drinking fruit juice. Reduces calories, adds fiber and increases feelings of fullness.
6. Snack on organic baby carrots and celery.
7. Throw handfuls of spinach into stews and soups.
8. Add chopped scallions for flavor and health to shredded lettuce, or cabbage.
9. Add broccoli, tomatoes or zucchini to scrambled eggs or omelets.
10. Freeze grapes and berries
11. Limit your fat intake. Make it less than 20 percent of your total calories per day as opposed to 35 percent of total calories.
12. Eat less salad dressing.
13. Cook with broth or bouillion instead of oil or butter.
14. Limit use of butter and cream cheese.
15. Eliminate highest fat content foods such as fried foods.
16. Choose lean cuts of meat and poultry.
17. Trim fat from meat , poultry and fish.
18. Mix up your protein options.
19. Try fish or lamb instead of beef or pork.
20. Use beans or lentils as your main dish.
21. Choose nonfat milk and other dairy products.
22. Avoid salt-cured, pickled and smoked foods.
23. Choose small portions of lean meat and poultry (6 oz cooked).
24. Bake or broil food.
25. Cover your plate with low-calorie foods.
26. Choose 100 percent juice and whole grain breads at breakfast
27. Eat healthy snacks
28. Eat more fiber
29. Consider buying organic.
Following these 29 steps may be a bit demanding for many. Too many directions, perhaps. But it’s just a list of suggestions. No legal requirements here. They merely reflect nutritional steps or guidelines. The recipe below is an example of what you might consider eating following a few of these steps. The recipe is easy to prepare and delicious to eat.

Red Lentils, Millet & Vegetable Stew
Serves 2 to 4

½ cup millet
4 to 5 cups water
2 tsp sea salt
2 cloves garlic, cut into thin slices
1-inch thinly sliced ginger
½ cup red lentils
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ lb firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 large handfuls of baby spinach, chopped
1 large shallot, sautéed
1 medium sized carrot, sliced ½ inch
1 medium poblano, diced
1 tsp turmeric
½ tsp red chile flakes
1 bunch parsley, roughly chopped
3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

Preparing the Millet and Lentils
1. Toasting millet grains prior to cooking can provide a nuttier flavor and a better texture. To dry toast, place millet in a preheated skillet over medium heat, and stir frequently (about 10 minutes) until golden brown. Combine millet with 1½ cups of water, ½ tsp salt, 1 garlic slice and a slice of ginger in a medium-size sauce pan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn down the heat, cover and simmer for about 25 minutes. Fluff with a fork when done. Millet prepared this way will have a light texture similar to rice.

2. Separately, pour the lentils with 1½ cups of water, ½ tsp salt, the rest of the garlic and ginger into a medium-size sauce pan and cook at high temperature until you reach a boil. Then reduce to a simmer and cover for 20 minutes.

Preparing the Sauté
3. Pour half of the vegetable oil into a large 10-12 inch nonstick sauté pan and bring to a medium heat. Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes and add to the large sauté pan. Carefully brown the tofu in the oil on all sides for 8 to 10 minutes.
4. Next add the remainder of the oil with the shallots, garlic, the sliced ginger, carrots, poblano, turmeric and chile flakes to the sauté pan.
5. When the sauté is almost soft, about 6 to 7 minutes, set it aside.

6. Taste the millet after cooking it for 25 minutes to be sure it’s al dente. Drain the water if done. If not, add ½ cup more water. Finally pour the millet into the sauté pan returning it to the stove top at low heat.

7. Do the same for the lentils after 20 minutes, making sure they also are al dente. Add ¼ cup more water if needed. Drain and pour into the sauté pan.

8. Next add the spinach and the remainder of the water to the sauté pan and toss for about 3-4 minutes until spinach is limp.

9. Mix everything together and continue heating at low temperature while adding 3 Tbsp of rice wine vinegar.

10. The stew should be moist and delicious now and ready to serve in separate bowls.

11. Garnish with chopped parsley. Enjoy.

Please send comments, questions and observations of interest to Chef Alan Zox at For details about past columns, our program called Cuisine for Seniors, or Chef Zox’s blog, please visit




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