By now we know that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition. One person’s “[x] makes me feel on top of the world” may be another person’s “hell to the no.” (Like that time I tried the Atkins diet when I was 16 and truly morphed into the devil incarnate.)
But, there’s one thing nearly every nutrition philosophy agrees on: consuming more vegetables make us healthier.
And there may be even more incentive to — in the wise, over-enunciated words of Jamie Oliver — eat your vegetables. According to a 2017 study by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, certain plant-based foods may be able to tame and improve the treatment of aggressive forms of breast cancer.
The Need-to-Know on Breast Cancer
One in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Prevention and early detection improve survival rates and treatment options, but — beyond the stage of cancer at diagnosis — the type of breast cancer dictates what one’s treatment options are.
Breast cancer is classified as either estrogen-receptor positive (ER-positive) or estrogen-receptor negative (ER-negative). ER-negative tumors are typically more aggressive and less likely to respond to hormonal therapy — lessening the effective treatment options available to those with ER-negative cancer.
Can a Plant-Based Diet Tame Breast Cancer?
For this reason, the findings of this 2017 study by the University of Alabama at Birmingham could be incredibly impactful for the treatment of aggressive breast cancers. The research — which was performed on mice — identified two compounds in common plant-based foods that can “turn on” the ER gene in ER-negative breast cancer. The two compounds — sulforaphane and polyphenols — were able to change the ER-negative cancers to ER-positive, which made the breast cancer less aggressive and easier to treat.
Which Foods Have These Potent Compounds?
While further research is needed to confirm the effects on human breast cancer, eating a primarily plant-based diet will deliver these potentially cancer-weakening compounds.
To amp up your intake of sulforaphane, consume more cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and bok choy. To integrate more polyphenols into your diet, including green tea, blackberries, strawberries, cocoa powder, and dark chocolate.
Keep in mind that not all plant-based foods work to weaken breast cancer. Be wary of consuming soy, as its phytoestrogens mimic estrogen in the body. Consuming foods that create excess estrogen in the body can increase your risk of breast cancer, PCOS, and other hormone-related disorders.
Veggies, you the real MVP
We’ll consider this research a victory for vegetables everywhere, and a middle finger kick to breast cancer. To celebrate, we’ll be eating our damn vegetables (and plant-based protein). Per usual.