Diet for Triple-Negative Breast Cancer: 6 Foods To Eat | MyBCTeam

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Diet for Triple-Negative Breast Cancer: 6 Foods To Eat

Medically reviewed by Lisa Booth, RDN
Posted on January 31, 2024

“Every time I eat, I wonder if what I am eating, or not eating, is feeding cancer cells. How does a person relax and get on with life?” asked a MyBCTeam member.

A diagnosis of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) can be stressful. Although nutrition isn’t the most important factor that affects TNBC, eating well can go a long way in improving your overall health and quality of life, especially during treatment.

Nutrition is one aspect of your cancer journey that you can control. Consider including more of the following foods, which contain beneficial properties to help in the fight against TNBC.

1. Blackberries

Grapes and berries have high concentrations of the antioxidant resveratrol. Antioxidants help protect your cells against harmful substances. In one study of 39 women with a higher risk of breast cancer, resveratrol supplementation twice a day for three months increased the expression of an important tumor suppressor gene. This is a type of gene that plays a crucial role in regulating cell growth and preventing tumors. There’s also some speculation that resveratrol can help improve the body’s response to certain immunotherapies used to treat TNBC.

Aside from resveratrol, blackberries have various compounds that boost the immune system, prevent heart disease, and improve brain function. They’re also high in fiber, which can help you stay regular while taking multiple medications for cancer treatment. For most people, there’s no downside to including more blackberries in your diet. With research showing they may help prevent cancer and support better health, blackberries are a good food to add to your shopping list when treating cancer and during periods of recovery and remission.

2. Turmeric

You can’t miss the signature golden hue of the spice turmeric. Curcumin is the beneficial compound that gives turmeric its vibrant shade. Not only is this colorful spice a strong antioxidant that’s good for general health, but studies from Frontiers and Nutrition show that curcumin may have anticancer and anti-inflammatory effects on TNBC cells, specifically.

Turmeric, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, can be sprinkled onto many savory dishes or added to smoothies.

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There are lots of ways to incorporate turmeric into your diet. You can find it in traditional Indian and Thai curry dishes. You can also sprinkle turmeric on fried eggs, mix it into hummus, or add it to falafel. “My sister-in-law makes me turmeric tea in tea bags,” shared a MyBCTeam member. Turmeric’s relatively mild flavor lends itself to a range of different foods and beverages. “I like to add a piece of raw turmeric to my smoothie every day,” said another member.

3. Green Tea

Green tea has antioxidants that help protect cells from damage. It’s especially rich in one type of antioxidant in particular, a catechin called epigallocatechin 3-gallate (EGCG). Studies show that EGCG may help promote apoptosis (cell death), which is the body’s natural process for destroying and disposing of tumor cells. If you’re not a big fan of hot tea, you can brew a batch of green tea and keep it in a pitcher in the fridge. You can sweeten it with a splash of fruit juice or flavored seltzer water.

4. Fish and Shellfish

The Mediterranean diet is superior to the Western diet when it comes to both cancer prevention and cancer development. One important difference between the two diets is that the Mediterranean diet includes more healthy fats and less saturated and manufactured fats. Compared to a Western diet, the Mediterranean diet involves a higher intake of fish and shellfish rather than red meat and processed foods.

Cancer research on TNBC in mice found that adding fish oil supplements to a typical Western diet can slow tumor growth more than a diet without these supplements. Fish oil also helps protect the heart against damage from TNBC chemotherapy. Although adjusting your overall dietary pattern to be more like the Mediterranean diet is ideal, simply getting more fish oil in your diet offers some benefits.

Read more about why TNBC tends to be aggressive and fast-growing.

Health organizations recommend aiming for at least two 6-ounce servings of fish per week. Fish with the highest concentration of omega-3 fatty acids per serving includes:

  • Anchovies
  • Black cod (also known as sablefish)
  • Bluefin tuna or canned light tuna
  • Herring
  • Lake trout
  • Mackerel from the Atlantic Ocean
  • Salmon (most varieties, including Atlantic, Chinook, and Coho)
  • Sardines
  • Whitefish, a broad category that includes bass, pollock, cod, and halibut

Among shellfish, oysters from the Pacific Ocean are considered to have an especially high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids.

With a little creativity, you can incorporate seafood into a range of pasta dishes, sandwiches, salads, stews, and more.

5. Whole Grains

With low-carb diets so popular, grains sometimes get a bad rep. However, consuming whole grains is associated with a lower risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Unlike highly processed refined grains, which are stripped of their nutrients, whole grains have vital plant compounds called phytochemicals that target signaling pathways in breast cancer. Specifically, components of germinated (or sprouted) wheat flour increase cancerous cell death in pathways associated with TNBC.

Whole grains are packed with fiber and beneficial plant compounds. Look for products with short, simple ingredient lists to avoid unnecessary additives.

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Many different foods, such as brands of sliced bread or breakfast cereals, boast “whole grain” labels on their packaging. Although these items may include whole grains, they can also have high amounts of sugar, salt, and preservatives, making them less nutritious choices. Instead, choose whole grains that come in their natural form, such as plain oats for oatmeal, dry brown rice, or whole wheat pasta. You can tell if a food is highly processed by checking the ingredients list on the nutrition facts label. Look for a simple, short list with easy-to-recognize ingredients.

6. Vegetables

Eating plenty of vegetables is linked to lower obesity rates, better blood sugar control, reduced cancer risk, and improved outcomes after cancer treatment. In one study from the journal Cancer Research, women who ate mixed veggies after diagnosis had lower rates of breast cancer-related mortality. In addition, eating broccoli, lettuce, and peas were each associated with lower rates of overall mortality.

It can be difficult to pinpoint specific veggies for TNBC, but that may not be necessary. Finding vegetables that you like and know how to prepare is all that matters. Rather than getting bogged down by the details, focus on nourishing your body with a wide range of plant foods that you enjoy.

MyBCTeam members have suggested making vegetable soup with fresh garden vegetables, replacing white rice with cauliflower “rice” (finely chopped cauliflower), and sautéing a mix of veggies to have with a cheese omelet. Seeing how others add vegetables to their diets can give you ideas and inspiration to improve your eating habits.

Give Yourself Grace

Food is one of the joys of life. When you’re living with breast cancer, it’s not always easy to eat well. Some of the common side effects of treatment include taste and appetite changes, digestive problems, dry mouth, and fatigue. You may not have the energy or interest in preparing foods that you know are good for you or that you once enjoyed, so focus on the healthy foods you like.


It’s not always easy to eat well with breast cancer. If you need support or inspiration, talk to a registered dietitian or reach out to your health care team and social circle for ideas.

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A registered dietitian can help you and offer more specific guidance on what to eat based on your current treatments and concerns. Look for support from your health care team and social circle to make grocery shopping, cooking, and healthy eating less of a burden. You can also ask for recipes or suggestions on MyBCTeam.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyBCTeam is the social network for people with breast cancer and their loved ones. On MyBCTeam, more than 67,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with breast cancer.

Have you noticed that certain foods help you feel your best and maintain a healthy body weight while undergoing treatment for TNBC? If so, what nutrition tips do you have for others? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

    Posted on January 31, 2024
    All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.

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    Lisa Booth, RDN studied foods and nutrition at San Diego State University, in California and obtained a registered dietitian nutritionist license in 2008. Learn more about her here
    Anastasia Climan, RDN, CDN is a dietitian with over 10 years of experience in public health and medical writing. Learn more about her here

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