Metastatic Breast Cancer Diet: 5 Foods To Eat and 3 To Avoid | MyBCTeam

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Metastatic Breast Cancer Diet: 5 Foods To Eat and 3 To Avoid

Posted on February 14, 2024

When you’ve received a new diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer — breast cancer that has spread to other areas of the body — you may feel anxious to do everything you can to fight the disease. The decisions you make about what to eat throughout the day significantly affect your overall health and well-being. IFalling into emotional eating habits during stressful times can be tempting. However, choosing the right foods can provide you the nutrition and energy you need to help you feel your best and tackle your daily responsibilities.

New treatments for metastatic breast cancer are extending life, and eating well is an important way to improve quality of life. Although there’s no official diet for metastatic breast cancer, here are some ideas about what to eat and what to avoid for a nutritious diet that supports good health.

5 Foods To Eat With Metastatic Breast Cancer

These five foods for metastatic breast cancer are high in nutrients and low in added sugar and preservatives. Consider these five choices to upgrade your diet.

1. Leafy Greens

A large long-term study found that consuming about two daily servings of leafy greens after a breast cancer diagnosis is associated with a 20 percent lower mortality rate when compared to eating a minimal amount. However, those findings should come as no surprise, as greens are well known as one of the healthiest foods on the planet. Greens are a nonstarchy vegetable with plenty of fiber and beneficial plant compounds called polyphenols.

Greens provide plenty of fiber and beneficial plant compounds called polyphenols. Try adding a handful to smoothies and sandwiches.

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Even if you’re not a big fan of strong-tasting greens like kale or arugula, it’s easy to sneak milder greens into a balanced diet. Little changes like opting for a romaine lettuce side salad, frozen spinach in your breakfast smoothie, or a handful of mixed greens on your wrap sandwich can be a good step toward improving the quality of your diet.

2. Cruciferous Vegetables

The study mentioned above also found that consuming a single serving of cruciferous veggies per day was associated with a 13 percent lower mortality rate in women with breast cancer compared to eating basically no servings.

Cruciferous veggies include Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli. Try roasting these veggies in the oven with some olive oil and salt, or experiment with recipes like stuffed cabbage and broccoli soups. Shredded raw cabbage adds a nice crunch to salads and fish tacos.

With a little creativity, getting a serving of cruciferous veggies every day can be easy.

3. Berries

Blueberries and strawberries are rich in beneficial antioxidants like vitamin C. Dark purple berries, like blackberries, are also a good source of the compound resveratrol. Cancer research has found that resveratrol can slow down the growth and spread of breast cancer cells. This discovery suggests that resveratrol might protect against the disease spreading quickly.

High fiber intake is associated with a longer lifespan after breast cancer diagnosis. Berries and whole grains are both good sources of fiber.

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Stock up on frozen berries when they’re on sale so you always have some on hand. Mixing berries into yogurt parfaits or in baked goods can help satisfy your sweet tooth while providing beneficial nutrients. High fiber intake is associated with a lower risk of mortality after breast cancer diagnosis. Because berries are some of the highest-fiber fruits, they’re a great way to boost your intake.

4. Whole Grains

Whole grains have more fiber than refined grains, making them a good choice for people with metastatic breast cancer. They also provide several B vitamins and essential minerals like iron and magnesium.

If you thought whole grains were boring, it may be time to expand your options. Beyond whole wheat bread, whole grain pasta, and brown rice, there’s a diverse array of whole grains to explore, each with its own unique shape, texture, and flavor.

Consider adding some of the following to your diet:

  • Amaranth
  • Barley
  • Bulgar
  • Farrow
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Wild rice

Even inexpensive staples like oatmeal and popcorn are whole grain foods that keep well in the pantry when you’re overdue for a trip to the grocery store. If you’re looking for a nutritious snack, skip the processed breakfast cereal and go for whole grains.

5. Nuts

Nuts are a nutrient-packed snack with fiber, protein, and healthy fats. They’re also rich in various vitamins and minerals. Studies suggest that emphasizing foods that keep blood sugar levels stable (like nuts) can improve mortality risk (chances of survival) after breast cancer diagnosis. Nuts are also a key component of the Mediterranean diet, which has been associated with maintaining a better quality of life with metastatic cancer.

Although peanuts are technically a legume, not a nut, peanuts and peanut butter offer many of the same nutritional benefits as nuts. Because nuts are high in calories, monitor your portions to help maintain a healthy weight. One serving of nuts is an ounce, which is about the size of a small handful. Opt for raw nuts and natural nut butters — roasting and salting nuts can take away some of their health benefits.

3 Things To Avoid With Metastatic Breast Cancer

No foods are completely off-limits just because of metastatic breast cancer, but you’re probably better off reducing your intake of these three items.

1. Most Fruit Juices

Women with breast cancer who drink certain fruit juices have a higher rate of death from any cause than those who avoid fruit juice, according to a study from the American Institute for Cancer Research. Although this correlation was found with apple and other juices, no link was found between orange juice intake and mortality risk.

If you’re craving fruit juice, consider making a spritzer. You can add club soda and ice to dilute the fruit juice while still enjoying a refreshing beverage with some sweetness.

Eating fresh fruit is another way to satisfy the craving for juice, offering more fiber and less sugar per serving.

2. Sugar and Refined Grains

Most foods cause blood sugar levels to increase temporarily as a normal part of the digestive process. Sugar and refined grains (like white flour and processed breakfast cereals), however, can spike blood sugars higher and faster than foods that contain more fiber, protein, and healthy fat. Limiting the intake of sugar and other rapidly digesting carbohydrates protects against death from breast cancer and other causes.

That’s not to say these ingredients are completely off-limits. The studies suggesting that refined carbs are harmful looked at a measure called glycemic load. Glycemic load is a combined score that takes into account your portion size to determine the effect on blood sugar. Think of these ingredients as best in small quantities and fill your diet with healthier choices.

3. Processed Meats

There are several links between breast cancer and heart disease. In fact, as found in a study in the journal Cureus, cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death for women with breast cancer. Not only do these conditions share similar risk factors, but there’s evidence that breast cancer treatments may be damaging to the heart.

While some women first learn about breast cancer after it’s already metastasized to other areas of the body, others have undergone years of cancer treatment before metastasis. If heart problems are a side effect of your cancer treatments, it’s especially important to follow a heart-healthy diet.

Heart disease is a leading cause of death for women with breast cancer. Avoiding processed meats is one way to lower your risk.

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Processed meat is associated with a greater risk of heart disease and death from all causes. Not only is processed meat high in sodium, but it can also be high in saturated and trans fats. These compounds put stress on the heart by raising blood pressure and “bad” cholesterol levels. Interestingly, unprocessed red meat and poultry are also associated with a greater incidence of heart disease. Swapping some of your meat intake for fish or plant-based protein (like lentils) is a proactive way to help protect your heart.

If you’d like a more detailed, customized eating plan, ask your doctor for a referral to a registered dietitian nutritionist. They can help you come up with a meal plan that fits your specific needs and lifestyle.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyBCTeam is the social network for people with breast cancer and their loved ones. On MyBCTeam, more than 68,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with breast cancer.

Have you found ways to eat healthier while living with metastatic breast cancer? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

    Posted on February 14, 2024
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    Kathryn Shohara, MS, RDN, LDN, CNSC is a clinical dietitian for adults at Baylor Scott & White Hospitals. 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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