October- the peak of fall, football, and the fight against breast cancer.  The month of October is breast cancer awareness month, and once again, Zest is joining in the fight against this awful disease. Knowledge plays an important role in the battle, so this month’s blog post is dedicated to the impact of lifestyle on breast cancer risk.

The rate of breast cancer is on the rise- one in eight women this year alone will be diagnosed with breast cancer, taking approximately 41,000 lives of men and women (Aicr.org). While we may not know exactly why the numbers are climbing, extensive research is being done in the field of breast cancer and great strides are being made in prevention and decreasing risk. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, approximately 33% of all breast cancer diagnoses could be prevented through changes in diet and exercise. How AMAZING is that?? That equates to 83,400 women being spared this diagnosis!  So what exactly are these changes that could contribute to such a statistic?

Through extensive research, the American Institute for Cancer Research recommends these 5 guidelines:

  • Get moving at least 30 minutes a day

This doesn’t have to be structured exercise like going to the gym, simply moving your body any way that increases your heart rate will do. For pre-menopausal women, it is recommended to amp up your activity to “vigorous” for the greatest effect. Hormones are a large contributing factor to breast cancer and exercise helps to regulate our hormones. The average person spends 12 hours sitting per day- get up and get going!

  • Eat a plant-based diet

Plant based isn’t synonymous with vegetarian or vegan so fear not if you aren’t an herbivore. Plant based simply means eating mostly plants in the form of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. This also means avoiding processed meats and limiting red meat to 18 ounces per week. The reason for this is two-fold. First, plant foods contain compounds called phytochemicals- these are the compounds in plants that increase their survival rate out in the plant world. When we eat these plants, these compounds go to work in our bodies, serving the same purpose. The other reason being plant foods are high in nutrients and lower in calories, making it easier to maintain a healthy body weight.

  • Speaking of….keep a healthy body weight

Excess fat in the body causes inflammation, making it easier for cancer cells to be produced. It can also increase hormone levels in the blood that can promote the growth of cancer cells.

  • If you drink alcohol, do so on in moderation

Limit alcohol to 1 drink/day for women and 2 drinks/day for men. The reason for this goes back to hormones. Alcohol can increase estrogen levels in the blood, which is a hormone that plays a role in breast cancer.  

  • For my lady friends out there, breastfeed your babies, if possible

Breastfeeding your child may also decrease your risk for breast cancer because of the structural and hormonal changes that occur in breast cells during breastfeeding and pregnancy. It also allows for the shedding of tissue and elimination of breast cells to provide protection.

These are the recommendations that research has found to be most beneficial for cancer prevention and cancer survivorship. It is important to remember that these recommendations are referring to long-term dietary and lifestyle patterns. Changing behavior in either a positive or negative direction for a short period of time is not going to have a great impact on risk. It is when these lifestyle behaviors become habits over a long period of time that they have the greatest effect.

There are more breast cancer survivors now than there ever has been. Great advances in research are being made, and one day we hope to find a cure to this disease. Zest Juice Co. is contributing to that body of research through “Ta-Ta Toast” the month of October. For every “Ta-Ta Toast” purchased, Zest will donate $.50 to the Stefanie Spielman Fund For Breast Cancer Research at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) and Susan G. Komen Columbus. Both organizations are rapidly working towards their goal of a cancer-free world through groundbreaking discoveries in research.  To all of you breast cancer warriors, this one is for you. We are standing with you and fighting by your side.

“Continue to fight. Continue to live” – Stefanie Spieman

For more information on the role of nutrition and exercise on cancer risk and survivorship, visit www.aicr.org

Written by: Emily Fitz, Registered Dietitian

Sources: AICR/WCRF: Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective and Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Breast Cancer, 2017.

“Stand Up and Be Empowered with a Healthier Lifestyle.” JustStand. www.juststand.org/. Accessed 17 Sept. 2017.