Winter Foods for Breast Cancer Prevention

cranberries_webYou know all the reasons to eat local, organic produce (better for your health, the environment, and the local economy!), but did you know that many foods found right here in the Pacific Northwest can also help to reduce your risk of breast cancer and/or make cancer treatments more effective?  Here are four local foods that you might want to consider adding to your plate this winter.


Cranberries, those little red gems that adorn many Thanksgiving tables, have been shown to have anti-proliferative activity against cancer. A study found that when cranberries were fed to mice bearing breast cancer cells the cranberries decreased the growth and metastasis of tumors. Cranberries also play an important role in cancer treatment. The resveratrol found in these little berries has been shown to increase the effectiveness of Taxol, a common chemotherapy drug.


Have you heard of xenoestrogens? These endocrine disruptors can be found in plastic bottles, cosmetics, household cleaning supplies, and many, many other synthetic products. Xenoestrogens work by mimicking natural estrogen found in the body and blocking hormone receptors on tissues such as breast tissue. However, unlike natural estrogen, xenoestrogens cannot be used by the body and are therefore stored in fat tissue. Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables contain the compound indole-3-carbynol, which enhances the liver’s ability to break down these excess estrogens in the system.


A study found that eating apples was inversely related to the risk of breast cancer. Apple peels, especially red apple peels, have been shown to shrink the size of mammary tumors in rats and to induce apoptosis in breast cancer cells. Like cranberries, apples can increase the effects of Taxol.


Studies from countries around the world, including Italy, Korea, and Mexico, have concluded that eating garlic (and onions) is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer.  The organosulfur compounds in garlic are suspected to be the cause of their anti-carcinogenic effects, and raw garlic appears to have the greatest ability to protect against breast cancer.

As Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine thy food.” Adding these four foods to your winter meals can have a positive effect on your body’s ability to prevent and fight breast cancer. In addition, several nutrients found in cranberries, broccoli, apples, and garlic help to strengthen the immune system and prevent winter colds and flu.


Written by Kaitlyn Pote, NCNM Naturopathic Medicine Program