You may have seen breast cancer prevention diets that suggest fruits and vegetables as a healthy addition to your daily intake. Fruits and vegetables are typically high in fiber, which is continuously being studied for its connection to reduced risk of breast cancer. So, what’s the verdict—can eating fiber help prevent breast cancer? Read on to learn more.
Quick disclaimer: If you’re figuring out what foods are best for you, confirm things with your doctor before making changes to your diet.
Let’s start with the basics. What is fiber?
Fiber is a carbohydrate-based component of plant foods, such as fruits and veggies, that we can’t digest. As it moves through our GI tracts, instead of being broken down it feeds the helpful bacteria in our gut, absorbs excess water and toxins, and keeps things moving smoothly. In doing so, it helps with regularity, constipation, diarrhea, some cases of IBS, and more.
There are studies out there that link healthy fiber intake to reduced risk of breast cancer.
But since the gut is so influential in our bodily functions, fiber’s benefits aren’t just gastrointestinal. It supports our cardiovascular and immune systems, hair, skin, nails, and weight management as well.
Can fiber lower your breast cancer risk?
There are studies out there that link healthy fiber intake to reduced risk of breast cancer. Some medical experts believe it’s due to fiber’s activity while traveling through our guts. Fiber “crushes cancer's dreams when it binds estrogen and toxins in your gastrointestinal tract, improves insulin sensitivity, and releases a litany of antioxidant vitamins and anticancer compounds," says breast cancer expert Dr. Kristi Funk. Moreover, fiber may be effective in moving cancer-causing compounds from our food through our digestive system before they can have harmful effects on us.
Research continues to be conducted to learn more about the connection between fiber and the risk of breast cancer. A meta-analysis of 20 different types of studies about fiber and breast cancer published in July of 2020 showed that high-fiber diets were associated with an eight percent decrease in the risk of both premenopausal and postmenopausal breast cancers. However, some studies don’t show enough evidence to support a conclusive link.
Fiber’s breast cancer prevention power could also be indirect. For example, it has been proven to support healthy weight management, and experts consider being overweight as a risk factor for breast cancer.
How can I get more fiber in my diet?
Fruits, veggies, and more.
Since fiber’s naturally found in plant foods, you can easily get it from fruits and vegetables. For a lot of these foods, a lot of the fiber is concentrated in the skin, so be sure to eat the outsides of apples and sweet potatoes, for example.
Legumes, nuts, and seeds are great sources of fiber as well—chia and flax seeds are two of the top high-fiber foods.
Fiber “crushes cancer's dreams when it binds estrogen and toxins in your gastrointestinal tract, improves insulin sensitivity, and releases a litany of antioxidant vitamins and anticancer compounds."
Foods such as barley, oatmeal, quinoa, wild rice, and millet are great sources of fiber. When it comes to grains, it’s important to go for whole grain options in order to get the most fiber possible. White, refined grains are sometimes enriched with nutrients, but not fiber. Whole grains, on the other hand, maintain their parts that are backed with roughage.
Getting more fiber in your diet may sound as easy as just eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, but it’s harder in practice—only about five percent of Americans get the amount of fiber they need. Many find pill or powdered supplements to be a convenient solution for this problem. For example, Bellway’s powdered supplements provide all the benefits of the fiber you get from plant foods, but without the added artificial ingredients that many other brands use. If you choose to use a supplement to improve your fiber intake, be sure to check with a doctor to ensure that it’s right for you.