Most people know a diet rich in fruits, whole grains, and vegetables can help you lead a healthier life. These foods provide necessary nutrients, give you energy, and even help you prevent diseases. A natural diet can even help prevent heart disease and diabetes, but did you know that a plant-based diet might also help you prevent breast cancer? Learn about some of the cancer-hindering compounds in your new favorite foods.
What to Love About Lignans
A lignan is a naturally occurring phytoestrogen, a nutrient that acts in a similar way to the estrogen formed by your body. Studies have shown that high levels of estrogen in the blood can slightly increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer, so adding phytoestrogens into your system through diet would surely increase your risk of breast cancer, right?
“Actually, phytoestrogens behave differently from regular estrogen. Phytoestrogens from lignans are weak compared to the estrogen created by your body, and they can counteract your existing estrogen when they enter the breast cell’s estrogen receptor. This means tumors that use estrogen for growth will not be able to develop in the presence of the phytoestrogens,” says Patricia Sammarelli, MD, physician at St. Joseph Health Primary Care West Villa Maria.
Phytoestrogens can also give your body the power to keep potentially cancerous cells from reproducing. When the harmful cells are shut down, they aren’t able to spread in your body, so they can’t rapidly multiply to form tumors.
Foods Rich in Lignans
- Nuts and seeds, such as cashews and sunflower seeds
- Fruits, such as strawberries and cherries
- Vegetables, such as broccoli and sweet peppers
- Whole grains, such as whole wheat and oats