Maintaining a Healthy Diet with Breast Cancer

Aditi Shenai

October 12, 2022

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide. Gender, food, alcohol usage, physical activity, genetic factors, lifestyle, and endocrine factors, are linked to the incident of brest cancer. Eating a balanced diet is particularly important when you have breast cancer. 

Cancer procedures can have several side effects: low appetite, mouth sores, nausea, and vomiting. Adequate nutrition may help your body heal from cancer procedures and related side effects. 

According to research, a healthy diet may enable you to:

  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Keep body tissue active
  • Lessen cancer indications and side effects of treatment
  • Keeps your immune system powerful
  • Maintain your strength and decrease fatigue
  • Improve your quality of life

Breast Cancer: A Dietary Overview

If you have breast cancer, you are most likely undergoing hormone therapy, chemotherapy, or HER2-targeted drugs. A study indicates that your treatment relies on the stage and type of your cancer. Cancer treatment requires radiation too. Among the various side effects, there can be a loss of appetite.

Usually, you will get these medications after you have already withstood a breast-conserving surgery (BCS). Breast-conserving is also known as a partial mastectomy, total mastectomy, or lumpectomy. Research implies that enduring the treatments and the physical modifications can be challenging. About 50% of people with breast cancer have anxiety or depression. Breast cancer can considerably affect both your mental and physical health. Subsequently, it can negatively affect your appetite. Although it can be challenging, making reasonable food choices can help strengthen your brain and body as you keep combating the disease. 

There is no particular diet for people with breast cancer. Your nutrient requirement can vary depending on many factors. These include other medical diagnoses, nutrient deficiencies, body weight, medications, and any indications you are currently encountering. Your healthcare team, composed of a registered dietitian who specialises in oncology nutrition, can assist you in coming up with a proper eating plan specific to your requirements and overall health. 

Healthy Foods You Need to Eat

The subsequent foods are based on standard recommendations to strengthen overall health while living with breast cancer:

  • Whole, nutrient-dense foods like vegetables and fruits, legumes, whole grains, protein sources like turkey and chicken, fatty fish like salmon or trout, and plant-based protein sources like nuts and lentils
  • Foods high in protein and healthy fats. If you want to maintain or gain weight, include sources of healthy fat like seeds and nuts, olive oil, avocados, and protein sources like chicken, eggs, lentils, and fish. Protein-rich foods are essential for retaining muscle mass.
  • Blended liquids such as smoothies, milkshakes, juices, or soups when you don’t feel like eating solid diets.
  • High fibre foods like flax seeds, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and fruits treat constipation.
  • Foods that contain phytochemicals enable your body to fight cancer. These chemicals are present mainly in plant-based foods.

Fruits and Vegetables good for Breast Cancer

Breast cancer patients who eat more vegetables and fruits, especially cruciferous or green leafy vegetables, have an increased survival risk. For example, eating blueberries indicates an influential association with reducing breast cancer mortality. Drinking fruit juice also reduces the chances of breast cancer. 

Researchers think expanding the phytochemicals in produce and the glycemic index of fruit and vegetables may also be a component in breast cancer survival, but more research is required. Other research also indicates that drinking nearly five cups of green tea a day or more may decrease the risk of breast cancer recurring by 19%.

Leafy Green Vegetables

Leafy green foods such as kale, arugula, spinach, mustard greens, and chard contain anti-cancer qualities. Beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin are carotenoid antioxidants present in leafy green vegetables. A higher blood level of these antioxidants reduces the risk of breast cancer. In addition, studies suggest that increased consumption of folate, a type of B vitamin abundant in green leafy vegetables, prevents breast cancer. 


Berries contain polyphenols. As per research, polyphenols help control breast cancer. Polyphenols can help deter tumour cell growth and metastasis. It comprises five classes – phenolic acids, flavonoids, stilbenes, lignans, and other polyphenols. Among these five, phenolic acids and flavonoids are the most widespread classes, accounting for 60 and 30 %. Flavonoids and anthocyanins prevent cellular damage and the advancement of cancerous cells in the body. 

Herbs and Spices 

Herbs contain certain plant compounds that are suitable for breast health. According to research, herbs can cure cancer. Among them are vitamins, fatty acids and polyphenol antioxidants. Indian herbs and spices like turmeric, ashwagandha, amla etc., contain Antioxidant, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties. These help the body fight against the cancerous tumours developing in the body. 

Foods to Avoid for Breast Cancer

When you feel sick from the side effects of treatment, you only withstand specific foods. So when you are feeling well, it’s necessary to follow a nutrient-dense diet. This diet can be full of whole foods like vegetables, fruits, protein sources like fish and chicken, fibre foods like beans, and healthy fats like olive oil, avocados, and nuts.

It would be best to prevent or decrease your particular foods and beverages consumption, including the following.

  • Alcohol: Wine, beer, and liquor could interact with the cancer drugs you consume. There is insufficient evidence that drinking alcohol boosts the risk of mortality and recurrence of existing breast cancer.
  • Spicy, acidic, or crunchy foods heighten mouth soreness, a common chemotherapy side effect.
  • Undercooked foods: If you have breast cancer, you are at an increased risk of developing infections. Prevent raw foods like oysters and sushi during your treatment—Cook fish, meats, and poultry to a stable temperature before eating them. For similar reasons, avoid expired foods, raw nuts, mouldy foods, or leftovers that have been in the refrigerator for more than three days.

Specific Diet Plans for Breast Cancer 

If you have been browsing about breast cancer online, you might find assertions that one diet or another can fix you. Be sceptical of these excessive claims. Research indicates that eating a balanced diet with many vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and poultry has an optimistic impact on cancer survival. In contrast, eating refined foods, fried foods, or high-sugar foods can adversely impact. 

The Keto diet

The ketogenic diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat eating plan that has gained popularity. You dramatically chop carbohydrates to put your body into ketosis, where it burns stocked fat for energy. Though some studies have indicated the ketogenic diet to be promising for specific types of cancer, it has not been proven to cure breast cancer. It can also modify the chemical balance in your body, which could be dangerous.

A Plant-based diet

A plant-based diet implies that you primarily eat vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, legumes, and seeds. It is identical to a vegan or vegetarian diet, but many people who obey plant-based diets eat animal products. However, they restrict their intake. The diet enables you to get vitamins, fibre, minerals, and phytochemicals from plant foods while also receiving nutrients and protein from animal products. Eventually, any diet you try should include a healthy balance of protein, healthy fats, nutrients, and calories. Going severe in any direction could be hazardous. Before you try any recent diet, check with your doctor and dietitian to ensure it is safe.

The Mediterranean diet

Eat various vegetables and fruits, nuts, grains and seeds in the Mediterranean diet. As per studies, this diet also comprises beans, olive oil, dairy, and proteins like eggs, chicken, and fish in limited amounts. The food you consume with this diet inclines to be unprocessed. You drink minimal alcohol, particularly wine, and generally with meals. The diet minimises salt, sugar, and saturated fat and does not encompass a lot of processed meats. Multiple studies indicate that fixing the Mediterranean diet can lessen your breast cancer risk and negatively affect breast cancer mortality. Additionally, the diet also helps to reduce pain, enhance sleep quality, and boost your overall well-being. But, it is not feasible to rule out other components that contribute to these outcomes.

Tips for Eating Healthy

Breast cancer indications and treatment side effects may leave you feeling too sick to plan, cook meals, or eat as you generally do. Here are some tips to make eating healthy easier.

Portion Control

Bloating, Nausea, and constipation can make it difficult to eat three large meals a day. So instead, eat smaller portions five or six times daily to get the calories you need.  To get the calories you need, Add snacks like yoghurt with berries, hard-boiled eggs, and peanut butter on apples or crackers to get the calories you need.

Expert Guidance

A dietitian can assist you in formulating a healthy meal plan that suits your food priorities and nutritional requirements. They can also instruct you on ways to regulate cancer treatment side effects like sickness so you can eat a more well-balanced diet. If you can, work with a dietitian who knows about treating people with breast cancer. Take advice from your oncologist or nurse to propose to someone.

Use Different Utensils

Sometimes chemotherapy can vacate a terrible taste in your mouth. Certain foods can take up a metallic taste. To enhance the taste of your food, avert metal utensils and cooking tools. Instead, use plastic cutlery, and cook with glass pans and pots.

Add More Fluids

If your mouth hurts too much to consume solid foods, get your nourishment from liquids like nutritional beverages or smoothies. If your mouth hurts too much to consume solid foods, get your nutrition from drinks like healthy beverages or smoothies. While getting medication, some of that liquid can be milk, fruit juice, and low-sodium broth.

Plan Your Meals

It can be beneficial to plan and cook meals ahead of time. You are more inclined to stick to a healthy eating plan. Develop a meal plan for the whole week, and cook an entire week’s meals over the weekend when you have additional time. If you are too exhausted to cook or can not stand the smell, ask a relative or friend to cook meals. A doctor or dietitian can recommend some recipes. 

The Bottom Line

Eating a healthy diet when you have breast cancer has numerous health benefits. It can make you feel adequate faster, but it can increase your immune system and keep you robust. If you are considering trying a recent diet or are having difficulty sticking to a healthy eating plan, have a conversation with your doctor or a dietitian. It might also be beneficial to reach out to others for assistance. The support of family and friends is essential during this time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q.1. What foods should breast cancer patients avoid?

A. If you have breast cancer, you are at an increased risk of formulating infections. Therefore, avoid alcohol use, as it may considerably increase your risk of breast cancer. Also, avoid fast food, fried foods, added sugar, processed meats, and refined carbs. 

Q.2. What foods boost the immune system during chemo?

A. During chemotherapy sessions, you should eat healthy to improve your immune system. Foods that boost the immune system include oatmeals, as it delivers numerous nutrients that can enable your body during chemotherapy sessions. In addition, avocados, eggs, broth, almonds, and other nuts like pumpkin seeds, broccoli, and other cruciferous vegetables help to boost the immune system.

Q.3. Which fruit is good for the breast?

A. Fruits, specifically apples, peaches, and pears, protect against breast cancer. In general, citrus fruits, apples, and other white fruits, green fruits and dried fruits are healthy for breasts. Include fruits rich in antioxidants in your daily diet.  

Q.4. How soon after diagnosis of breast cancer is surgery?

A. Overall, the discretionary time for surgery after diagnosis is less than ninety days. Mastectomy,  Lumpectomy, and Lymph Node Removal are three standard surgical methods to cure breast cancer. 

Q.5. What is meant by a 5-year survival rate?

A. The number of people in a research or treatment group who are alive five years after they were deduced with or started treatment for a disease, such as cancer. The cancer disease may or may not arrive back in their cases.  

Q.6. What kind of lumps are normal in breasts?

A. Most breast lumps are innocuous, which means they are not cancerous. Benign breast lumps usually have soft edges and can barely move when you push against them. They are often found in both breasts. Causes include chronic breast infection, tissue or injury. 

Q.7. Can breast cancer spread while waiting for surgery?

A. Breast cancer can spread if left untreated for long. However, you can consult your doctor to help you with ways to prevent the spread of breast cancer. 

Q.8. Which cancers have the highest survival rate?

A. Cancer is a disease that affects cells to grow and multiply uncontrollably in particular parts of the body. Cancer with increased survival rates of 5 years includes Hodgkin lymphoma, cervical, melanoma, breast, testicular, prostate and thyroid cancers.

Q.9. Does chemotherapy reduce life expectancy?

A. The percentage of survivors treated with chemotherapy alone heightened from 18% in 1970-1979 to 54% in 1990-1999. In addition, it reduced the life expectancy gap in this chemotherapy-alone group from eleven to six years. 

Q.10. Does the size of a tumour determine the stage?

A. Yes, the stage of cancer is determined by the size of a tumour. It also shows how far it has accumulated into close tissues. And if it has dissipated to nearby lymph nodes or other regions of the body. Before beginning any cancer therapy, doctors may use imaging scans, physical exams, and other tests to infer cancer’s stage. 

About the Author

M.Sc in: Dietetics and Applied Nutrition from Manipal University. Worked: All over India and have been involved in helping set up nutrition departments in start ups. Interested in lifestyle based nutrition. Mantra: A healthy lifestyle isn't a choice to be made or discarded, it's a way of life!

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