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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Breast Cancer Survivors: Nutrition and Fitness Tips

Eat foods that are cancer-protective to help prevent a recurrence, and get back into exercise to lose extra pounds.

Go for a Diet Rich in Plant Foods, Fish, and Lean Protein continued...

As a breast cancer survivor, you'll also want to make sure that your diet contains plenty of low-fat protein, such as cold-water fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel), beans, nuts, and white meat chicken or turkey. Protein rebuilds muscle and tissue, something that's particularly important when your body has undergone the assault of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation.

What about soy? Some researchers once thought soy could be a cancer cure-all. Then, doctors became concerned that the phytoestrogens in soy might pose a risk for women whose tumors were estrogen receptor-positive.

"At this point, it doesn't look like there's any tremendous protection, or any tremendous harm, from a moderate amount of soy in your diet as a breast cancer survivor," says Polk. "If you like soy, go ahead and enjoy it-in moderation. I stress that because there are some women out there eating soy milk three times a day, having a soy burger for lunch and tofu for dinner and soy nuts for a snack. That's not moderation."

Remember, says Polk, there's no one magic food. "In fact, we're beginning to see evidence that phytochemicals and other cancer-fighting ingredients work together, synergistically," she says. "It may not be the lycopene in tomatoes or the folate in spinach by themselves, but a whole variety of elements that work together as a team to help fight off disease."

That means take it easy on the supplements. "Many cancer survivors are very anxious to get hold of any possible supplements or special pills or potions that may help them to ward off cancer in the future," says Polk. But, she says, studies find that consumers are getting a lot of inaccurate information about supplements, their capabilities, and their ingredients from health food stores. "It's important to get information from your physician, a registered dietitian, or another reliable source before deciding to take supplements or special products."

You can find nutritional guides for cancer survivors at:

  • The American Institute for Cancer Research (
  • The American Cancer Society (

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