The way you eat can affect how you recover. It has been shown that good nutrition can have a major influence on the results and success of any surgery. A diet that will help heal and keep a woman healthy before and after breast reconstruction should contain a combination of protein, fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and carbohydrates. These eight diet tips will help you to make the most of your breast reconstruction recovery period. Don’t miss #7, about a recent study on diet and breast cancer recurrence!
Eat Healthy Proteins
Protein helps growth and is necessary in the repair of all cells in the body, including muscles and hormones. Some beneficial protein choices are poultry, fish, lean meat, cheese, eggs, low-fat dairy products, and beans, and if cost is not a consideration, organic is the best choice. Using organic meats and dairy will reduce worries about trace residual hormones. But at this time there is no direct connection between growth hormones in meat and dairy, and harm to the cancer recovery process.
Put a Rainbow of Fruits and Veggies on Your Plate
The other necessary foods that help in the healing process are fruits and vegetables. The vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients found in these foods are essential in helping the body heal. Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, to get all the needed vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, is important.
If you are worried about the pesticides used in growing fruits and vegetables there is an informative website by Environmental Working Group with a list of the types of fruits and vegetables that have higher and lower pesticide residue exposure. While there is no direct connection between pesticides exposure and breast cancer, some of the most commonly used pesticides have been shown to mimic estrogen in laboratory animals. Different chemicals found in the food supply may cause health problems, including an increase in breast cancer risk.
Put Down the Chips!
If possible focus on whole foods, because processed foods tend to have higher amounts of fat, sugar, salt, and especially chemical additives. Processed foods will also have far less fiber and vitamins than whole foods. An easy trick to eating well is to stick to the perimeter or outside aisles of the grocery store.
Focus on Healthy Fats
A balanced diet for breast reconstruction recovery should include healthy fats. Healthy fats help in healing, with the best choices being monounsaturated fats and omega 3 fats. These healthy fats can be found in avocado, fish, nut butters, and of course olive oil, and will improve the immune system, decrease inflammation throughout the body, and is helps with a healthy heart. An anti-inflammatory diet is low in animal fat and processed foods, while emphasising fiber rich foods like vegetables, fruits, and other fiber-rich foods like bran. It is also important to make sure your Vitamin D level is not low, and maybe add a supplement. This strengthens immune and bone health.
Avoid Bad Fats
Of course there are bad fats that can impede breast reconstruction recovery. Saturated fats and trans-fats have nothing to offer the body, nutritionally speaking. Trans-fats, like the fats that can be found in butter and margarine, raise your LDL cholesterol levels, which is the bad cholesterol. Also included in the bad fats are deep-fried foods, plus most of the oils found in processed foods. What to look for on the ingredients list is partially-hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils, these are the bad fats, trans-fats.
What About Soy?
The Susan G. Komen website offers useful information about soy and breast cancer. To help make estrogen less harmful, you may want to add more cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, and cabbage.
Regarding soy and survivors, they explain:
“Current evidence suggests that a diet high in soy may improve survival and lower the risk of recurrence in women with breast cancer. The benefits don’t appear limited to Asian populations either.
One analysis combined data from three large, long-running studies of survivors from both Asian and Western countries. It found that women who ate at least 10 mg of soy per day after a breast cancer diagnosis had a 25 percent lower risk of recurrence compared to those eating less than 4 mg per day.
However, soy is not currently recommended as a way for breast cancer survivors to lower the risk of recurrence. There are still some open questions about these findings because the studies were looking at many different types of soy, and because women who regularly eat soy simply tend to be healthier than those who don’t.”
Try a Mediterranean Diet
Everyone knows someone on the Mediterranean Diet, but what are the actual health benefits regarding breast cancer? An article in the Irish Examiner says eating a diet rich in vegetables, fish, and olive oil could reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence.
The results of a study of 300 women with early-stage breast cancer supports an earlier study that suggests diets may reduce the cancer risk.
A Mediterranean diet includes vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, fish, olive oil and whole grains, is low in red and processed meat, and low in diary. Alcohol should be keep to a nominal amount.
Definitely makes the Mediterranean Diet an attractive option for eating healthy, and possibly reducing the risk of cancer returning.
Time to Talk to an Expert for Advice on Your Breast Reconstruction Recovery Diet?
It may be helpful to consult a nutritionist, especially one that specializes in advising cancer patients and survivors on their diet. Remember, your diet doesn’t have to be perfect, but making small changes in the way you eat, making smarter choices, could help the healing process, fight recurrence, and help keep your energy and your attitude upbeat.