Diet and Nutrition

Diet and Nutrition

Eating more whole foods and less processed foods can reduce the risk of breast cancer and other chronic diseases.

Science Summary

The more we limit eating processed meat, and foods that are high in saturated fat, salt, and sugar — and increase our communities’ access to whole and fresh foods — the more we can address multiple risk factors for breast cancer, including body weight, microbiome, and inflammation.

What can I do for my own body and health?

Following a diet of mostly whole, fresh, unprocessed foods is scientifically supported to help prevent breast cancer, and improve overall health. Vegetables, fruits, dietary fiber, and plant-based proteins can all be a big part of simple and nutritious meals. Try to eat less red and processed meat, highly processed food, and foods containing growth-promoting hormones or pesticides.

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“Every human being has the right to safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water adequate for human consumption, cooking, and sanitary purposes.”

What can I do to support the health of my family and friends, and my community?

Eating culturally nutritious foods can be easier and more fun with a group. Involve your friends and family in planning meals that you can all cook and enjoy together. Spend more time shopping in the produce sections of grocery stores, instead of the processed foods aisles. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Healthy Incentives Program provides extra funds specifically for healthy foods, which can help with grocery budgeting. Make visits to farmers markets in your city or town a weekly outing with friends and family.

Eating culturally nutritious foods is an important element of staying healthy, but there can be barriers to doing so. The pervasive advertising and availability of processed food can make it particularly difficult to choose more nutritious options. Fresh food can also be harder to access and may be more expensive in marginalized communities. For example, California produces nearly half of the nation’s fruits and vegetables, yet 1 in 8 Californias, or 4.6 million people, currently lack access to the food they need to lead healthy, active lives.
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The nearest local stores might not sell healthy options, or the healthy options might be too expensive. We can work together to break down these barriers. There are campaigns and opportunities to take part in community organizing to increase healthy food options in local stores. In addition, you can apply for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or your state’s equivalent program to increase the affordability of nutritious food.

The Food Trust, a food justice organization, has created the Healthy Corner Store Initiative, which has successfully increased access and availability of healthy food in corner stores by building relationships with corner store owners and providing education and training. Similarly, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene developed the Healthy Bodegas Initiative as well as the Green Carts Initiative, which has worked with community organizations and residents to increase the availability and demand for healthier foods in bodegas and street vendors.

How can I help advocate for and support systemic change to remove barriers to health?

There is both a great need and untapped potential to make healthy food more readily available. Together, we can ensure everyone has equitable access to culturally appropriate, nutritious, and affordable food at every stage of their life.

Here are some ways we can take systems-level action to reduce breast cancer risk:

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Collaborate with community leadership to implement local initiatives that support affordable fresh produce at corner stores, bodegas, and community markets.
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Provide public support to share locally grown excess food (for example, food swaps) and ensure farmer’s markets are affordable to local communities with limited access to fresh produce.

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Provide support for community gardens (for example, education and training, seeds, clean soil, natural pest management, and gardening tools).

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Connect with city officials and policymakers to create buffer zones that limit the density of unhealthy fast-food outlets around schools.

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Support programs that provide free healthy breakfast and lunch programs without income requirements to K-12 students when school is in session and during summer breaks.
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Help to gather and incorporate student input to provide healthy school lunch programs that students are likely to eat.

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