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Think Pink, Eat the Rainbow!

Think Pink, Eat the Rainbow

Almost everyone reading this knows someone affected by breast cancer. My mother, grandmother, and aunt are the three people closest to me that were diagnosed. There are so many factors that affect whether a person gets breast cancer, how they react to treatment, and how long their recovery lasts.

In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it may be worth a look at how something as simple as eating fruit and vegetables of all colors have the potential to impact breast cancer risk and recovery. This month's motto is "Think Pink, Eat the Rainbow!"

Think Pink, Eat the Rainbow!: Fruit & Veggies in the Fight Against Breast Cancer

Eating fruits and vegetables may help lower the risk of breast cancer. A review of 15 studies found women who ate the most fruit had a slightly lower risk of breast cancer compared to women who ate the least fruit.[1]

Folate, one of the B vitamins found in fruits like strawberries and leafy green vegetables, is important in copying and repairing DNA.

“Getting enough folate may make it more likely that DNA is copied correctly when cells divide. This in turn may make it less likely cells become cancerous. For this reason, folic acid and multivitamins have been studied to see if they might lower the risk of breast cancer,” according to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.[2]

Strawberries & Breast Cancer Risk

Human studies related to strawberries and cancer risk compared groups of people who eat relatively high and low amounts of total fruit, dietary fiber, or berries, specifically. People who eat more fruits have a lower risk of a wide range of cancers.[4]

Some clinical trials show strawberries associated with decreases in inflammation markers and increases in antioxidant defenses after consuming strawberries.[6] The fiber found in strawberries is linked with a lower risk of breast cancer[7] while higher levels of vitamin C in a person’s diet and blood is associated with lower overall risk of cancer.[8]

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, “Strawberries hold an important role in a diet to reduce cancer risk.” They cite the following nutrients in strawberries to be of importance in fighting cancer: vitamin C, fiber, anthocyanins, phenolic acids (including ellagic acid), resveratrol, tannins, and flavan-3-ols.[2]

Two mouse studies showed that strawberry extract slowed down or stopped breast cancer cells.[9][10] Scientists hope to replicate these findings in humans.

Think pink, eat the  rainbow. Hands holding strawberries
Evidence suggests berries may play a role in preventing cancer.

Vegetables and Breast Cancer

The groups of people who eat the most vegetables are associated with a lower risk of estrogen receptor-negative (ER-) breast cancer (but not ER+) in an analysis of 20 observational population studies.[5]

How Eating the Rainbow of Fruit & Veggies Can Help During Cancer Treatment

For those being treated for or recovering from cancer, eating can be difficult. Changes in appetite, the way foods taste, as well as potential swallowing difficulties, makes finding the right foods important for patients.

For instance, many cancer patients going through chemotherapy find cold or room temperature meals more appealing than hot ones.

Ripe berries, bananas, peaches, cantaloupe, and watermelon provide a soft texture that may be easier to chew and swallow for those with mild difficulties. Similarly, sweet potatoes, roasted red peppers, tofu, and kabocha squash are smooth in texture. When pureed, they provide a nutritious addition to smoothies, soups, and hummus.

Below are dietitian recommended fruit and veggie recipes that can be served cold and give a boost of antioxidants.

Recommended Recipes

Organic vs. Conventional: Which is better?

The Susan G. Komen Foundation states on their website that, “Research shows organic foods are no more nutritious or better for your health than foods farmed by conventional methods.[11] Organic foods do not appear to lower the risk of breast cancer.”[12]

According to the American Cancer Society, the benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables outweigh any health risks linked with pesticide residue.

Both organic and conventional fruits and veggies are important parts of the diet. Buying fresh, frozen, or canned produce and thoroughly rinsing it is always a good idea.

This month when you “think pink,” eat the rainbow!

For support with your diet, make an Initial Nutrition Appointment with our Registered Dietitian at ZEST Nutrition.


[1] Aune, D., Chan, D. S., Vieira, A. R., Rosenblatt, D. A., Vieira, R., Greenwood, D. C., & Norat, T. (2012). Fruits, vegetables and breast cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Breast cancer research and treatment, 134(2), 479–493. [2] Susan G. Komen. (2020). Factors under study. [3] United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. (2020). FoodData Central: Strawberries, raw. [4] American Institute of Cancer Research. (2020). Strawberries: Boost antioxidant defenses. AICR Food Facts. Retrieved from: [5] Jung S, Spiegelman D, Baglietto L, et al. Fruit and Vegetable Intake and Risk of Breast Cancer by Hormone Receptor Status. JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2013;105(3):219-236.

[6] Afrin S, Gasparrini M, Forbes-Hernandez TY, et al. Promising Health Benefits of the Strawberry: A Focus on Clinical Studies. J Agric Food Chem. 2016;64(22):4435-4449. [7] Aune D, Chan DS, Greenwood DC, et al. Dietary fiber and breast cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Ann Oncol. 2012;23(6):1394-1402. [8] Aune D, Keum N, Giovannucci E, et al. Dietary intake and blood concentrations of antioxidants and the risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer, and all-cause mortality: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 2018;108(5):1069-1091. [9] Somasagara, R. R., Hegde, M., Chiruvella, K. K., Musini, A., Choudhary, B., & Raghavan, S. C. (2012). Extracts of strawberry fruits induce intrinsic pathway of apoptosis in breast cancer cells and inhibits tumor progression in mice. PloS one, 7(10), e47021. [10] Amatori, S., Mazzoni, L., Alvarez-Suarez, J. M., Giampieri, F., Gasparrini, M., Forbes-Hernandez, T. Y., Afrin, S., Errico Provenzano, A., Persico, G., Mezzetti, B., Amici, A., Fanelli, M., & Battino, M. (2016). Polyphenol-rich strawberry extract (PRSE) shows in vitro and in vivo biological activity against invasive breast cancer cells. Scientific reports, 6, 30917. [11] Kushi LH, Doyle C, McCullough M, et al. for the American Cancer Society 2010 Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee. (2012). American Cancer Society Guidelines on nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention: reducing the risk of cancer with healthy food choices and physical activity. CA Cancer J Clin. 62(1):30-67. [12] Bradbury KE, Balkwill A, Spencer EA, et al. for the Million Women Study Collaborators. (2014). Organic food consumption and the incidence of cancer in a large prospective study of women in the United Kingdom. Br J Cancer. 110(9):2321-6.



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