Diet and breast cancer: why is a balanced diet important?

1. Why is a balanced diet important?
2. Diet during breast cancer treatment
3. Diet after breast cancer treatment
4. Can diet and lifestyle affect the risk of cancer coming back (recurrence)?  

1. Why is a balanced diet important?

Eating healthily is important for everyone, but when you’ve had breast cancer you may become even more aware of what you eat and drink. A balanced diet has been shown to have a range of health benefits.

However, even though we’ve included a lot of information about following a healthy lifestyle, it’s important to not feel guilty if you don’t stick to it all the time – especially while you’re coping with the other physical and emotional effects of breast cancer and its treatment. It’s just about getting the balance right.  

Your Eatwell Guide

To eat healthily during and after breast cancer treatment, try to eat a variety of foods from each of the four main food groups every day:

  • eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day
  • base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates. Choose wholegrain where possible
  • have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks and yoghurts). Choose lower-fat and lower-sugar options
  • eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein. Aim for at least two portions of fish every week – one of which should be oily, such as salmon or mackerel

In addition to this, you should:

  • eat foods that are high in sugar less often and in small amounts
  • choose unsaturated oils and spreads and use in small amounts
  • avoid eating foods that are high in salt or fat too often
  • try to limit alcohol as much as possible. Have no more than 14 units of alcohol per week and spread your drinking over at least three days if you drink as much as this in a week

Eating healthily doesn’t mean you can’t have any of the foods or drinks you enjoy that might not be considered healthy, such as those high in fat, salt and sugar. If you follow the advice on the Eatwell Guide you can still enjoy these from time to time, it’s just about making sure you get the balance right.

Benefits of the Mediterranean diet

You may have heard of the Mediterranean diet. It’s based on typical foods and recipes of Mediterranean-style cooking, and consists mainly of:

  • vegetables
  • fruits
  • nuts
  • beans
  • cereal grains
  • olive oil
  • fish

The Mediterranean diet is a good way of getting a balanced diet and has been associated with many health benefits, including a healthier heart.

Find out more about diet during treatment and healthy eating after treatment.

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