October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Its a chance to raise awareness about a disease that claims the lives of nearly 40,000 women in the United States each year. One way to reduce your risk is through something as simple as changing what you eat.

Fight Cancer with Food
Some foods may increase your risk such as fried or acidic foods that create an environment where cancer cells can grow and reproduce. But there are other foods you can add to your diet that have been found to reduce your risk of developing the often deadly disease. Researchers from the American Institute for Cancer Research estimate as many as 38 percent of breast cancers may be prevented with just a few dietary changes.

The greatest benefit starts with following a plant-based diet. A study published in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Epidemiology found cancer risk may go down as much as 20 percent by following vegetarian diet high in fruits and vegetables. Another study found even those with cancers that are generally considered harder to treat may improve their chances of survival by adding more color to their diet with red, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables.

When it comes to nuts, researchers say Go Nuts! Studies in mice found walnuts have the ability to slow the development of cancer cells.

Why Diet Matters
In addition to impacting the overall environment which either allows cancer cells to thrive or to die, diet impacts hormones in the body including a hormone called IGF-1. IGF-1 promotes the growth of cancer cells. Just eating animal proteins is enough to raise the levels of IGF-1 to a level that supports cancer growth. And, just eliminating animal proteins for two weeks is all it may take to bring these levels down to a better place where the growth of these cancerous cells is slowed.

Fruits and vegetables are also high in antioxidants. Youve most likely heard this buzzword bantered around in talking about the benefits of certain foods, but its important to really understand what these are and why you need them to fight disease.

Normal, everyday living and eating processed foods creates a process in the body in which free radicals in the blood cause molecules to become oxidized. In other words, they lose electrons. When there is too much oxidation caused by excess free radicals, disease results. Anti-oxidants, as the name implies, keep the free radicals from exerting their power and a healthier environment is maintained. The result is reduced disease.

What to Eat
Carotenoid-rich foods have been found to be especially helpful in fighting breast cancer. These foods include those that are red, orange, green and yellow such as pumpkin, sweet potato, kale, collard greens, bell peppers, spinach and broccoli.

Cruciferous vegetables may help too. This class of vegetables, which includes broccoli and cauliflower, are high in phytochemicals. These foods have the power to convert estrogen a hormone that may be responsible for some forms of breast cancer to a hormone that has a protective effect instead.

A plant-based diet is also helpful in keeping weight under control another factor shown to play a role in breast cancer.