A Plant-Based Diet

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which provides an opportunity for us to increase awareness of the disease and take action. Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women after skin cancer. Unfortunately, one in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.

Although many risk factors such as family history of breast cancer cannot be avoided, there are several lifestyle and dietary habits that can help you keep your risk of developing breast cancer as low as possible. Research suggests that a sedentary lifestyle, poor dietary patterns that lack fruits and vegetables, frequent alcohol consumption and being overweight/obese can increase your risk.

Eating a plant-based diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans is beneficial for combating several chronic diseases.

Much of the current research suggests that there is an inverse association between dietary fiber intake (not supplements) and breast cancer risk; this means that the more dietary fiber you consume, the lower your chance of developing breast cancer. The average American consumes only about 10-15 grams of fiber daily. The WCRF/AICR recommends that individuals consume a diet that provides at least 30g/day of fiber. Here are a few simple strategies to reach this fiber goal and start following more of a plant-based diet.

• Swap white bread for grain bread.
• Serve fish over lentils instead of white rice.
• Use avocado in place of mayo. Try mashing chickpeas with avocado for a delicious lunch sandwich spread.
• Try chickpea, black bean, or red lentil pasta instead of regular pasta.
• Incorporate quinoa or ancient grains such as farro as a dinnertime side dish.
• Opt for light popcorn instead of plain potato chips .
• Use an air fryer to crisp up any vegetables.
• Chop your salad. as it is often easier to eat and can pack in quite a bit of nutrition.

In order to promote the best transition possible to a plant-based diet, incorporate these changes gradually and also increase your water intake. You need proper hydration to assist in proper digestion of fiber through the body.

Don’t forget that it’s never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Everyone can benefit from healthy living. Eating a balanced diet, staying active, and making healthy life choices can be rewarding at any point in life.

Stefani Sassos, MS, RDN, CSO, CDN, CPT, is a clinical dietitian and certified personal trainer. She also provides private nutrition counseling at her office in Great Neck. Visit her website www.stefhealthtips.com for more information or call 516-216-9909 to schedule an appointment.

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Stefani Pappas Sassos
Long Island Weekly columnist Stefani Pappas, RDN, CPT, is a clinical dietitian at St. Francis Hospital. She also provides private and group nutrition counseling at her office in Great Neck. Visit Stef Health Tips for more information.

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