Breast Health Challenge Tip #4

Eat a vegetarian diet, as organic as possible. Minimal or no meat, fish, eggs, dairy.


Approximately 30-40% of all of cancers can be prevented with a healthy lifestyle and diet. Too little fiber, the intake of red meat and too little Omega-3 fats with too much Omega-6 fats contribute to increased risk of cancer, whereas 6-9 servings daily of fruits and vegetables, intake of soy and high fiber legumes lower the risk of cancer.

Why No Meat?

The cooking of meat generates a class of chemicals called heterocyclic amines, which can both initiate breast cancer and cause it to progress. Heterocyclic amines also promote cancer of the colon, prostate, pancreas, lung, stomach and esophagus.

Being higher on the food chain, meat accumulates toxins such as PCBs and dioxin, which are known carcinogens and hormone disruptors linked with breast cancer. Approximately 90-98% of human exposure to dioxins and PCBs comes from our diet, with meat, fish and dairy being the predominant sources. Meat eaters generally have higher estrogen levels than vegetarians, which can make them more susceptible to breast cancer, as estrogen causes breast cells to divide more quickly.

An animal based diet is often lower in fiber than a vegetarian diet. Vegetarian women excrete 2 to 3 times more estrogen in stools than do omnivores, which may explain the lower incidence of breast cancer in vegetarian women.

Another hormone, IGF-1, is more powerful than estrogen in causing breast cells to divide quickly. It is manufactured in your liver and is released in response to growth hormone from the pituitary gland. Animal protein increases IGF-1, while vegetarian protein does not. One study showed that IGF-I levels were 11% lower among women with the highest tofu intake category compared with the lowest, and that a diet high in soy foods and low in meats may be related to lower IGF-I levels. Other research shows that higher animal protein intake during puberty may can cause increased IGF-1 in early adulthood. A 2014 study showed that participants between ages 50-65 who reported a high animal protein intake had a 75% increase in overall mortality and a 4-fold increase in cancer death risk over the next 18 years.

How Is a Vegetarian Diet Protective?

Protective elements in a cancer-preventive diet include selenium (Brazil nuts), folic acid (leafy greens), vitamin B12, vitamin D, chlorophyll and antioxidants such as carotenoids (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, cryptoxanthin). Supplementing with oral digestive enzymes and probiotics is an anticancer dietary practice. Vegan diets that are low in protein can be expected to lower elevated serum lipid levels, promote weight loss, and decrease circulating IGF-I activity – all protective factors against breast cancer.

Consume six to nine servings of vegetables and fruits daily. Follow a primarily vegetarian diet. There are more phytochemicals, minerals and fiber in a vegetable-based diet. Being vegetarian means we eat lower on the food chain and minimize consumption of PCBs, dioxin, furans and other hormone-disrupting chemicals. It supports global ecology.

How Much Protein?

A vegetarian diet includes more fibre (which lowers estrogen, insulin and IGF-1), is more alkaline, and keeps estrogen and IGF-l levels lower. It also decreases inflammation. One study found that a diet containing 20% plant protein inhibited tumor weight by 37% as compared to a 20% animal protein diet. An intake of 0.8 grams of vegetarian protein per kg of body weight (or approximately 35-60 grams) is adequate to meet protein needs. Include 10-20 grams of organic soy protein in total protein intake to prevent breast cancer, as long as you are not allergic to it.

Adequate plant-based protein would include 2 or 3 servings a day where one serving equals 1 cup of cooked legumes, 1/2 cup tofu, 2 tbsp. nut butter or 3 tbsp. of nuts or seeds. Legumes include kidney beans, soybeans, chickpeas, split peas, mung beans, adzuki beans and lentils.


Food Protein Content (Grams) Quantity Required
Miso 5.9 ½ cup
Tofu, silken 8.1 ½ cup
Tofu, firm 15.6 ½ cup
Soybeans, boiled 16.6 ½ cup
Soybeans, dry-roasted 39.6 ½ cup
Soy milk 5.6 1 cup
Tempeh 19.0 ½ cup
Soy protein powder 58.1 1 ounce
Kidney beans 15 1 cup, cooked
Lentils 16 1 cup, cooked
Split peas 17 1 cup, cooked
Chick peas 14.5 1 cup, cooked
Almond butter 5 2 tbsp
Almonds 2.8 12
Sunflower seeds 6.5 1 oz
Pumpkin seeds 7 1 oz (142 seeds)
Sesame seed butter 2.6 1 tbsp
Hemp seed 5 1 tbsp
Flaxseed 2.5 1 tbsp
Quinoa 8.1 1 cup


Let us know how you do with making dietary changes for you and your family.

Go to Recipes for more guidelines on what to eat and yummy recipes.


Take the Breast Health Challenge!

Create your favourite vegetarian dishes and take a photo or make a video of you doing it, and post on your Facebook page, Youtube or Instagram with the hashtag #breasthealthchallenge between Oct 1-31. Challenge your friends to do the same.

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Tell us about your favourite vegetarian dishes in the comments section below. Let’s share what works!

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