Local News

Study: Fruit, Vegetables Play Role In Preventing Breast Cancer

Posted December 15, 2004 1:08 a.m. EST

— We have always known that eating fruits and vegetables are good for your health. A new study sheds new light on the role fruits and vegetables play in preventing the most prevalent form of breast cancer.

University of North Carolina epidemiologists led a team of researchers in looking at the dietary habits of women in Long Island, N.Y.

Carmen Alvarez has not always been so enthusiastic about exercise and a healthy diet, but two years ago, breast cancer changed everything.

After a mastectomy and breast reconstruction, Alvarez turned from a diet rich in sweets, breads and pastries to one rich in fruits and vegetables.

"You finally realize it's time for you to take good care of yourself," she said.

A new study out of UNC and four other institutions found women who ate 35 servings of fruits and vegetables a week had a 30 percent lower risk of breast cancer.

"We found the protective effect to be even greater among women who had been diagnosed with hormone-sensitive tumors," said Mia Gaudet, a UNC nutritionist.

Hormone-sensitive tumors account for 63 percent of breast cancer cases. Gaudet says getting

five servings of fruits and vegetables a day

is not such a big pill to swallow.

"You can easily, from a fresh fruit salad, easily get a half-cup serving," she said.

For the greatest effect, Gaudet said eat your fruits and vegetables raw, not cooked, and choose those with the deepest color.

"In general, the more colors on your plate, the better," Gaudet said.

At the Alvarez home, fresh fruit is now always within reach.

"Usually, I prepare a huge bowl of salad for lunch and it includes whatever I have in my refrigerator that is healthy," she said. "For me, dieting and eating a healthy diet, it's all a matter of taking care of myself."

Raw vegetables, in general, are better for you than cooked. One exception is tomatoes, which release the nutrient lycopene only when cooked.