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The beneﬁts associated with increased whole grain consumption are numerous and wide-ranging. While the connections between whole grains and reduced risk of stroke, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease sometimes hold the spotlight, the health beneﬁts don’t end there. Today, in honor of National Breast Cancer Month, we want to highlight recent research that sheds light on the impact whole grains can have on breast cancer risk.
October Is National Breast Cancer Month
Since its inception 25 years ago, National Breast Cancer Month has helped foster dialogue and create support for educational and care initiatives that promote early detection and provide treatment information and options. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, the 5-year relative survival rate is 100% if breast cancer is detected early in the localized stage, making education and detection integral to breast cancer care and treatment. In recent years, medical attention has turned to preventative care and the eﬀect diet and lifestyle may have on a growing list of chronic diseases — including how speciﬁc dietary patterns aﬀect cancer risk.
Whole Grains and the Cereal Fiber Found in Whole Grain Foods Has been Linked with Reduced Breast Cancer Risk
Many recent studies have looked at the eﬀect that diet, speciﬁcally whole grain consumption, may have on breast cancer risk and survival rates. In 2016, a study out of the Harvard School of Public Health found that women eating 1.5 servings of whole grain a day were less likely to get pre-menopausal breast cancer than those eating hardly any whole grain in their diet. In a 2018 study, data from the San Francisco Bay Area Breast Cancer Study was used to take a deeper dive into dietary patterns. Researchers focused on the eﬀect ﬁber from speciﬁc sources has on breast cancer risk, ﬁnding a statistically signiﬁcant relationship between the consumption of whole grains, bean ﬁber, and beans and reduced breast cancer risk.
The Mediterranean Diet, of which whole grains are an integral part, has also been linked with up to 40% lower risk of breast cancer. Speciﬁcally, those most closely following the Mediterranean Diet in a Dutch study in 2017, were signiﬁcantly less likely to develop estrogen-receptor-negative breast cancer – a type of breast cancer that is unlikely to respond to hormonal therapy and which accounts for roughly one third of breast cancer cases overall.
Making the Switch to Whole Grains Doesn’t Have to be Hard!
It’s clear that eating more whole grains oﬀers a host of health beneﬁts, from reduced risk of stroke, to better weight maintenance, to reduced risk of certain cancers – including breast cancer. Changing your eating habits may seem daunting, but stepping out of your comfort zone is not necessary (though you may just ﬁnd your new favorite grain if you do!) With more and more whole grain products available, simply subbing out your go-to reﬁned grain product with its whole grain counterpart is easy, whether it be sandwich bread, pizza crust, or pasta.
Speaking of which… October is also National Pasta Month, and research shows that pasta may reduce the risk of breast cancer. So in the spirit of the season, use these last weeks of October to make the switch, and make your pasta whole! The average American consumes about 20 pounds of pasta a year, so exploring whole grain options is a great way to give a boost to your whole grain consumption. Whole grain pasta also keeps you fuller longer, and boasts a nuttier, fuller taste that pairs perfectly with the deeper ﬂavors that are cropping up as the weather cools.
Not just whole wheat anymore, the growing popularity of ancient grains has resulted in a diverse array of whole grain pasta oﬀerings – with pasta made of quinoa, rice or a mixture of whole grains. No wonder our recent whole grain consumption survey shows that 41% of participants choose whole grain pasta over reﬁned. So next spaghetti night, make the switch to a whole grain pasta variety and let us know what you think! (Abby)