In Light of Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Plant-based in Pink
It’s October and fall has begun (our favorite season of the year!). Crisp air, pumpkins, falling leaves, and beautiful hues of red, orange, and yellow on the trees. Everywhere we look, there is another color that has popped up this month too; pink. Pink ribbons. Pink-tinted water fountains. Pink lights. Pink signs. Pink NFL players. Pink is everywhere. All in the spirit of breast cancer awareness month. But despite the great intentions behind these breast cancer awareness projects, we can’t help but think about a HUGE part of the picture that is missing.
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women in the United States, and it’s the most common cancer among women worldwide1. We probably all know someone who has battled the disease. For Jenna, there is a very big personal connection. Both of her grandmothers have survived breast cancer. And for her it was very scary thinking that if breast cancer occurred on both sides of her family, then she would be destined to get it one day as well. However, that was what she used to think before she became plant-strong and educated about the powerful health benefits of plant-based nutrition. Now she feels empowered about her health and she knows that the whole food, plant-based (WFPB) lifestyle she is living is one that promotes optimal health and prevents disease.
Sadly, however, there was no mention of nutrition, diet, or lifestyle to Jenna’s grandmothers when they were diagnosed with breast cancer. They courageously fought through the chemotherapy and radiation. But there was no discussion about other things they could be doing to slow down or stop the cancer growth, and prevent recurrence of the cancer. And this is what upsets us the most.
Furthermore, many organizations that are dedicated to cancer research, funding, and awareness (such as the American Cancer Society), don’t do nearly enough to make people aware of the importance of diet and lifestyle. Rather, they actually promote foods that negatively affect one’s health and can contribute to disease (as seen in this newsletter promoting a recipe including butter-flavored cooking spray, sugar, milk, eggs, canola oil, and cream cheese2). They are missing a powerful message that needs to be shared. These organizations are only focusing on finding a cure, instead of preventing the cancer from developing in the first place. When raising cancer awareness, why not also raise awareness about the whole food, plant-based diet that can significantly help prevent it?!
As the common analogy goes, “genes load the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger”. Genes have much less of an effect on disease than most think. Dr. T Colin Campbell asserts that “genes do not determine disease on their own”, rather genes likely account for only 2-3% of cancer development. The media tells us that we are bombarded with carcinogens day in and day out and cancer is often portrayed as an inevitability. This creates the impression that if somebody is genetically predisposed to cancer, then they just got the short end of the stick and they’re out of luck. However, this is NOT the case. Some of the most harmful carcinogens are those that we CHOOSE to put in our body (what we eat), and there is nothing inevitable about that. Moreover, plant-based foods allow the body to thrive, contributing to overall health and fighting against disease. There is a crucial relationship between diet and overall health and THIS is the message that needs be shared by the pink ribbon campaign.
The literature and knowledge is widely available. Dr. Campbell, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Neil Barnard, and numerous others have attested to the profound health benefits associated with eating a WFPB diet. Whole, plant-based foods are loaded with fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and more. These nutrients promote health, prevent and even reverse disease. Furthermore, plant-based foods have no cholesterol and no trans or saturated fats, which are found in animal-based foods and are detrimental to health. The standard American diet (SAD), laden with animal foods, refined and processed junk foods, and high in fat and cholesterol, is repeatedly injuring the body and contributing to a whole array of diseases.
Sadly, many health care professionals don’t realize just how profoundly diet and lifestyle can impact the treatment and prevention of diseases. And doctors that are aware of the health benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet, don’t realize how realistic it is to ask their patients to make a change; they tend to underestimate the willpower of their patients, and just don’t mention it. But it isn’t fair to withhold this potentially life-changing information from people. We should have the right to be informed, and then make our own decisions based on what we think is right for us once we know all of the options available to us. Yet somehow, whole, plant-based foods still don’t have a place on the prescription pad. In fact, many so-called “best practices” of modern medicine ignore diet altogether.
A diagnosis of cancer and a prescription for chemotherapy, radiation, and/or surgery is very frightening, and can cause much physical and emotional suffering. But there is hope out there!! With a WFPB diet and an active lifestyle (even as simple as walking daily), the body has an amazing capacity to heal itself. Women (and men) need to be made aware of this information so that they can make informed decisions for themselves. Yes, giving up dairy, meat, poultry, oil, and highly processed foods in exchange for an endless variety of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains is a significant change to make, but it is hardly radical in comparison to surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation treatment. And when health, life, memories, love, and time are on the line, it is extremely important for this simple knowledge to be shared. When presented with valuable information, along with a little guidance, help, and a support system, there is so much to be gained.
Our message today is for increased awareness. Awareness of the wonders a whole food, plant-based diet and active lifestyle can have on every aspect of your health and life. A much greater emphasis needs to be placed on prevention. By eating plants today, you will be preventing pain and disease for all your tomorrows.
We cringe every time we see promotions of pink donuts, pink cookies, and pink cake. It is not okay that the junk foods contributing to the disease are the same foods being used to promote awareness about the disease. Instead, let’s look at the bigger picture. Let’s raise awareness about the power of plants and promote pink grapefruit, raspberries, watermelon, strawberries, pink apples, cranberries, beets, and radishes. We need to promote a combination of awareness about the cancer itself AND awareness of how to prevent it. Let’s race for plant-based prevention!!
And as Hippocrates so wisely said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”.
-The College Greens
P.S. For more information, research, and helpful tips about breast cancer please visit Dr. McDougall’s website.
To read about a wonderful breast cancer survivor (who elected to use a WFPB diet as her sole weapon against cancer) and role model, Ruth Heidrich, see here.
For more information about the groundbreaking science and research behind the connection between diet and cancer, please read Dr. Campbell’s book The China Study and/or visit the website.
*Also be sure to read “The China Study” by Dr. Campbell if you have not read it yet.