Here's something that you might not have put a ton of thought into before—what are the signs that your breasts are healthy? While most of us know that giving ourselves self-breast exams (in order to check for any abnormal lumps) is important, what should we be factoring in beyond that? Well, according to many health experts, our breasts are in good shape if 1) the skin that covers our breasts is, for the most part, even-toned and the same texture; 2) they are warm in temperature (not hot but warm); 3) there is no discharge that's coming from our nipples (unless we're pregnant); 4) outside of pregnancy and PMS, they aren't tender; 5) the lymph nodes under our armpits aren't swollen and 6) if our breasts do have natural lumps in them (which is fairly common), they haven't changed in size.
In a nutshell, if your breasts are indicating something different from any of this, it's important to make an appointment with your physician as soon as possible. Aside from the fact that we, as Black women, have the highest mortality rate when it comes to breast cancer, our breasts are simply something that we shouldn't take for granted.They require tender loving care, just like any other part of our body does. One way to nurture both of your "girls" is to eat the kinds of foods that are proven to aid in keeping them toned and breast cancer-free. If you're interested in being proactive about the health and well-being of your breasts, here are 10 foods that you should consume on a regular basis.
1. Allium Veggies
If you've got no clue what allium vegetables are, I'll break it down real quick. Allium is the Latin word for "garlic" and allium veggies consist of foods that have a strong amount of sulfur in them that are used for regular consumption as well as medicinal purposes. Some foods that fall into this category include garlic (of course), chives, leeks, scallions, shallots and onions. Allium veggies are good for your overall health and well-being because the sulfur that's in them can do everything to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and protect your heart to reduce bodily inflammation (thanks to the quercetin that's in them) and control your blood sugar levels. Since sulfur also contains powerful cancer-fighting properties, that's the main reason why allium veggies top the list of foods that can help to protect your breasts.
Turmeric is a spice that's really popular in traditional Indian dishes. But whether or not you like Indian cuisine, this is something that you should have in your spice collection. Turmeric is a member of the ginger family and contains a fair amount of manganese, Vitamin C, potassium and iron. It's even got some fiber and protein in it too. As far as its health benefits go, turmeric can help to reduce depression-related symptoms, decrease symptoms that are connected to rheumatoid arthritis, fight obesity, relieve pain and, it's an awesome detoxifier. Two other benefits of turmeric include the fact that it can help to keep your skin youthful and glowing and, it can even help to keep you from getting type 2 diabetes. All of this is because of the chemical compound curcumin that's in turmeric. It's curcumin that also has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties that make it great for keeping your breasts healthy. And since turmeric is wonderful for your skin, it's a spice that can keep your breasts in great shape, from the inside out.
Celery is made up of 95 percent water. So, if you're looking for a food that can help you out if you happen to be dehydrated (and you want to do something other than just drink water), celery can definitely help you out. Plus, it's loaded with health benefits as well. Believe it or not, even though it's got all of that water in it, celery is still packed with nutrients like vitamins B6, C and K, along with folate, potassium, antioxidants, electrolytes, enzymes and antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. All of these work together to reduce your cholesterol and blood pressure levels; inhibit the growth of bacteria that could ultimately lead to infections; get rid of bloating; lower your chances of experiencing a urinary tract infection (UTI) and fight bodily inflammation.
On the breast health tip, celery has high levels of the compound polyacetylenes in it. These work to stop cancer cells from even forming. And, since Vitamin C increases the production of collagen in your body, celery can help to keep the cancer cells away while making sure your breasts are supple and toned too. Pretty cool, huh?
If you've ever wondered what the healthiest beans are, the list includes chickpeas, lentils, peas, kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, navy beans and peanuts (yep, peanuts happen to fall into the beans and nuts categories). Beans are high in fiber, protein, iron, copper, folate and manganese. Beans also contain antioxidants to keep free radicals at bay, "good bacteria" (especially if they're black beans) to keep your gut in good condition, and ingredients that can keep you from getting a fatty liver (you can read more about that here). Also, thanks to the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents that beans have, they are just one more food that can keep cancer from creeping into your system.
If you ever wondered when plums are in season, it's usually between the months of May and October. And while I'm sure you probably already know this, just for the record, the dried-out version of plums are prunes. Plums have about one gram of fiber in them, along with 10 percent of the Vitamin C and five percent of the Vitamin A that your system needs on a daily basis per serving. If you make eating them a consistent thing, plums can fill you up with antioxidants, lower your blood sugar levels, improve your bone health, lower your blood pressure, reduce your anxiety levels (which are typically higher when the antioxidants in your body are lower than they should be), and they are also great for your breasts. There are impressive studies that the properties in plums (and peaches) have the ability to not only kill already present cancer cells, they can do that without damaging any of the healthy cells that might be around them too.
6. Olive Oil
The health benefits of olive oil are vast. Not only is it the kind of oil that is loaded with oleic acid (which is a healthy fat), it's also an oil that is packed with vitamins E and K, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. The combination of all of this can help to lower your blood pressure and even reduce your risk of having a stroke or a heart attack. Some other awesome things about olive oil is it's one oil that actually doesn't cause you to gain weight when you consume it, it is able to reduce symptoms that are related to rheumatoid arthritis, it can lower your type 2 diabetes risk and olive oil contains antibacterial properties that are able to fight the type of bacteria that can lead to stomach ulcers and stomach cancer.
The Vitamin E and antioxidants can keep your breasts looking young. And there are studies to reflect that extra virgin olive oil can reduce your risk of getting breast cancer.
Flaxseeds are the kind of seeds that are great for you from head to toe (have you ever made your own flaxseed gel for your hair? If not, check out this tutorial video here). Health-wise, flaxseeds are a good source of protein, fiber and, they've got a ton of omega-3 fatty acids in them (along with a small trace of other nutrients like Vitamin B1, magnesium, phosphorus and others). The dietary fiber in flaxseeds can help to keep you regular. Plus, flaxseeds are able to help to lower your cholesterol levels, control your blood sugar and, if you're looking for something that can assist with weight loss, flaxseeds can do that too. Aside from flaxseeds also containing lignans and antioxidants to keep the skin on your breasts nice and smooth, lignans can help to decrease your chances of being diagnosed with breast cancer as well.
If you're an avid fish lover, good for you, sis. Fish is an awesome source of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamins B2 and D, calcium, iron, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium. Every time you consume fish, you're playing a part in reducing your risk of heart disease and Alzheimer's disease. You're also lowering your risk of depression; improving your eye health; decreasing your risk of heart failure; decreasing your risk of being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease; speeding you your metabolism; alleviating your PMS symptoms (due to the fatty acids) and, rejuvenating your body after a workout (thanks to the combo of the Vitamin D and fatty acids). As far as what the healthiest fish are, salmon, mackerel, tuna, halibut, mahi-mahi, herring and freshwater whiting top the list. As far as why fish are good for your breast health, it's a lean form of protein; the leaner the meat is, the less of a chance you'll have of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
When's the last time you cracked open a few walnuts? They've got more antioxidants in them than any other nut. Not only that but walnuts are also a wonderful source of omega-3 fatty acids; they promote a healthy gut; they can help to manage type 2 diabetes; they contain polyunsaturated fat, polyphenols and vitamin E that work together to keep your brain in great shape; they can keep your man's sperm in peak condition and, walnuts are another food that fights inflammation. And is it good for your girls? Well, there are studies that reveal that walnuts have been able to reduce the size of breast cancer tumors in mice. The way I see it, this means that these are the kind of nuts that can only help, not hurt.
I don't care if you like acai berries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries or even grapes (yes, grapes are berries too)—all of them are a delicious way to care for your overall health and well-being. Matter of fact, when it comes to the list of superfoods that are in the world, berries are on it. That's because they are loaded with the kind of antioxidants that will help to reduce any oxidative stress that you may have in your body. Berries are also high in fiber, vitamins C and K and manganese. The ellagic acid in them can increase the collagen in your system so that your skin stays youthful looking. Berries also have properties in them that can keep your arteries nice and clear.
Finally, berries are the type of fruit that reduces inflammation while containing the antioxidants anthocyanins and resveratrol that work together to significantly decrease your cancer risk, long-term. So, do all of you, including your breasts, a favor and have a bowl of fresh berries this week. It's a delicious way to keep your girls tight—well, toned—and right. Literally.
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