Reducing Breast Cancer Risk Through Phytonutrients

Updated: May 30

Guest post by Kara Moore, dietetic intern, Georgia State University's Coordinated Program for Dietetics

If you're not convinced that eating more plant-based foods may help to reduce your risk of breast cancer from parts one and two of our three-part series on plant-based eating for breast breast, then keep reading. Part three, how plant-specific nutrients may help reduce breast cancer risk, takes a deeper dive into why adding more plant-based foods to your plate may mitigate the risk of breast cancer.

Phytonutrients, nutrients specific to only plants, are beneficial to human health, in part due to their antioxidant properties. Antioxidants prevent cellular damage, which may reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. Because phytonutrients are exclusive to plants, the best way to include them is through colorful vegetables and fruits, whole grain products, nuts and seeds, legumes, tea, and dark chocolate.

Recent research has evaluated the anti-carcinogenic effects of the bioactive compounds in phytonutrients. Some of the bioactive compounds that have been researched include curcumin (found in turmeric), myricetin (found in berries, nuts, herbs), geraniin (found in berries, pomegranates, walnuts), and tocotrienols (found in rice bran, barley, whole grains), just to name a few.


You may have heard of curcumin, the powerful phytonutrient in turmeric. Curcumin has shown much promise for its anticancer effects through mechanisms that prevent cancer cell growth and promote cancer cell death. Include ground turmeric in stir fries, homemade veggie burgers, or take a curcumin supplement for additional support.


Myricetin is commonly found in plant-based food sources such as vegetables, tea, berries, nuts, and herbs. It has been studied due to its anti-carcinogen and chemopreventive affect in several cancers, including breast cancer. It was recently discovered that it may prevent metastasis (the process by which cancer cells spread to other parts of the body) of breast cancer cells.

What is chemoprevention?

Plant nutrients that have been shown to suppress cancer cell proliferation, inhibit growth factor signaling pathways, induce apoptosis (death of cancer cells), inhibit cancer cell activation pathways, and inhibit growth of new cancer cells, and, therefore, may have therapeutic value.