A large-scale Harvard study found that adolescents and young adults who ate more fiber had a lower incidence of breast cancer as older adults.
Researchers at the Harvard Chan School used data from the Nurses’ Health Study II, a goldmine of information about what women ate and how healthy they were over time. They were able to look at diet surveys for 90,534 women aged 27-44 who reported what they ate now and what they ate when they were in high school. Women who ate more fiber had a 12-19 percent lower incidence of breast cancer.
The study, published earlier this month in the journal Pediatrics, also found that if these young women were getting their fiber from fresh fruits and vegetables, they had an even lower incidence of breast cancer.
Study authors think that fiber’s estrogen-regulating quality is part of what’s protecting these women from breast cancer. They also stress that these results underscore how important good nutrition is to developing bodies. Senior study author Walter Willett said in a press release, “From many other studies we know that breast tissue is particularly influenced by carcinogens and anticarcinogens during childhood and adolescence. We now have evidence that what we feed our children during this period of life is also an important factor in future cancer risk.”
How to Get Your Kids to Eat More Fiber
Saying “feed your kids more fruits and vegetables” is one thing. Making it happen is another. As a mom to a three-year-old, I know that getting a kid to eat his kale can be a bite-by-bite trial. Before having kids, I was sure I’d never hide vegetables in my child’s food or use tricks to get him to eat his veggies. How naive I was!
These are a few of the tricks I use to get my son to eat more fruits and vegetables. Steal my ideas, and please share your own in the comments!
- Embrace the “try bite.” I wish I could remember who taught me the concept of try bites so that I could kiss that person on the mouth. Basically, instead of just serving your kids something new, you encourage them to take one small bite, just to see how they like it. Kids are wary of new foods, and just plopping a bunch of veggies in front of them can be overwhelming. A single bite, though, is a little more doable, and my son has discovered lots of veggies that he actually likes thanks to the try bite.
- Use peer pressure. Eat with other kids who are adventurous! My son’s best buddy is a great vegetable-eater, and he’s a lot more likely to try a new veggie if he sees his pal eating it.
- But don’t use parent pressure. If my son senses that I really want him to eat all of his veggies, he is sure to not eat any of them. Once he takes a try bite, it’s up to him. Pressing more just turns it into a power struggle that’s bigger than broccoli.
- Try new foods when they’re really hungry. Kids are more likely to try healthier foods after they’ve played hard, because they’re hungrier. I’ve seen this in action at the dinner table. My son is a much more adventurous eater if he’s worked up an appetite on the playground or in the back yard before we eat.
- Hide them. If your kids are really picky about fruits and veggies, don’t be afraid to hide them! Blend them into a smoothie, puree them into soups or sauces, or tuck them into a veggie burger.
Do you have any other tricks for getting more cancer-preventing fruits and vegetables into your kid’s day? I’d love to hear your favorite tips in the comments!