I get lots of questions on how best to eat when cancer is a concern. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I thought I'd share some.

What are the best vegetables to eat to help prevent cancer?

Vegetables and fruits are healthy choices no matter what our health concerns are. Some are even better than others at preventing cancer, especially cruciferous vegetables.

Researchers studying the compounds in crucifers have found that there seems to be a two-pronged benefit they work to prevent cancer from forming, in part by helping the liver get rid of carcinogenic compounds they enhance survival after a cancer diagnosis by slowing and stopping the growth of cancer cells.

Indulge frequently in these veggies:

"¢ Arugula

"¢ Bok choy

"¢ Broccoli

"¢ Brussels sprouts

"¢ Cabbage

"¢ Cauliflower

"¢ Collard greens

"¢ Horseradish

"¢ Kale

"¢ Kohlrabi

"¢ Mustard greens

"¢ Radishes

"¢ Rutabaga

"¢ Turnip greens

"¢ Turnips

"¢ Watercress

Is it safe to eat soy?

Soy is a great source of vegetable-based protein and comes in many forms such as tofu, edamame, miso, tempeh, soy milk, soy oil and soy sauce. It contains compounds called isoflavones. Isoflavones are phytoestrogens, meaning they can act like the estrogen our bodies make. For the most part, they seem to have a beneficial effect on our health. Where things get really mixed is with breast cancer as some studies show a preventive effect and some show a negative impact.

Some forms (not all) of breast cancer are hormone-dependent, meaning hormones like estrogen can feed the growth of tumor cells. With estrogen-receptive cancers, treatment may include the drug tamoxifen which blocks the estrogen receptors on the breast tissue cells to slow the growth of the tissue.

The bottom line is avoid soy products if you've been diagnosed with a hormone-dependent cancer, or you're taking tamoxifen because of your risk (soy interferes with the effectiveness of the drug). Soy sauce is okay because it doesn't contain isoflavones. For everyone else, it's probably okay to eat soy products a few times per week.

What about eating meat?

Eating meat is a triple-whammy when it comes to cancer prevention:

Whammy #1:

Meat is high in dietary fat, especially saturated fat. Studies have shown that countries with a higher intake of fat, especially from animal products, have a higher incidence of cancer. Studies of red meat consumption by the American Institute of Cancer Research have also shown links to increased risk of various types of cancers. The high fat content in animal products leads to increased hormone production, which then increases the risk of cancers that are hormone-related, such as breast and prostate cancer.

Whammy #2:

Meat lacks the nutrients such as fiber and antioxidants (found in fruits & vegetables) that have a protective effect on our health. Produce is high in fiber to help keep the food moving through our GI system so it doesn't hang around to cause us any problems, and contains a rainbow of antioxidants. Since meat doesn't have those benefits, not only can it negatively impact our health, it doesn't have a positive effect.

Whammy #3:

Grilling & charring meat adds to the carcinogenic effect. It turns out that grilling food can expose it to two different types of cancer-causing agents (carcinogens):

PAHs, created when the food's fat drips onto the heat source, causing the food to be coated with PAH-filled smoke

HCAs, created when food is cooked over high heat, and when red meat is cooked well-done

So what's a meat-lover to do? If you're not ready to give up meat altogether, try these tips:

When grilling, limit your risk by trimming meat well, don't overcook it and use an olive-oil based marinade prior to cooking. Reduce. Cut your typical portion size in half and add some healthy grains or veggies to your plate. You'll still have the meat you enjoy, so you may find it's easy to eat less.

Replace. Hearty vegetables like portobello mushrooms can be cooked just like burgers and are a great substitute.

Remove (gradually). Make one dinner each week meatless. Try a bean-based chili instead. As you get accustomed to that, add another meatless meal each week. Build up slowly.