Can Mexican food actually help prevent breast cancer or is it wishful thinking?

By Lori Lyle - bio | email  
Posted by Charles Gazaway - email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Mexican food has become one of the most popular ethnic cuisines in the U.S., but for years, we've been told it's bad for us. Now new research says not all Mexican food is bad. In fact, some may actually help prevent breast cancer.

As a two-year breast cancer survivor, Margie Carrillo closely watches what she eats.

"I go a lot towards the fruits and the vegetables, of course salads and protein. I'm big on protein," says Margie.

Now Margie can add Mexican food to her list.

New research finds native Mexican food may actually protect women against breast cancer. But don't mistake native for the high fat, low fiber Americanized version of Mexican.

"The native Mexican diet would have an abundance of fruits and vegetables, beans, they would have tomato-based sauces and Mexican cheese," said Sue Cunningham, Ph.D., R.D., a nutritionist at the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio, TX.

Native Mexican food has ingredients you can find at the grocery store like cabbage, squash, corn, beans and different spices.

"The American Cancer Society has for years said fruits and vegetables. That is where the immune boosting components of food are found. And this is just a study that confirms that," Cunningham says.

Margie is hopeful these healthy eating habits will keep her breast cancer in permanent remission and now she knows Mexican meals might help.

Researchers also studied the western diet, a low-fat diet and a Mediterranean diet. The western diet that's high in sugar and fat was associated with the greatest risk of breast cancer.

Fast facts:

  • Roughly 182,000 new cases of female breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2008.
  • The rate of breast cancer among Hispanic women is 2/3 that of non-Hispanic white women.
  • Researchers have found that rate of breast cancer is lower among women who eat a native Mexican diet.
  • The native Mexican diet is very different from the Tex-Mex foods that are popular here in the U.S.

For general information on breast cancer: