Breast Cancer and Coffee, Fiber Supplements and Cholesterol, Taco Salad Bowls

Breast Cancer and Coffee, Fiber Supplements and Cholesterol, Taco Salad Bowls

Q: Should breast cancer survivors avoid coffee and tea?
Q: Do fiber supplements help lower blood cholesterol?
Q: Are the edible salad bowls used in taco salads a nutrition plus or minus?

Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: Should breast cancer survivors avoid coffee and tea?

A: There’s no reason to be concerned that these drinks put breast cancer survivors at increased risk of recurrence. A large population study released earlier this year, which echoes the results of two previous studies, shows no link between breast cancer risk and consumption of regular or decaf coffee. The most recent results are from the Nurses’ Health Study and include data from almost 86,000 women followed for 22 years. The evidence collected previously, which also indicates no increased risk, includes data from more than 59,000 women in Sweden (where people consume more coffee per person than anywhere else in the world) and a study of more than 34,000 women in Iowa. For some women, moderation of coffee, tea or caffeine may be important because of pregnancy, GERD (also called esophageal reflux or heartburn), sleep difficulties or other problems.

Q: Do fiber supplements help lower blood cholesterol?

A: Some types of fiber supplements can lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, but the effects depend on the type of fiber used. Most of the studies suggest that adding 5 to 10 additional grams of soluble fiber to a healthy diet can lower LDL cholesterol by roughly three to five percent. But experts agree that the most effective cholesterol-lowering steps are reducing saturated fat consumption and losing weight if you are overweight. In addition, make sure you’re getting plenty of fiber from vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains that provide soluble fiber, like oats and barley. This is important, as these foods provide not only fiber, but a wide variety of nutrients and phytochemicals with antioxidant benefits. They may also inhibit inflammation, and research now suggests that inflammation can decrease the cholesterol-lowering effects of a healthy diet. If you’ve done all this and made at least 30 minutes of physical activity a part of your daily lifestyle, then adding a fiber supplement may be advisable. As with all supplement use, check with your doctor first.

Q: Are the edible salad bowls used in taco salads a nutrition plus or minus?

A: Usually made out of corn tortillas, these bowls are typically whole-grain products and therefore supply dietary fiber (about 2 grams) and vitamins. However, their high fat content – 16 to 22 grams of fat per bowl – means they are more similar to corn chips than a corn tortilla. While most are trans-fat free these days and very little of the fat is usually saturated fat, that much fat is nevertheless a concentrated source of calories. Typical restaurant-size tortilla bowls contain from 280 to 370 calories, nearly as many calories as the salad that goes inside. In addition, one tortilla salad bowl has as much carbohydrate as two or three pieces of bread. You’re better off ordering your salad without the edible bowl and adding beans to your salad to increase the fiber content. If you simply love tortilla bowls, limit yourself to tearing off a few bites only.

  • Matti Powersq

    I don’t think coffee will put you at a risk of reoccuring breast cancer, but years of heavy coffee drinking made my mother’s breasts full of cysts. She also had a cyst explode on her ovary which is a very painful, scary situation. caffeine has so many adverse side effects, I would just use with caution.