A new study has found that a higher intake of healthy fats and proteins from peanuts and vegetables may reduce the risk of Benign Breast Disease (BBD) in young women.

What is BBD?

BBD is a benign (ie non cancerous) condition that is often found in young women as a result of hormonal changes.

The ‘Growing up today ‘ study included over 9,000 girls aged 9-15 years in 1996, who completed food questionnaires every year until 2001 and then another four times until 2010.

From 2005 the women reported on whether they had been diagnosed with BBD that had been confirmed by breast biopsy.

The researchers found that the greatest sources of vegetable fat and protein in the group during the period from 1996 to 1998 (when the girls were youngest), were peanut butter, peanuts, nuts and beans (including beans, lentils and soya beans).  A daily serving of any one of these foods was associated with a lower risk.  This was also the case when the girls were 14 years old.

Girls with a family history of breast cancer had significantly lower risk if they consumed any of these foods or vegetable fats.

The study concluded that consumption of vegetable protein, fat, peanut butter, or nuts by older girls may help reduce their risk of BBD as young women.

This is significant because BBD is considered a risk factor for breast cancer later in life.

How to increase these foods in the diet

There are some great nut butters available to buy.  I like those made by Meridian, who not only make smooth and crunchy peanut butter but also cashew, hazelnut and almond.  Their butters do not contain any sugars or other additives making them a healthy choice. Nut butters are a healthy snack to have with oatcakes providing a good source of vegetarian protein and beneficial fats.

Beans and lentils are also full of protein and fibre and can be added to salads and stews, or have a go at this recipe:

Butter Bean and Tomato Salad

(great served with grilled fish or kebabs or as lunch dish)

 What you need

  • 420g can butter beans, drained and rinsed
  • 500g cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 small green or yellow courgettes (about 300g in total), chopped
  • into small dice
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 15-20g pack fresh coriander, chopped
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground cumin


What you do

Tip all the ingredients into a bowl with some salt and pepper and mix well.  Cover and leave at room temperature until ready to serve.  This salad can happily be made the day before and chilled.

Reference: Colditz GA and Frazier AL.  Vegetable protein and vegetable fat intakes in pre-adolescent and adolescent girls, and risk for benign breast disease in young women. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment 2013, 141:2.