05 Oct Special of the day: Fight cancer with a fork
“The answer to cancer is prevention, and eating foods containing cancer fighting properties is a new approach to the War on Cancer,” Dr. William Li said when asked for his best advice on staying cancer free. “Food is the chemotherapy we take three times per day, and it’s the health choice entirely under our control.”
Dr. Li is President and Medical Director of the Angiogenesis Foundation (www.angio.org) where research includes studying foods that can starve the microscopic cancers that develop in our bodies all the time. The Angiogenesis Foundation’s Eat to Defeat Cancer Campaign aims to mobilize one million volunteers to spread the good news of their work in the area of anti-angiogenesis while furthering their work in cancer prevention. (Read more about the Angiogenesis Foundation, the evidence, cancer fighting foods, recipes and what you can do to help at www.eattodefeat.org.)
I first became acquainted with Dr. Li’s work on starving cancer cells of oxygen by eating certain foods thorough a TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design Ideas Worth Spreading) lecture I viewed about a year ago. The idea of preventing cancer through food choices intrigued me, and frankly, I’ve been thinking about it ever since. (See the video at: http://www.ted.com/talks/william_li.htmland you’ll see what I mean.)
Foods that contain naturally occurring cancer fighting substances include fruits such as apples, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, clementines, cranberries, grapefruit, lemons, nectarines, oranges, peaches, pomegranates, raspberries, red grapes and strawberries.
Vegetables on the cancer prevention list include artichokes, beets, Bok Choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, kale, onions, parsley, parsnips, peppers, pumpkins, radishes, spinach, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips and winter squashes.
Herbs and spices shown to fight cancer are basil, black pepper, cinnamon, flaxseed, garlic, ginger, ginseng, lavender, licorice root, nutmeg, oregano, rosemary, sesame seed, tarragon and turmeric.
Cuttlefish, oysters, sea cucumber, shrimp and squid are among the seafood with specific healthy properties listed, and even dark chocolate, green tea and maple syrup contain benefits when it comes to defeating cancer cells. A complete list of cancer fighting foods can be found at the nonprofit Eat to Defeat Cancer site (www.eattodefeat.org).
Optimizing anticancer properties varies depending on the food, but for cruciferous or green leafy vegetables like broccoli, steaming or stir frying are better than boiling because prolonged heat will reduce the cancer-fighting properties, Li said. Li advises against boiling a green vegetable more than 10 minutes as that is the time at which cancer fighters degrade and fall sharply.
Legumes such as soy, peanuts, lentils and beans can all reduce the risk of breast cancer, he said. The beans can be baked and the peanuts dried or pressed into peanut butter.
“A major study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that breast cancer patients who ate more soy actually survive longer than those who eat little or no soy,” Li said, explaining that soy products can be soy milk, tofu or soy paste.
Eating fish that contain omega-3 fatty acids like flounder, salmon, sardines, anchovies, shrimp and squid can reduce breast cancer risk by decreasing inflammation and helping to prevent blood vessels from feeding cancer cells, according to Li. For breast cancer, he said, risk reduction is seen with eating two or more servings of these fish each week.
In addition, foods rich in carotenoids, such as oranges, carrots and kale also reduce the risk of breast cancer. Other brightly colored foods rich in carotenoids include sweet potato, mango and papaya.
Dr. Li mentioned that while olive oil has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer, the type of olive the oil is made from matters and can be determined by examining the label on the side of the bottle of olive oil. The highest levels of cancer-fighting polyphenols are found in the Moraiolo olive from Italy, the Picual olive from Spain, and the Koroneiki olive from Greece.
When it comes to eating to defeat cancer, local Benefis registered dietician Katie Wichman was quick to point out her own list of dos and don’ts when making food choices.
Good vs. bad fats. Saturated fats, or fats that are typically solid at room temperature (butter, dairy products and meat) can increase the levels of bad cholesterol and contribute to artery-clogging while mono and polyunsaturated fats that stay liquid at room temperature can decrease bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol levels in your body. Olive oil is an example of a monounsaturated fatty acid, also known as a MUFA, which in moderation has been shown to have various health benefits.
Label-reading is an important strategy in knowing what you are putting into your body, she said, mentioning that if you’re a butter lover, buying a buttery spread made with olive oil or canola oil is a better option, adding that Land o’ Lakes makes spreads made with flax or olive oil.
Water vs. other liquids. Drinking water instead of calorie-laden beverages can help you maintain a healthy weight which goes a long way in reducing the risk of cancer and other diseases.
Whole fruit vs. juices. Eating raw, whole fruit delivers more fiber and nutrition than drinking fruit juice, which often has added sugar.
Raw whole vegetables vs. canned vegetables. Choosing raw, whole vegetables is a better option nutritionally when preparing food at home.
Steaming vegetables vs. eating accidentally burned foods. Avoiding any burning when cooking will eliminate the danger of ingesting carcinogens which have been shown to be cancer-causing.
Cleaning produce vs. skipping the scrub. Washing fruits and vegetables before preparing them is important to remove any possible pesticide residue.
Whole grains vs. processed grains. Choosing whole grains with at least 3 grams of fiber instead of enriched or processed grains.
Wichman pointed out that Dr. David Servan-Schreiber has said that we all have cancer cells in our body, but only one out of three of us will develop cancer because of natural defenses. Tapping into the power of healthy food choices can help prevent, fight and even treat cancer.
For Servan-Schreiber’s “100 Best Cooking Tips for Cancer”, go to: http://radiographyschools.org/100-best-cooking-tips-for-cancer-prevention/.
Using the list of recommended foods on the Eat to Defeat website, I went to work in the kitchen creating recipes for an appetizer, entrée and side dish all starring cancer fighting superfoods for this week’s Special of the day: Eat to Beat Cancer just in time for October and Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Take good care, and happy cooking!
Recipes and food photography by Sydne George
*Ingredients with cancer fighting properties have been italicized for emphasisRaw Cruciferous Veggies and Walnut Pesto Dip Serves 6 as an appetizer Make the dip: ½ cup Mayo with Olive Oil 2 tablespoons squeeze basil (produce department) ¼ cup walnuts, finely chopped Stir together all dip ingredients to combine thoroughly in small bowl. 2 cups fresh broccoli, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces 2 cups fresh cauliflower, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces 1 cup fresh Brussels sprouts, blanched in simmering water for 5 minutes Arrange vegetables and dip on serving platter. Serve with frilled toothpicks. Enjoy! Asian Salmon Fillets with Plum Sauce, Scallions and Toasted Sesame Seeds Serves four 4 4-6 ounce wild salmon fillets 1 8-ounce jar all natural Plum sauce, divided (Asian food aisle) 3 tablespoons scallions, washed and sliced thinly 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (Asian food aisle) Preheat barbecue to medium high (400 degrees). Lay out three sheets of aluminum foil, one on top of the other, folding in all four edges, to make a foil tray, about 15 inches long. Lay salmon fillets atop foil tray, leaving space between. Brush 1-2 tablespoons plum sauce over each fillet to cover. Cook on preheated grill for 6-9 minutes or until fillets are opaque and cooked through. (Cooking time will vary according to thickness of the fillets.) Let rest briefly before serving.
Wilted Bok Choy Serves four 3 tablespoons olive oil 2 large bunches Bok Choy, thoroughly washed and trimmed Salt and freshly ground pepper While salmon is grilling, heat olive oil in medium sauté pan until hot. Add Bok Choy and quickly stir fry until wilted. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Maple-glazed Sweet Potato Medallions Serves four 2 medium sweet potatoes, thoroughly washed, sliced into ¼ inch thick medallions 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup While salmon is grilling, heat olive oil in medium sauté pan until hot. Add sweet potato medallions and let cook until lightly browned on one side and turn. Cook other side until lightly browned and top with maple syrup. Cover pan, remove from heat and let maple syrup glaze sweet potatoes briefly. To plate: Arrange a bed of Wilted Bok Choy in the center of each dinner plate. Add a serving of Maple-glazed Sweet Potatoes to each plate. Place one Asian Grilled Salmon Fillet atop each bed of Wilted Bok Choy. Drizzle additional plum sauce over each fillet, if desired. Sprinkle sliced scallions and toasted sesame seeds over each fillet. Enjoy!
Books to check out:
- Prescription to Taste: A Cooking Guide for Cancer Patients by Luis F. Pineda, M.D. with Edie Hand
- Anticancer: A New Way of Life by David Servan-Schreiber
- Eating Well Through Cancer: Easy Recipes & Recommendations During & After Treatment by Holly Clegg and Gerald Miletello.
- Beating Cancer with Nutrition by Dr. Patrick Quillin
- The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery by Rebecca Katz and Mat Edelson
- What to Eat if You Have Cancer: Healing Foods that Boost Your Immune System by Maureen Keane and Daniella Chace
- Angiogenesis Foundation www.angio.org
- Eat to Defeat Cancer http://www.eattodefeat.org
- American Institute for Cancer Research http://www.aicr.org/reduce-your-cancer-risk/diet/reduce_diet_recipes_test_kitchen.html
- Cooking with Cancer: http://www.cookingwithcancer.org
- National Breast Cancer Awareness Month: http://nbcam.org/recipecorner
- Cancer Fighters Thrive: http://cfthrive.com/recipes.aspx
Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sydne’s “Special of the day” columns and recipes are archived at: http://sydnegeorge.com/blog.