As I begin the transition out of my thirties, I am starting to think more and more about the signs of my aging — gray hairs sprouting up like weeds, wrinkles forming where I laugh and things sagging a little more each year. I know I can’t stop the years from passing or my body from aging, but I can help by keeping myself in good health. I detox once a year, keep in touch with my doctor and take my multivitamin when I remember. I eat my vegetables every day and consume less meat and more whole grains. From my studies in nutrition and physiology, I know the food I put in my body directly affects my overall health.
Despite my best efforts, there is a 40.4 percent chance I will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in my life. Cancer has touched the lives of almost everyone I know, in one way or another. Thankfully, many of those lives have been saved because of advances in technology and science. With early detection, good treatment and healthy choices, many patients go on to live long, healthy lives.
Multitudes of scholars have studied and written about the fields of cancer, nutrition and food. We can all learn from their studies in cancer treatment and prevention. Starting now, no matter where one is in life, changes can be made intelligently to help prevent this devastating disease.
Many cancers are caused by factors such as lifestyle, behavior and diet. Overnutrition — specifically, excess growth-producing foods like meat, dairy products, fats and sweets — is a major dietary factor in developing cancer. Our society is one of excess, and overeating is prime example of our excessive living. From this abundance of protein and fat, more growth is available to the body than it can healthfully incorporate. Overeating also can place a burden on metabolism and delay breakdown of the food.
The food we eat can play a role in cancer prevention. Focusing on the foods the body needs for vital health and strong immunity can help it better resist cancer and cell damage. Colorful fruits and vegetables provide powerful antioxidants, which block the action of free radicals. Eating a “rainbow” really is a good idea, as each color provides different spectrums of antioxidant qualities. The orange in carrots and squash is beta carotene, which has been found to benefit eye and lung health. The antioxidant lycopene helps give tomatoes their lovely red hue and is said to help with prostate, lung and stomach cancers. Cabbage and blueberries contain purple-colored anthocyanins, which are anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic. And dark, leafy greens have lutein and zeaxanthin to thank for their beautiful color and protection against skin cancer and breast cancer.
Increased consumption of fruits and vegetables could help in the prevention of cancer. This month is a perfect time to start adding more color to mealtimes, as June offers a bounty of fresh local produce from the Valley. A visit to one of our weekly farmers’ markets can inspire you and get you started on the path to positive dietary changes.
Check out these foods in season this month, which can be beneficial in cancer prevention and treatment.
Beets: Cleanse the liver and blood, strengthen the heart, calm the spirit and lubricate the intestines.
Carrots: Rich in antioxidant beta carotene and kill unhealthy bacteria.
Cherries: Queritrin, the flavonoid active in cherries, has been found to be one of the most potent anti-cancer agents. Cherries also contain ellagic acid, a naturally occurring plant phenolic known as an anti-carcinogenic/anti-mutagenic compound.
Mushrooms: Rich in germanium, an element that oxygenates. Neutralize toxic residues.
Parsley: Helps to neutralize particular types of carcinogens. Can attach to free radicals, deterring their potential damage.
Sprouts: Apigenin, the antioxidant flavonoid in sprouts, has been shown to possess remarkable anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic properties.
Swiss chard: Stimulates liver and tissues out of stagnation.
Astragalus: Builds energy, strengthens digestion and resistance to disease.
Chaparral: Studies have shown it to have a regressive impact on tumors. It is also an antihistamine and anti-inflammatory.
Dandelion: Antiviral and antifungal.
Turmeric: Studies suggest curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, can help slow the growth of cancer cells.
CARROT AND BEET SALAD
3 cups carrots, shredded
2 cups beets, shredded
1/4 cup parsley, minced
3 tablespoons basil, minced
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds,
almonds or walnuts
Shred the carrots and beets into a large bowl.
Combine fresh parsley, basil, lemon juice, honey, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Pour the vinaigrette over the mixture and toss until coated. Top with toasted nuts and serve.
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
2 cups cherries
6 cups Swiss chard, lightly packed
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
3/4 cup walnuts
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
In a medium-sized pot, combine quinoa and water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed. Turn off heat and let stand in pot, covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover, fluff with a fork and leave to cool.
Meanwhile, halve cherries and remove pits, chiffonade the chard and fresh basil leaves, and crush walnuts. Set aside.
In a small bowl, add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, minced garlic and sea salt, and whisk until they are well-combined.
In a large bowl, place cooled quinoa, add all other ingredients, and drizzle with dressing.
Gently mix until combined.