October 06, 2011

Superfoods and cancer

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and there has been much written about cancer lately, including the recent news that Steve Jobs passed away after his seven year battle with cancer.  There are many aspects of cancer prevention and I’m going to focus only on the food part (since this is a food blog).  Whether you believe in the power of food or not, some foods have been proven in studies to reduce or prevent cancer.  These foods are also known as Superfoods.  

What are Superfoods?  They are basically a group of fruits, vegetables, nuts or seeds that are very high in nutritional value and have special properties that can be used to prevent or reduce diseases.  Below is a list of some of the top anti-cancer Superfoods and easy ways you can incorporate them into your everyday meals:
  • Berries and red grapes:  These include all the red and blue berries such as strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, goji berries and acai berries.   While most of these berries can be found fresh in the supermarket, goji berries are usually found in the dried fruit / nut section and are great to use in smoothies or sprinkled over salads.  Acai berries are commonly found in health supplements these days.  Fresh berries can be eaten raw, in smoothies, and are often added to desserts, muffins and other baked recipes. 
  • Broccoli and cruciferous vegetables:  These also include cauliflower, cabbage and yes, brussel sprouts.  They are especially known to help with prostate cancer.  These vegetables are easy to cook and they don’t always have to be boiled or steamed.  Try roasting them, adding them to a comforting bake or simply serve them in a salad. 
  • Garlic, onions and leeks:  These are known to help with many ailments, including cancer.  They are also used as aromatic ingredients in cooking and add flavour to all kinds of meals so don’t be shy with that garlic…
  • Tomatoes:  The Lycopene in tomatoes is an ingredient which has been used in the study of various cancers including breast, lung, prostate and colon cancer.  It’s benefits are said to be greater when cooking them, so next time you’re deciding on what sauce to make with your pasta, make a quick and simple marinara sauce, using a can of good quality tomatoes in tomato juice, garlic and some fresh basil leaves.  Or now that the temperatures are dropping a little, how about a warming tomato based stew or soup?
  • Spinach, kale and watercress:  High in vitamins and anti-cancer properties, these green leafy vegetables can be eaten raw in salads, or cooked - see my Spanakopita recipe
  • Flaxseeds:  Contain cancer-fighting lignins.  They are usually found in the form of brown seeds in supermarkets and may also be ground.  Sprinkle over or incorporate into everything from salads to baked goods such as breads or muffins.
  • Turmeric:  This yellow spice is usually found in Indian curries.  It has been proven that taking as little as 1 teaspoon a day can help prevent or reduce tumors.  However, this is not a spice to be used in conjunction with anti-cancer drugs, so speak to your doctor first.  If eating curry every day doesn’t agree with you, try adding the spice to plain rice during cooking, sprinkle over potato wedges or potato chips and grill them in the oven, use it in main dishes such as paella (in place of saffron), in soups and also try it in salad dressings.  The list is endless for this powerful cancer-fighting spice.
  • Green Tea:  Contains properties that reduce breast cancer and other types of cancers.  Instead of drinking coffee switch to green tea as a healthier alternative.  Green tea also contains caffeine so watch your intake or you may find that you can’t sleep.
It’s also important to note that berries, grapes, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, as well as other fruit and vegetables that are eaten with their skins on, are often associated with a higher use of toxic pesticides to keep them from spoiling too soon.  If you can afford it buy organic.  If not, make sure you wash them in a natural fruit and vegetable wash or a vinegar solution to remove some of the pesticides.  A simple vinegar solution can made using 1 tablespoon of ordinary white vinegar in 1 gallon / approx. 3.7 liters of water. 

If you’re in the Dubai area, two FiA members are donating 10% of their sales in October to the Safe & Sound – Burjuman Breast Cancer Awareness Programme.  So please show some support for Lin’s doggie treats for 100% homemade gourmet doggie treats, and Pickle-in-d-middle’s fresh pickles, chutney’s and spice mixes.

Be safe and sound always!