Anticancer Eating

For many years I practiced oncology nutrition (nutrition for people with cancer). To say that it was one of my most rewarding jobs would be an understatement. I loved meeting new people but more than that I loved meeting people who had the strength of titanium and hearts of gold.

I became interested in cancer prevention during that time. What could I do to help people prevent cancer from coming back and what could I do to help people never have to go through this terrible disease at all? As I began researching there were tons of research articles on diet and cancer prevention. After digging deeper, going to conferences, and reading evidence based books written by dietitians and medical doctors, I discovered that diet has a lot to do with cancer prevention…a whole lot!

In fact, a lot of lifestyle choices have to do with preventing cancer whether it is a recurrence or preventing it all together. What you eat, being active, lowering your stress, and having a healthy mindset are pillars to your well-being and help to reduce your cancer risk.

Here are the top 10 diet changes you can make to reduce your risk of cancer:

  1. Eat more plants: I mean, a lot more than you probably do right now. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends your diet should be at least 2/3 plants. Plant foods include: fruits, vegetables, whole grains (brown rice, wild rice, corn, whole wheat, barley), nuts, seeds, oils, herbs, and spices.
  2. Eat a lot less animal products: that includes meats, cheeses, butter, creams…anything that comes from an animal. I didn’t say avoid them because there are some benefits to eating a moderate amount of animal products (some of which include essential vitamins and minerals that you can’t get from plants). Our society just eats way too much!
  3. Focus on getting colors from your diet: and I don’t mean from m&m’s and skittles…for real. Eating a variety of colors from plant foods, gives your body a variety of antioxidants. Antioxidants can protect your cells from the nasty changes that form cancer cells.
    • Red – tomato, watermelon, red bell pepper, red apple, sweet potato
    • Orange – Oranges, pumpkin, cantaloupe, orange bell peppers
    • Yellow – lemons, summer squash, yellow bell pepper, yellow tomatoes
    • Green – broccoli, green beans, limes, green apples, lettuces
    • Blue/purple – blueberries, purple cabbage, egg plant, purple onion, grapes
    • White/tan – banana (you don’t eat the yellow skin), mushrooms, cabbage, potatoes, whole grains, nuts, seeds
  4. Do what you can to avoid processed animal meat. Processed meats have been preserved by smoking, salting, curing or adding different preservatives. Deli meats, bacon, ham, hot dogs, and smoked sausage are all examples of meats that have been processed.
  5. Drink less alcohol. Men that means 2 drinks daily and women that means one drink daily (12 oz beer, 1 oz shot, 5 oz wine). Alcohol increases the risk of many cancers including breast, colon, liver, and mouth. If you don’t drink, don’t start. The cancer risk far outweighs the heart healthy protection of red wine. There are other things you can do to keep your heart healthy.
  6. Lose weight the healthy way. Being obese increases your risk for cancer. This doesn’t mean to start losing weight in an unhealthy way. Reduce portion sizes, be smart about food choices, eat a balanced diet, and discuss your goals with a registered dietitian.
  7. Eat more fat. But not just any fat, omega-3 fats. These fantastic foods help to reduce inflammation in your body which can help decrease your risk for cancer. Fit in more walnuts, pecans, canola oil, flax seed, chia seed, salmon, and tuna to get those wonderful omega-3’s!
  8. Drink tea. Green and white tea have a phytonutrient called EGCG. This powerful antioxidant has shown to be a super cancer fighter. Using tea bags instead of buying it pre-made in the store is much more effective. A splash of lemon or lime in your tea will increase the effectiveness of EGCG!
  9. Fermented foods. Yep, you read that right! Fermented foods have amazing bacteria that our bodies need in order to keep a good balance in our gut which may help to protect our body from cancer cells. Sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables, kefer, sourdough bread (the real stuff), yogurt, kimchi, and tempeh are all great sources of those friendly bacteria.
  10. Incorporate herbs and spices. Especially ones like turmeric, rosemary, basil, parsley, cayenne pepper, and black pepper. These have been shown to protect cells against cancer. Try to incorporate them in your typical diet to flavor your food and added protection.

Cancer prevention is so important. Each one of you reading this have been impacted by this terrible disease. Maybe it was you who was diagnosed. Perhaps a parent or sibling. Maybe a grandparent or extended family or a close friend. Regardless, we are fighting a war against cancer. Diet change is the military that can help protect our body from an infiltration of enemy cancer cells.

I’m so deeply passionate about eating for an anticancer lifestyle because I’ve seen cancer at its worst. I have seen it take the strong and make them weak. I’ve watched as it stripped away peoples sense of self. I sat with an individual who used to love to eat and cook not be able to even look at or smell food. I’ve held the hand of people who cried because they never thought it would have been them. But you know what? I’ve seen people rise victorious from cancer. I talked with survivors who can now appreciate the small things in life. I have laughed with survivors who look forward to a brand new life with a brand new outlook. I have eaten with survivors who taste food with so much appreciation. I have been thanked by survivors who said my simple diet tips had made them look at diet as an expedition with others not a journey alone.

Let’s do this together. Let’s change our eating habits together to help fight this terrible disease. Who is with me?!?!

Stay tuned, later this month, for an anticancer eating plan and more tips on making your diet powerful in the fight against cancer!

For more information on anticancer eating check out the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Endometriosis Diet

There are many women who struggle with a disease called endometriosis. Not many dietitians have approached the subject because there is not a lot of research for diet and endometriosis but it is a huge problem for millions of women. It is an inflammatory disease of the endometrium (a thin sheet-like tissue that surrounds the uterus). When it starts to creep out into areas that it shouldn’t, it is called endometriosis.

This is a significant issue for women and can cause severe abdominal pains, bowel issues (constipation or diarrhea), bladder incontinence, and infertility. It can disrupt a woman’s life more than many people think but there are things women can do to reduce the symptoms.

Because endometriosis is an inflammatory disease, an anti-inflammatory diet may be able to help reduce the symptoms. Please do not read me incorrectly, I do not think an anti-inflammatory diet will cure endometriosis…I’m not that kind of “nutritionist”. But I think it could significantly make a woman’s quality of life much better and reduce the syptoms.

So what is an anti-inflammatory diet? It is a way of eating to reduce inflammation in the body…a lot of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, oils, nuts, seeds, fish, herbs, and spices. If you are wanting an anti-inflammatory meal plan please see your local dietitian who can discuss this with you personally and work with you to create a diet that will work for you.

Foods to incorporate into your diet:

  1. Fruits – fresh and frozen are the best. Get a variety and at least 2 servings daily. Just eating apples and bananas are good but you’ll be missing out on antioxidants found in tropical fruits, berries, melons, and pit fruits like peaches.
  2. Vegetables – similar to fruits, fresh and frozen are the best and getting many different colors will give your body tons of antioxidants. You need at least 3 daily but I’m a big fan of getting in as many as possible. Shoot for reds (tomatoes, bell peppers), greens (spinach, asparagus), yellows/oranges (butternut and summer squash), blues/purples (purple cabbage, eggplant), whites/tans (mushrooms, cabbage).
  3. Grains – because they are a plant food they also have antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Along with those benefits these power foods also have protein and fiber! Instead of the processed grains like white flour (white bread) and white rice choose whole grains like whole wheat bread and brown rice. PS corn is a whole grain not a vegetable 🙂
  4. Oils, Nuts, and Seeds – these super important fats are needed in our bodies ESPECIALLY on an anti-inflammatory diet. Canola oil and walnut oil are very high in omega-3 fatty acids and are great to cook with. Omega-3 fatty acids are naturally anti-inflammatory. This means that eating more foods that are higher in omega-3 fats will help your body with inflammation. Along with canola oil and walnuts (walnut oil), flax seeds, chia seeds, pecans, and wheat germ are also high in omega-3’s. Other oils, nuts, and seeds are beneficial as well for your heart health and overall well-being.
  5. Oily fish – salmon, tuna, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines are packed with those anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. Fit these in to your weekly meal plan or consider taking a quality tested fish oil supplement (check with your doctor before beginning any supplement). Canned salmon and tuna are very budget friendly ways to get in these fish. I prefer them on salads or sandwiches!
  6. Herbs and Spices – many herbs and spices are naturally anti-inflammatory. Turmeric is a heavy hitter in this department. This proven inflammation reducer has shown to be a big player in the anti-inflammatory world. Other herbs and spices have shown some benefit as well like ginger, black pepper, garlic, and cayenne pepper.

So what would an anti-inflammatory diet for endometriosis look like? Here’s a glimpse with two examples:

Breakfast:

  • Oatmeal with walnuts, chia seeds, and blueberries
  • Whole wheat toast with almond butter and banana

Lunch:

  • Salad with canned salmon and black beans
  • Tuna salad sandwich on whole wheat bread and carrot sticks

Dinner:

  • Grilled chicken, steamed broccoli, and brown rice
  • Baked mackerel, asparagus, red skinned potatoes

Snack:

  • Raisins and walnuts
  • Celery sticks and hummus

I recommend, for those that have endometriosis, to meet with a registered dietitian and go over your diet to see how you can make it more anti-inflammatory. Again, it will not cure the disease but if it can improve your symptoms and overall well-being then it is worth a shot! Some insurances may cover nutrition counseling for diseases like endometriosis so check with your health insurance company prior to your appointment.

To find a dietitian in your area check out: http://www.eatright.org/find-an-expert

*If you think you have endometriosis please see your gynecologist. For those that have endometriosis and decide to change your diet please let your gynecologist know*

Healthy Kitchen Must-Haves

Eating well requires meal preparation. That means I need to have quality foods in my pantry and the ability to prepare them. There is a list of food and kitchen items that are essential in my kitchen and I wanted to share. If you are new to the cooking world or maybe are wondering what a healthy kitchen could have to offer, here are some of my favorites.

Food Must-Haves (besides the typical foods on a grocery list…)

  1. Fats and oils. This is number one because they get a bad rap but these are essential for healthy living. From canola and olive oil to organic butter and vegan butter spreads these are a staple in my kitchen. The best oils include canola and olive but also include grape seed, avocado, and walnut oils. I like canola oil for its mild taste, high omega-3 content, high cooking point, and price tag. Grape seed oil is a close second but the price tag makes me shiver a little. It’s great for a special occasion or recipe. Olive oil is a power house in the heart health world packed with mono-unsaturated fatty acids. Great for finishing dishes like salads and pastas, not so great for cooking at high heat. Organic butter (or pasture raised/free range if I can find it) is an essential in my house. It works great at higher heats, wonderful for adding a pop of flavor to dishes, and doesn’t have the additives that some butter-like spreads have. Vegan butter spreads are also a staple in my house but mostly for buttering breads and throwing a little in steamed veggies.
  2. Herbs and spices. I cook with herbs and spices daily whether it goes into eggs for breakfast, salad dressing for my lunch, or any number of them flavoring dinners these are a staple. The top herbs I use are parsley, cilantro, chives, oregano, and basil. My spices of choice are black pepper, turmeric, paprika, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground ginger.
  3. Variety of vinegars. I. Love. Vinegar. Balsamic, white balsamic, red wine, white wine, apple cider, rice, champagne, the list can go on! I haven’t met a vinegar I didn’t like! I use vinegar daily. Mostly in salad dressings, marinades, and pops of flavor in sauces. There are specific vinegars I use depending on my mood and the dish. Apple cider is my most used. This is so versatile and so good for your body! Balsamic is more for sweet/savory dishes. Red wine is used a lot in Greek and Italian cuisine. Rice is a sweet vinegar that I like to add to salads and various Asian dishes. For a fancy vinaigrette dressing I’ll pull out the white balsamic, white wine, or champagne vinegar and add some fresh herbs!

Kitchen Must-Haves

  1. Sharp Knives. A good set (3) of sharp knives can be the difference between quick preparation and keeping all of your fingers and tedious cooking and stitches. For real you just need 3…a chefs knife, paring knife, serrated knife. They must be sharp, if not buy yourself a sharpener. Hand wash to keep sharp. You’ll thank me, I promise!
  2. Stainless steel pots and pans. Get rid of your non-stick stuff. As soon as it scratches the non-stick companies do not promise that it is safe anymore…take a look. Is it scratched? Then it’s probably not safe. Replace one pot at a time unless you have a budget for a new set of pots and pans. I have a variety of different brands of stainless steel pots/pans and I like them all for different reasons! It may not look fancy but I’m a simple kind of girl 🙂 Use healthy oils to cook with and if the pot gets burnt on the bottom (which it shouldn’t if you are paying attention while you cook) just use a bristled brush or a scour pad to clean.
  3. Wooden cutting board(s). Instead of the plastic stuff or the glass cutting boards that can make your sharp knives dull invest in some good wooden cutting boards. These do not dull knives and they stay a lot longer than plastic. Sure you can’t wash them in a dishwasher but a little soap and brush will get them clean quick. Side note: I do not cut meat. If you do just have 2 cutting boards an animal protein one and a plant one.

Those are the six items that I truly cannot live without in my kitchen. I build my healthy meals around these items every day!

Final thoughts: make sure you have some staples in your pantry and basic kitchen tools so that you have the ability to cook a variety of healthy meals for you and your family. Shop for discounts, head to a thrift store or yard sales for kitchen tools…I have found some great deals! I have a can opener that I got before graduate school at a yard sale and she’s still opening cans of beans for me 10 years later!

Challenge: think about the staples that you have in your pantry. Are they beneficial for your health?