It seems like every time I turn on the television or open a newspaper, I’m hearing about one more food that fights cancer. This is certainly good news, but sometimes it can become a little bit overwhelming. You get to the grocery store and think, “Let’s see, am I supposed to be eating artichokes or avocados to prevent cancer?”
In reality, there are probably some foods that are better than others at preventing cancer, but you can make sure that you are getting the good vitamins, minerals and enzymes your body needs to stay in tip-top shape by eating a variety of healthy foods, especially in the produce aisle.
When you’re scanning the produce section for the healthiest fare, just make sure to fill your cart with all the different colors found in nature so that your body is getting the greatest variety of nutrients.
If (like me) you want something a little more concrete to take to the store with you Lucy Burney, author of Superfoods for Healthy Kids, has compiled a comprehensive list of the best of the best when it comes to fighting cancer:
Alfalfa sprouts Chicory Pumpkin Seeds
Almonds Evening Primrose Oil Quinoa
Apples Extra Virgin Olive Oil Salmon
Apricots Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil Sesame Seeds
Asparagus Garlic Shitake Mushrooms
Beans Gingeroot Soy Milk
Beansprouts Green Tea Sunflower Seeds
Brazil Nuts Kale Sweet Potatoes
Broccoli Lentils Tofu
Brown Rice Lettuce Tomatoes
Brussels Sprout Mangoes Turmeric
Carrots Peas Pulses
Make sure to incorporate a healthy variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains into your diet. If you’re relying on just one or two of these foods to meet your nutritional requirements, you’re probably going to fall short, so mix it up. Throw a new fruit into the basket or try a new recipe, even if you don’t think you’ll like it.
And remember, while you’re taking the time and energy to prevent yourself from getting cancer, think about what you’re feeding your kids, as well. In addition to being great for preventing cancer risk in adults, these foods are superstars when it comes to growing babies into healthy grown-ups!
Cancer: It’s a scary word. But even if we don’t like to talk about it, the fact is that, according to the World Health Organization
, cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the world — and the number of new cases seems to be increasing every year.
In Canada, 171,000 new cases were diagnosed in 2009, according to the Canadian Cancer Society, and, according to the American Cancer Society, 562,340 people died of cancer in the U.S. in 2006. With statistics like those, chances are, you or someone you love has been in for the fight of his or her life.
The point of all these numbers isn’t to scare you, though. In fact, there’s actually some good news about cancer floating around out there. According to cancer survivor and nutritionist Conner Middelmann Whitney
, 30% of the cancers in the West could be prevented by proper nutrition, exercise and body weight control and another 30% could be prevented by not smoking.
While many people feel like cancer is waiting around to attack them at any time (and, let’s face it, for some people, it is) for a good many of us, the things we do — and eat — in our daily lives can keep us from ever getting the “big C.” Furthermore, whether we are fighting for our lives or cancer survivors, keeping away from the Marlboro man and tweaking our lifestyles can keep us cancer free in the future.
While there are certainly those out there who dispute each of these ideas, here are a few “rules” that can help you and your family prevent cancer from coming in the first place, or, if you’re a survivor, from coming back again:
- Sugar Feeds Cancer: If you’ve read my blogs about sugar, you know I’m not a big fan of the refined stuff and its health consequences. Neither is Patrick Quillin, PHD, RD, CNS. Quillin sites multiple studies that show that in mice and in humans, the more sugar consumed, the higher the risk for cancer. So save the Hershey’s Bars for an occasional treat.
- Eat Whole Grains: According to Lucy Burney, author of Superfoods for Kids, the fiber in the wholegrains “helps to balance blood glucose levels and to carry toxins and carcinogens out of the body.”
- Go Organic: It might cost you a little bit more, but going organic is a crucial step in any cancer battle. Pesticides are carcinogens. Period. While I would always recommend going as organic as your budget allows, if you are going to eat meat, dairy products and eggs, it’s especially important to go organic in those areas.
- The ideas of bioaccumulation and biomagnification teach us that when a pesticide goes from the environment to the first layer of the food chain (i.e. grass to cow) the effects of it multiply. When it goes to the next link in the food chain (i.e. cow to human) they multiply again. In short, while the pesticides in that grass might not have been so bad, by the time they get to you, you can have some major poison on your hands (and in your body).
- Maintain a Healthy Weight: The American Cancer Society reports that excess weight leads to 90,000 unnecessary cancer deaths every year. That’s 20% of the cancer deaths in women and 14% in men in the U.S. And what’s frightening is that only 1% of the American public, when polled, even realized that weight and cancer could be linked.
Long story short, the bad news is that there will always be people out there who get cancer, even when they do all the right things. The good news, though, is that, for a good many of us, the choices we make can keep us strong, healthy and cancer free.
BPA. It sounds like it would be a friendly acronym. Maybe something you would text to your friends. Unfortunately, this acronym, which stands for bisphenol A, has been popping up in the news lately. And the things being said about it aren’t so friendly.
According to bisphenol-a.org
, an online resource about the chemical, BPA is:“...an industrial chemical used primarily to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins – both of which are used in countless applications that make our lives easier, healthier and safer, each and every day.”
They are undoubtedly right about the countless applications part. There are the things that we might think of right off hand that we hear about all the time like those plastic water bottles we can’t live (or get on the treadmill) without. Then there are the things that we might not think about: aluminum cans, baby bottles, baby toys, water pipes — even our sunglasses!
The interesting (and potentially dangerous) thing about BPA is that it mimics estrogen in our bodies. In fact, thedailygreen.com
reports that BPA was originally made in 1891 as a possible estrogen replacement therapy. And too many hormones in the body, as we well know, can have dangerous health consequences, especially when we are exposed to it all the time.
After a long and hectic week, one of the most enjoyable weekend activities can be savoring a Sunday morning in the kitchen. Cooking a delicious (and, of course, healthy!) breakfast can be fun for the whole family. While thinking outside of the Bisquick box can be difficult at first, putting a nutritious spin on your family’s favorite meals is totally worth the effort.
Plus, unlike traditional bacon-and-egg meals that leave you feeling like you need to crawl back in bed, these morning pick-me-ups will give your family the energy they need to keep going all day! Read More...
Maybe yours is the kind of family that just can’t get on board with a meal that doesn’t involve meat. Or maybe you can’t get going without a hot morning bite. Or maybe anything but coffee settles in your stomach like a lead brick. Whatever your breakfast dilemma, one of these make-ahead meals is sure to be perfect for you and your family.
Quite often, I prepare the entire week’s (non-smoothie) breakfasts in advance, so there is always something on hand that can be popped in the microwave.
For mornings when time is even tighter, keep some hard-boiled eggs, organic string cheese and bananas on hand. That way, if you find yourself in a more serious time crunch, there is always something healthy to grab and go! Read More...
Between making sure the kids have their homework finished, feeding the pets, answering the phone and sliding a few last-minute bills into the mailbox, some mornings it can feel like a miracle that you even made it to work with your shoes on. For those of you who (like me) sleep until the absolute last possible minute, it can feel next to impossible to squeeze breakfast into the equation.
As you read last week, however, squeezing it in is essential, especially if you don’t want your child to have to repeat the 1st grade! So how do you make sure the entire family gets fed without having to set the alarm clock back an hour? Make smoothies!
Pre-measure the frozen fruit the night before and store it overnight in the freezer by itself, so it’s ready to go in the morning. Pour the other ingredients into the blender the night before, cover, and store in the fridge. In the morning, put the blender on its base, pour in the fruit, blend until smooth, and you have a healthy, delicious breakfast in 2 minutes flat. Read More.....
You’ve probably heard on television or read in the newspaper that whole grains are making a comeback. While white bread was king for a while, people are beginning to buy into the fact that whole grains, packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals, are worth fitting into their diets. And what better place to experiment with whole grains than breakfast?
Undoubtedly, you’ve heard that oatmeal is a great, healthy choice for breakfast. Conveniently, there are innumerable companies that make pre-packaged oatmeal where you can simply add hot water, stir and go.
Unfortunately, a lot of these packets contain significant amounts of added sugar, and, if you caught my last blog
, you have probably realized that this isn’t a great thing. While the steel-cut, slow cook oats might be a bit more of a time commitment, they are totally worth the effort. Boasting B-vitamins and a good deal of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which has been shown to do everything from lower cholesterol and diabetes risk to stabilize blood sugar, this grain has been hailed for decades as a health champion.
Fiber also gives these grains the staying power to keep you full all morning. And the great thing is, even though it can take longer to cook them, you don’t have to make them every morning. Whip up a big batch on Sunday afternoon and it will keep in the refrigerator for the entire week!
But who wants to eat plain old boring oatmeal? I know I don’t, and your kids certainly won’t! Fortunately, Mother Nature has provided us unlimited healthy, delicious choices to spice up our oatmeal.
Here are some of my personal favorites:
- Pumpkin: Stir in 2 tablespoons of pureed pumpkin (or sweet potato), a dash of vanilla, a pinch of cinnamon, 2 tablespoons of walnut pieces and just enough brown sugar to suit your tastes. You’ll get a Vitamin A punch from the pumpkin, Omega-3 fatty acids from the walnuts and studies are beginning to show that cinnamon might help regulate blood sugar.
- Dried Cranberries: Dried cranberries are another favorite oatmeal mix in, especially when combined with a couple tablespoons of chopped pecans. The dried cranberries are sweet enough that many people find they don’t even need to add any extra sweetness, but if you find yourself longing for something sweeter, don’t hesitate to stir in a teaspoon or two of agave nectar. Those cranberries can help prevent urinary tract infections and even strengthen the immune system and pecans are packed with Vitamin E.
- Flaxseed: Want to boost the benefits of your oatmeal? Try adding a tablespoon or two of ground flaxseed. Flaxseed contains Omega-3 fatty acids which can lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and lignans, which are especially important for fending of female-specific diseases such as breast cancer. Plus, its subtle crunch and nutty flavor complements the oatmeal perfectly.
Experiment with your own oatmeal recipes, and you’re sure to find a flavor that everyone in the family loves!
We have all heard it said so many times that it has become a cliché: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If we know this, why is it that so many people are still not taking the time to eat breakfast? More importantly, why are we not making it a top priority to send our children off to school with full tummies?
Some people extremely incorrectly believe that forgoing breakfast for both themselves and their families is a way to cut calories and keep weight under control. Those people are, in a word, wrong. People who eat a healthy breakfast
are less likely to have cravings and control the hunger that can cause them to overeat later in the day.Breakfast makes us smarter
And eating breakfast doesn’t just prevent a rumbling tummy. It helps a healthy, active brain function and develop, which is important for you as you head off to work but is even more important for you little ones as they try to memorize multiplication tables and recall the date of the War of 1812.
Terrill Bravender, Duke University professor of pediatrics, told NPR.org: “Without glucose, our brain simply doesn't operate as well. People have difficulty understanding new information, [they have a] problem with visual and spatial understanding, and they don't remember things as well.”
If your child doesn’t have a healthy breakfast to provide that glucose before heading off to school, how on earth is he or she going to remember the words for that spelling test?What's being done
Canadians have bought into this idea that breakfast = learning big time. In fact, they are so on board with the idea that Daniel Germain started Breakfast Clubs of Canada
to make sure that children whose parents weren’t feeding them a healthy and nutritious breakfast because they simply couldn’t afford to didn’t get left behind, both nutritionally and in the classroom.
To date, they have served almost 30,000,000 breakfasts, and teachers are reporting that they have seen not only more energy and concentration out of children who eat breakfast but also better behavior.
If you want to help a child in need eat breakfast while you are feeding your own child, check out www.breakfastclubscanada.org
to find out how you can help.
Now that you know why to feed your children breakfast, you need to know how. And, no, as you might have guessed, spilling some Froot Loops out of the box isn’t going to cut it. For more on healthy and nutritious breakfasts for busy families, stay tuned…
You might not be able to pronounce it, but you’ll love the taste and texture of this delicious ancient grain pronounced keen-wah. Like Oatmeal
and other whole grains, quinoa
boasts a bevy of fiber and vitamins, but what makes it unique is its high protein content.
While everyone can benefit from Quinoa’s iron, calcium and blend of essential amino acids, this grain is especially good for vegetarians and vegans because it is one of only a few non-animal sources to be a complete protein
, meaning it provides all eight essential amino acids.
So, you know it’s good for you. The big question: What does it taste like? It is one of my favorite foods in the world and has a texture similar to a hearty grit or polenta. Plus, in reality, it has very little taste which makes it an incredibly versatile base for any meal.
Since we’re talking about breakfasts that will keep your kids full and focused all morning, though, here are a few of my favorite quinoa add-ins:
- Peaches: Peaches may seem like an unlikely complement to quinoa, but their juicy sweetness adds something special. Slice one up and mix it into a bowl of quinoa, along with a couple tablespoons of chopped almonds, and a handful of fresh blueberries. The fruit lends enough sweetness that I don’t even use anything to sweeten, but, if you so choose, the flavor of agave nectar is really quite spectacular when added to this combination.
- Apples: Nothing complements the subtle crunch of quinoa better than diced apple, cinnamon and chopped walnuts (you can substitute pecans if you so choose). Again, if you want to stir in a teaspoon or so of agave, be my guest. Or, if you’re really trying to eliminate sugar completely, the tiniest pinch of stevia will fully sweeten this dish.
Both apples and peaches will bruise if you try to make one large batch of quinoa with add-ins and store it for the week. This is fine if you are going to be the only one eating it, but kids might be a little skeptical of this situation.
If you want to prepare ahead, cut the peaches and apples beforehand, sprinkling lemon juice on the apples to keep them from bruising, and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Then you can pull them out and stir in right before serving. They won’t get bruised or mushy.Extra Credit:
Flaxseed is certainly as good in quinoa as it is in oatmeal, but if you’re looking to switch it up, try adding a tablespoon or two of wheat germ. The Mayo Clinic named it one of “10 Great Health Foods” because it contains niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin E, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iron and zinc, in addition to being a good source of fiber and having a moderate amount of protein.
Join the ranks of those who have enjoyed this fantastic grain for the past 5,000 years and reap the health benefits!
So, by now, you’ve probably realized that sugar is bad and artificial sugar is worse. So what on earth are you going to eat to curb your sweet tooth? Fortunately, there are a few better choices. Note the emphasis on better. Here is my disclaimer: just because it’s better than sugar or artificial sweetener doesn’t mean it should be on the top of your list of things to eat. These sweeteners still have sugar and they still have calories, so don’t get carried away.
Raw Honey: Honey is nature’s oldest sweetener, and, while it contains B vitamins and has some health benefits, it does have a similar calorie profile to regular old table sugar. At the first International Symposium on Honey and Human Health, speakers discussed that honey possesses a large amount of friendly bacteria, including lactobacillus, which helps regulate digestion. Honey may help regulate blood sugar as well and has been shown to boost immunity and heal wounds.
When buying honey, look for varieties that are milky in color instead of syrupy and that indicate on the label that they are “raw” and, ideally, organic. These varieties are thought to contain natural enzymes that can be beneficial to health. Also, buying local honey is thought to relieve allergies specific to your region. Just remember to never, ever feed honey to children less than one year of age.
Agave Nectar: Agave, which is most recognized as the plant tequila is made from, is a yummy sweetener that has the same calorie profile as sugar, spoonful for spoonful but is 25% sweeter, meaning less can be used. Also, the nectar is low-glycemic, meaning it prevents the spikes in blood sugar that other sweeteners can cause. Sugar without the crash, what could be better than that?
Stevia: Stevia is an extremely controversial, zero-calorie sweetener that I urge people to research on their own before they ingest. In my opinion, based on my research, it seems best for diabetics who can’t consume honey or agave and probably shouldn’t be fed to children. Many nutritionists and alternative practitioners have hailed stevia as nature’s perfect sweetener, and there are studies out there claiming it has anti-cancer properties, anti-microbial properties, lowers blood pressure and helps control glucose levels.
On the other hand, some studies say that stevia causes male reproductive problems, cancer and interferes with the absorption of carbohydrates. It has been used in Japan for roughly 30 years with no known side affects, and, in Canada, it is allowed as a supplement but isn’t allowed in foods.
Not to sound like a broken record, but, when purchasing stevia, look for organic brands.
Others: Sucanat, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, (make sure it’s organic—some companies add lard…) or Turbinado sugar are also better alternatives to white table sugar.
I hope this list can help you make better choices for you family when looking for sweeteners. Just remember: natural is better, organic is best, and, when in doubt, fruit is nature’s perfect candy!