By Mia Stern, NLC
As a recipe developer, health coach, and the owner of an online culinary nutrition program, I dedicate a lot of time to researching and playing in my laboratory—or as most folks call it: the kitchen.
Creating delicious healthy recipes is my joy. Food also gives me strength and empowers me, especially because I’m a breast cancer survivor, and food is one of the most powerful tools I have to stay healthy.
In fact, researchers estimate that 30 to 40 percent of all cancers could be prevented by changing lifestyle and diet habits alone. A diet filled with antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and small portions of lean organic protein can lower cancer risk, while a diet high in foods like processed meats, sugar, and refined carbs is associated with higher risk.
While no one food can’t prevent cancer, many healthy foods contain powerful phytochemicals known to have cancer-fighting powers. Here are just that I use in my kitchen regularly that I am excited to share with you.
Mia Russo Stern is a holistic wellness counselor who focuses on weight loss and longevity. She is also a breast cancer survivor and has devoted her energies to understanding the benefits of eating foods with meaningful health benefits. You can check out what Mia does at Organicallythin.com or see her online culinary wellness program at Brooklynculinary.com.
5 Foods for Cancer Prevention
Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables (or Brassicas) are a class of plants that contain a variety of nutrients that may protect against cancer, like carotenoids, folate, and glucosinolates, which the body turns into indoles. One special indole called diindolylmethane (DIM) has been shown to help metabolize estrogen in the body, and estrogen plays a role in many cancers, like breast. In other words, eat up your broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, kale, cabbage, brussels sprouts, collard greens, arugula, and watercress. Tip: Next time you are making a smoothie, add a big handful of kale. Making an omelette? Add baby kale leaves.
Mushrooms are truly magical—they may even be the answer to the world’s plastic problem. And adding shitake, maitake, oyster, crimini, or even the very basic button mushroom could help strengthen your body’s cancer-fighting abilities. Reishi mushrooms also contain special compounds called beta-glucans said to fight cancer cells in multiple ways.
Tip: Powdered medicinal mushroom formulations are great to add to smoothies, soups, and dressings. Add fresh organic mushrooms to soups, sautés, and omelettes.
Deeply colored plants hold a tremendous amount of antioxidant power; usually, the more intense the pigment, the higher the antioxidants. So it’s no surprise that the ruby red beet contains a unique red indole called betalain and that there is growing evidence that beets are an exceptional source of cancer-fighting antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.
Tip: Trader Joe’s has pre-cooked beets in the refrigerated produce section. You can keep these in the fridge and add them to a salad, slice them for sandwiches, or blend them into a smoothie.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 74 percent of the population is deficient in iodine, and one of the best ways to bring more of the nutrient into our lives is through sea vegetables. Research shows that there is an association between thyroid disorders and breast cancer, and studies are looking at whether that relationship may be related to iodine and whether iodine has anticarcinogenic properties. Tip: Look for kelp granules in a shaker. Leave it next to your salt and pepper shakers, and add the flakes to all of your savory dishes.
Turmeric has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, and its main active compound, curcumin, has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Research shows it can also kill tumor cells. Turmeric root is readily available in the produce section of most grocery stores. It’s a root that looks similar to its cousin ginger but is smaller and not as knobby. Just beneath the unassuming beige skin, you’ll find the most glorious, vibrant orange flesh. Tip: Fresh is best: Keep fresh turmeric root in your freezer so that you’ll always have it on hand to add to smoothies, fresh juice, or grate into your recipes. It’s also best to consume turmeric in combination with black pepper, as it may allow your body to absorb it more effectively.