Food As Medicine
Updated: Dec 12, 2018
You are what you eat is not just a cliche. Everything we eat affects our body chemistry and our immune system.
Drink water with lemons/limes
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2009, I read every book written by cancer “survivors’ who had successfully overcome the disease. What I discovered was that there were many common elements in their diet and lifestyle changes.
This tip is simple and something we hear all the time. Drink lots and lots of filtered water. The twist is to add slices of organic lemons and limes to it. Water is the best internal cleanser and cancer hates the alkaline environment created by adding lemons and limes to your water.
From NaturalNews “A glass of warm lemon or lime water first thing in the morning is surprisingly helpful in several ways. This Yogic or Ayurvedic ritual is primarily for stimulating digestion and eliminating ama, the Ayurvedic term for toxic slime that builds up in the gastro-intestinal or GI tract. This ritual has even more health benefits.”
To learn more, visit:
Many sources recommend drinking it warm, but any way is better than not. I take a large BPA free water bottle and fill it with filtered water at night. I add several slices of organic lemons and limes and place it in the frig before I go to bed. Then during the day while I’m running errands or working, I can easily take it with me. I keep refilling it throughout the day using the same fruit slices. In the evening I discard the fruit, rinse the bottle and start all over.
Lemon/lime water has several benefits including purifying the liver, helping with digestion (restaurants offer lemon water for this reason), maintaining a high body pH (alkalizing effect), is high in magnesium and potassium and helps the body eliminate toxic waste. All these wonderful things can happen by drinking a simple glass of water. Drinking water before meals also helps your brain send signals to your stomach that you are satisfied with less food. Who knows…you may even lose a few pounds.
So…for today, it’s pretty simple. Drink at least 8 glasses of 8 ounces of water. While you’re at it, supercharge it with lemons and limes.
Vitamin D & Green Tea
Remember when we were children and our parents told us to go outside and play? It turns out they were again right of course. Sunshine is the main source of Vitamin D3. This form of Vitamin D helps create and enhance the proper functioning of all healthy cells in the body. Vitamin D is particularly helpful in preventing breast, ovarian, prostate and colorectal cancer, and people living in the Northeast have been found to be deficient in this important vitamin.
In fact, as a breast cancer survivor, I take Vitamin D3 as a supplement each day. Some people metabolize D better than others, and the only way to know if you do is to have a simple blood test. If you choose to take a supplement, be sure to take D3 which is the naturally occurring form of D called cholecalciferol. Of course you should always check with your doctor before taking any supplement. So back to my suggestion yesterday about walking…if the weather permits you to walk outside, consider it two points for prevention.
While you’re sunning yourself, sip a cup of tea. Although tea drinking has been associated with health benefits for centuries, only recently have its medicinal properties been investigated scientifically. Tea has a high content of flavonoids which are plant-derived compounds that are antioxidants.
Green tea is at the top of the list since it is the best food source of a group called catechins. This Superfood is more powerful than vitamins C and E in halting oxidative damage to cells and appears to have other disease-fighting properties. Studies have linked green tea with a reduced risk for several cancers, including, skin, breast, lung, colon, esophageal, and bladder.
Green tea has been used as a medicine for thousands of years, originating in China but widely used throughout Asia. Black tea is processed in a way that allows for fermentation whereas green tea’s processing avoids the fermentation process. As a result, green tea retains maximum amount of antioxidants and poly-phenols the substances that give green tea its many benefits. Green tea also adds another important benefit. It increases metabolism and can help with weight loss.
How much green tea has been found to help? Three cups seems to be the recommended amount per day. Green tea should steep for three to five minutes to bring out its catechins. Decaffeinated, bottled ready-to-drink tea preparations, and instant teas have less of these compounds. Often I hear the argument among tea drinkers that green tea is not as flavorful as black. A friend offered a solution…add a bag of green tea to your cup of black.
Additional benefits for regular consumers of green and black teas include a reduced risk of heart disease. The antioxidants in green, black, and oolong teas can help block the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol, increase HDL (good) cholesterol and improve artery function. A Chinese study published recently in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed a 46%-65% reduction in hypertension (high blood pressure) risk in regular consumers of oolong or green tea, compared to non-consumers of tea.
So my British friends have the right idea. Save time for tea. It’s not only relaxing but good for your health!
Berries and Broccoli
We are told over and over that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I was guilty of skipping breakfast many mornings when I was teaching. I would take the easy road and pack a muffin. I thought I was eating healthy; I did pack a bran muffin, but knowing what I learned from my research, it was very little bran and lots of sugar. We’ll talk more about that later. I learned how important it is to eat my B’s and how powerful these allies are to my good health.
Now for the B’s…
The first B: Berries
There’s no better way to start the day than with fresh fruit. Some of the best are the berry family: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. These delicious Powerfood cousins are packed with lots of antioxidants and vitamins. These natural treats that almost everyone loves, provide potent anticancer compounds.
Clinical trials on berry consumption and cancer prevention at Ohio State University’s College of Medicine promote the concept of ‘fruitraceuticals’ as opposed to pharmaceuticals for cancer, and emphasize prevention vs. treatment. The magic elements of berries include calcium, folic and ellagic acids, fiber, and various phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants (phyto means "plant" in Greek).
My breakfast now consists of fresh fruit (organic only – look for future posts on this), whole grain toast with almond butter and a cage-free omega 3 egg. If your mornings are hectic, make a smoothie with fresh fruit. Organic Greek-style yogurt and coconut water or juice can be added for added flavor.
The Second B: Broccolli
Again your mother was right – you should eat your broccoli. The cabbage family, including cabbage, cauliflower, kale and broccoli, contain phytochemicals that are considered some of the most powerful prevention tools we have. The uniqueness of cabbage in cancer prevention is due to the three different types of nutrient richness found in this widely enjoyed food. The three types are (1) antioxidant richness, (2) anti-inflammatory richness, and (3) richness in glucosinolates. Glucosinolates act "indirectly" to activate the body's detoxification systems.
When to buy organic?
The Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen
How can you know which fruits and vegetables are OK to buy without the added cost of purchasing organic? Every year the Environmental Working Group publishes the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 Lists. These publications rate foods according to which have the highest and lowest pesticide residue to help shoppers determine which foods to buy organic and which are okay to buy conventional. Although ideally every shopper should be able to purchase organic fruits and vegetables, the reality is that organic often costs more.
By heeding the EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 Lists, health-concerned shoppers can still get the most for their money and minimize their pesticide exposure. Lists change slightly from year to year, so it’s important to recheck each year, and more importantly, take a copy of it with you to the grocery store! Why are pesticides particularly harmful for hormone dependent cancers? Many pesticides cause estrogenic effects or effects that mimic estrogen in the body. The majority of breast cancers are fueled by estrogen so any added estrogen to our diets should be avoided.
Research has established a strong link between estrogen activity induced by organochlorine pesticides (containing chlorine), and the risk of developing breast cancer. The results are significant. Patients with very high estrogen levels due to pesticide residues run four times more risk of developing the disease than patients with undetectable or very low levels. So far, 568 chemical products have been identified that affect our hormones.
Here is the link to the 2018 Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen List:
So try to buy organic…if its not possible, buy the dirty dozen in organic and the clean fifteen from the conventional isle. When I buy conventional, I soak the fruits or vegetables in a sink full of water to which I add a cup of apple cider vinegar and
Daily Plan for Adding More Fruits and Veggies to Your Daily Diet
In 1991, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Produce for Better Health Foundation launched a campaign to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables to 5 to 9 servings a day for every American. Adding 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables to your daily diet can be a bit overwhelming at first. Five servings are considered the minimum. For men, the recommendation is nine servings per day; for women, it is seven. Of course, the more fruits and veggies you eat, the better.
A serving size is defined as the amount of fruit or vegetable that can fit in the palm of your hand. The following portions are examples of single serving sizes:
A small (3/4 cup or 6 oz) glass of 100% fruit or vegetable juice
A medium-size piece of fruit (an orange, small banana, medium-size apple)
One cup of raw salad greens
1/2 cup of cooked vegetables
1/2 cup of cut-up fruit or vegetables
1/4 cup of dried fruit
1/2 cup of cooked beans or peas
So you’re probably asking…how do I accomplish this on a busy schedule?
Here are some tips that may help you easily incorporate our colorful friends into your life. Some tips from their website to get more fruits and veggies into your diet:
• Snack on fresh fruit throughout the day. Grab an apple or banana on your way out the door. I have a cup of mixed fresh fruit with breakfast, an apple with lunch and a banana in the afternoon.
• Try to eat a big salad at lunch, and always order lettuce and tomato on your sandwich. I often make a grilled veggie sandwich on whole wheat flat bread. I stir fry mushrooms, green and red peppers and onions – delicious. When I’m out, I go for a veggie on whole wheat or honey oat. Use mustard often, it has turmeric in it. I also make a huge salad with romaine, spinach, kale, cranberries, walnuts, avocado, beans and goat cheese. Instead of salad dressing, I drizzle organic olive oil and balsamic vinegar (reduction). The olive oil insures I will absorb the nutrients from the veggies and the balsamic adds flavor as well as alkalinity.
• Snack on raw veggies instead of chips or candy. I also snack on raw nuts and dried fruit. Make sure the dried fruit you are buying is not preserved with sulfur and is not processed with sugar.
• Keep trail mix made with dried fruit on hand for a quick snack.
• Eat at least two vegetables with dinner. I try to eat sweet potatoes whenever possible with dinner. They are a super food.
• Choose fruit or whole grain baked goods. I make my own banana bread, cranberry bread, and muffins.
• Eat a lot of raw tomatoes. For men, tomatoes help to reduce the risk of prostate cancer, and for women, tomatoes have lycopene in them and function much like Tamoxifen in blocking estrogen metabolism.
• Buy a juicer. I love my juicer. I use the pulp extracted to make soups, muffins and breads. I bought a Green Star juicer model 2000. My favorite juice recipe is carrots, kale, celery, cucumber and beet. I also make fruit smoothies in my Vitamix using the veggie juice from my juicer and frozen organic fruit. This makes a scrumptious snack or breakfast on the go.
All meat and dairy are not created equal - beware of growth hormones
The media constantly bombards us with messages about the necessity for our children to drink milk for good health. Milk is advertised to be an important source of calcium and vitamin D. I speak about the importance of vitamin D and its role in the prevention of breast cancer in an earlier blog.
I need to stress that the opinions expressed in this blog, although based on fact, is that…my opinion. I no longer eat meat that is not labelled “pasture raised” and frankly I no longer drink or consume dairy products. As a cancer survivor, I feel more vulnerable than others to the effects of hormones in my food so my decision may be a bit extreme for others.
When I was teaching 5th grade, it became a topic of discussion and a concern among teachers as to why young girls were reaching puberty so much earlier than past generations. There are theories that our food source is the culprit. Puberty starts when excess amounts of chemicals called hormones start to be produced in the body. What about the hormones being ingested from food?
A decision in 1991 by the FDA to approve the use of growth hormones in dairy cows and beef cattle was of monumental consequence to the human diet. Traditionally, all beef was pasture raised but in the United States today what is commercially available is almost all grain fed. The reason...it’s faster, and so much more profitable. In the past, steers were 4 or 5 years old at slaughter. Today, they are slaughtered at 14 or 16 months. You can’t take a beef calf from a birth weight of 80 pounds to 1,200 pounds in a little more than a year on grass. It takes enormous quantities of corn, protein supplements, soy, antibiotics and other drugs, including growth hormones to accomplish in a few months what used to require years.
These growth hormones are commonly known as rGHB & rBST
Somatotropin is a naturally-occurring protein hormone produced in the pituitary gland of animals; Bovine Somatotropin (BST or bST) triggers nutrients to increase growth in young cattle and lactation (milk production) in dairy cows. Artificial BST is produced using recombinant DNA technology (biotechnology), and called rBST for short. rBST is commonly known as Bovine Growth Hormone or rBGH.2 When injected into cows, rGHB increases milk production 10-15 percent and in some cases up to 40 percent.
Approximately 17% of all cows in the US are given this artificial growth hormone. Incidentally, these hormones are outlawed in England and Canada. Our generation and our children’s are the first to be raised on milk and beef from these “Supercows”.
Milk from rGHB-treated cows also contains higher levels of IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor-1). Humans naturally produce IGF-1, and increased levels in humans have been linked to colon and breast cancer. Even though no direct connection has been made between elevated IGF-1 levels in dairy and elevated IGF-1 levels or cancer in humans, some scientists have expressed concern over the possibility of this relationship.
What Can You Do?
I don’t eat meat grown with the use of antibiotics or growth hormones. Growth hormones act like estrogen in humans. Since the use of growth hormones has increased, so has the incidence of breast cancers. It makes perfect sense since estrogen fuels most breast cancers. My breast cancer was highly estrogen positive, so I am extremely cautious about introducing any type of synthetic estrogen into my diet.
Beware of marketing strategies that advertise meat as “vegetarian fed”. Even though these animals are not treated with growth hormones, they are fed a soy diet. Soy consumption is discouraged for estrogen positive cancers. Always look for certified “grass-fed and better still pasture raised” on the packaging. The nutritional difference between grain-fed and grass-fed animal products is dramatic.
Grass-fed products tend to be much lower in total fat than grain-fed products. For example, a sirloin steak from a grass-fed steer has about one half to one third the amount of fat as a similar cut from a grain-fed steer. In fact, grass-fed meat has about the same amount of fat as skinless chicken or wild deer or elk. When meat is this lean, it actually lowers your LDL cholesterol levels.
I don’t buy milk from hormone and antibiotic fed cows. If you really love milk, make sure you buy organic milk from grass-fed cows not fed hormones or antibiotics. Personally, I avoid cows’ milk altogether and switched to coconut milk. I love it. I even buy coconut cream for my coffee. Many people seem to like almond milk but although I like almonds, I do not like almond milk. I eat ice cream make with coconut milk…it’s really delicious and even the vanilla is not heavily coconut flavored. If you want to eat yogurt, buy the fat free organic Greek brand.
Consumers have been led to believe that all meat is created equal. . In other words, no matter what an animal is fed, its nutritional value remains the same. This is absolutely not true. An animal's diet can have a profound influence on the nutrient content of its products. So don’t be fooled…all beef and milk products are not created equal.
In addition to its hormone content, milk from rGHB-treated cows contains higher levels of IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor-1). Humans also naturally produce IGF-1, but increased levels in humans have been linked to colon and breast cancers. Even though no direct connection has been made between elevated IGF-1 levels in milk and elevated IGF-1 levels or cancer in humans, some scientists have expressed concern over the possibility of this relationship.
The bottom line…when purchasing any dairy or meat products, read the labels carefully. For milk, buy organic from cows that are not fed rGHB. For beef products, buy meat from only pasture raised, grass-fed animals.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a practice where plants and herbs play a large role in treating disease. TCM suggests that eating a few ounces of mushrooms every day could help prevent breast cancer. Dr. Shiuan Chen of the Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope in Duarte, California, and colleagues tested seven vegetable extracts for their aromatase-blocking activity, and found that white button mushroom had the strongest effect. A substance found in mushrooms called linoleic acid inhibits aromatase--an enzyme that affects estrogen levels.
Aromatase is an enzyme that helps the body make estrogen. The ovaries are the major producers of estrogen in the female body and are needed for normal function in the child bearing years. When too much estrogen is produced or ingested from the food supply, problems occur.
High levels of estrogen are associated with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. These estrogen positive breast cancers account for approximately 70% of all breast cancers. Studies have shown that linoleic acid inhibits the proliferation of breast cancer cells in the lab along with reducing the occurrence of mammary cancers in rats.
Hormone therapies like Femara are called aromatase inhibitors. The researchers evaluated 10 other types of mushrooms, and found stuffing mushrooms, portobello, crimini, shiitake and baby button mushrooms also inhibited aromatase activity. This study and others like it suggest that mushrooms could be a form of natural therapy in lieu of aromatase inhibitors.
Although I try to incorporate mushrooms into my diet several times a week, I still take a mushroom supplement. Mushroom Supplements have been used for centuries throughout Asia but only recently has the extent of their benefits been recognized by Western countries. Not only do mushrooms inhibit aromatase activity, but they also strengthen the immune system.
The Miracle of Coconut Oil
Often when my sons were young, I would bring home a fresh coconut from the grocery store as a special treat. * The boys loved watching their Dad crack open the shell with a hammer, and enjoyed tasting the fresh coconut milk which they called “juice”. Since I worked as a travel agent and we sometimes took cruises, they thought it was going to taste like the virgin pina coladas they loved drinking on vacation. They soon discovered this “milk” was certainly not as sweet, and tasted more like water. We all enjoyed the experience nonetheless.
Drinking coconut water has now become “in vogue” and quite popular as a wonderful source of vitamins, minerals, and a great way to hydrate after a workout. Low in calories and sugar, its available plain or fruit flavored. Since I no longer consume dairy products, I use coconut water as a base for smoothies.
As a saturated fat, the use of coconut oil was once discouraged. What was overlooked was that it’s only mono-saturated and is actually extremely healthy. Coconut oil has a surprising number of health benefits ranging from relieving stress to bolstering the immune system. It’s rich in lauric, capric and caprylic acids, and these omega three fatty acids give it its antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti- fungal properties. It is so versatile that it can be used to cook food, moisturize skin, and treat infections. Amazing!
For baking, coconut oil adds extra moistness to cakes, fruit breads, and muffins, but no distinct coconut taste. I now substitute coconut oil and coconut butter in recipes. Be sure to always buy organic, cold-pressed oil. This is extremely important. Many of the beneficial nutrients and enzymes are lost when oils are collected using heat processes.
A wonderful book to read is The Miracle of Coconut. It explains how wonderful coconut oil products are for good health. Just think of the pictures of beautiful Tahitian women with long, black shiny hair…coconut was and is a staple food in their diet and is commonly added to hair products.
Important information on hydrogenated oils:
Unlike organic coconut oil, hydrogenated oils contain high levels of trans fats. A transfat is an otherwise normal fatty acid that has been "transmogrified", by high-heat processing of a free oil. There are many unhealthy hydrogenated oils that are used commercially because they have a long shelf life and are cheaper to use. It’s hazardous to consume hydrogenated oils. Hydrogenated fats have been shown to cause diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The only two oils I use are organic, cold-pressed coconut and olive oils.
Sugar Blues was the title of a book I read when my older son was born. It detailed the affect sugar has on our bodies and why it should be avoided. I was determined to raise my children on a healthy diet and sugar and candy were not staples in our home. My sons thought that raisins were candy; that is until they went to school or grandmas. Then all bets were off. I could easily see both in my own family and as a teacher how sugar affects children. I dreaded party days at school when my students were given many sugary treats and the hyperactivity level in the classroom rose like mercury on a hot day.
I’ll admit, I have a sweet tooth and have always loved cookies, cakes and muffins. Since my cancer diagnosis, I’ve had to retrain my taste buds to adapt to my new diet where I try to eliminate as much sugar as possible. Please read the next sentence very carefully and see why. There is tremendous evidence that sugar feeds cancer. When you eat a lot of sugar, your body produces a lot of insulin. Insulin is a natural substance made by the body but it also encourages cell growth. In simple terms, insulin can “rev up” cell growth. For healthy cells, this is a good thing. Healthy cells grow, divide, die, and are replaced as part of the natural process of living. However, cancer cells are also encouraged to grow and multiply when our bodies produce too much insulin. You don’t want to encourage them!
This makes perfect sense since sugar is an energy source for the cells in our bodies, and it doesn’t discriminate whether they are good cells or bad. Ever had an MRI or CAT scan? The dye they inject is in a glucose (sugar) solution to attract the cancer cells. Since these cells are dividing rapidly and latch on to the glucose first, they are the ones that glow with dye. That’s enough proof for me. However, there are very few oncologists who tell their patients to avoid sugar. The only reason possible is that avoiding sugar is a monumental task at first because it’s added to most foods to make them taste better. Reading labels should now become your new hobby. It makes grocery shopping a bit more involved, but worth the extra effort. To make foods labelled as “low-fat” taste better, sugar is often used.
So what can you do to replace sweets? First and foremost…avoid use artificial sweeteners. There are no safe artificial sweeteners on the market. Don’t be fooled that Splenda is made from sugar…it’s made from the same elements but when it's a completely different chemical combination and is not the same at all. The only proven safe sweeteners are plant-based like stevia, truvia, agave nectar, raw coconut sugar, honey and erythritol. I use erythritol, raw coconut sugar or Truvia in baking since they behave like sugar. None of these natural sweeteners raise blood glucose levels like sugar does. Always use raw agave since it has the lowest glycemic index in its pure state. Raw coconut sugar is a great substitute for brown sugar and also has a low glycemic index. Of course, always buy non GMO or organic brands.
Erythritol is a “sugar alcohol” that is naturally found in a wide variety of foods including mushrooms, watermelon, pears and grapes (as well as fermented foods like sake, wine and soy sauce). It has zero calories and a glycemic index of zero. And it’s widely considered the “almost sugar” by health experts and pastry chefs alike. But while erythritol does a great job at mimicking the sweet taste of sugar, it behaves quite differently in the body. First, it is slowly and incompletely absorbed from the small intestine into the blood. Then, the very small amount of erythritol that is absorbed gets converted to energy by processes that require little or no insulin. That’s why erythritol won’t cause a spike in blood sugar levels, which is great news for anyone who is concerned about their weight! Best of all, erythritol can be used cup for cup in recipes just like sugar, and provides about 70% of the sweetness. It makes cupcakes, muffins and brownies moist and delicious… ice cream that’s rich and perfectly sweet… frostings that are smooth and creamy… and cookies that are crisp and chewy. I have found that many recipes call for much too much sugar, so 70% is quite a good trade off.
So today’s homework is … read all labels before you purchase food at the grocery store. You’ll be amazed how much added sugar is common in products you would not even regard as ‘sweet”. Pay particular attention to those products labelled as "low fat" since fat is usually replaced by added sugar for taste.
Benefits of Whole Grains
Whole grains provide many essential nutrients and necessary fiber to our diets. According to the American Institute for cancer research, the term “whole grain” means that all three parts of the grain kernel (germ, bran and endosperm) are included. Refined grains usually have the bran and germ removed, leaving only the starchy endosperm. Whole grains are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and hundreds of natural plant compounds, called phytochemicals, which protect cells from the types of damage that may lead to cancer.
Try to always eat whole grain products and avoid breads and baked goods mad with white flour. During the refining process of white flour, the majority of the minerals and vitamins are removed. What’s left behind behaves like sugar in your body. Baked goods made with white flour cause blood glucose disturbances and sugar cravings. It’s a vicious cycle…the more sugar you eat, the more you want. Meanwhile your insulin levels rise.
I use whole wheat, oat, or brown rice flour when baking, and also substitute coconut flour in place of ¼ of the flour. Coconut flour is a low-carbohydrate alternative to wheat flour, it’s high in fiber and low in sugar and carbohydrates. I use it with brown rice and oat flours when I want to make muffins or banana bread that’s gluten free. Red Mill also makes an organic, gluten-free baking mix made of bean and tapioca flours.
When buying bread, look for brands that do not use high fructose corn syrup and specifically say 100% whole grain. I have also tried the Ezekiel brand of sprouted grain products. They make breads, English muffins and rolls which are quite delicious. These products are made with sprouted grains and are higher in fiber and nutrients than wholegrain bread.
Some of the Benefits of Sprouted Grains:
When grains, seeds and nuts are germinated, their nutritional content changes and, as they are generally not cooked, they retain their natural plant enzymes. These enzymes are beneficial for helping the digestion of seeds and nuts in the digestive tract. As well as retaining the enzymes, they also retain the nutrients that would otherwise be destroyed by cooking.
Sprouted grains, seeds and nuts also encourage the growth of good bacteria, help to keep the colon clean, and are high in protective antioxidants.
Sprouted grain breads are significantly higher in protein, vitamins and enzymes, and the complex starches are converted into natural sugars. They are also low GI (Glycemic Index), so they are digested more slowly by the body. The glycemic index of a food is the measurement of the glucose (blood sugar) level increase from carbohydrate consumption With a low GI, sprouted grain products keep the blood sugar levels stable for longer, making people feel more satisfied and therefore less prone to snacking. It’s interesting to note that the more highly processed a food is, the higher GI it is. A loaf of white bread is significantly higher GI than a loaf of sprouted grain bread.
Kale…The Ultimate Green Machine
Growing up in a Portuguese household, a staple and traditional soup known as “Soupas Caldine” AKA kale soup was a frequent meal served in our home. I’ll admit I was not always an enthusiastic fan, but thought it was just ok. I had no idea of how healthy this curly green vegetable was or of its powerhouse of attributes until I developed breast cancer. Now, my mom makes this for me often and I love it. To make it healthy, she does have to leave out the traditional “chourico” and substitute free range chicken, but otherwise the recipe is authentic.
When I began to research cancer fighting foods, kale was always at the very top of every list. Why? Here’s a list why.
1. Kale boasts two of the most powerful antioxidants, carotenoinds and flavonoids. These aid in eliminating free radicals and help fight against cancer. Kale is also high in fiber.
2. Kale is packed with vitamins A, K and C – all immune boosting superstars,
3. Kale is rich in lutein, which is great for preventing coronary artery disease and keeping your heart healthy.
4. Kale and other members of the cabbage family prevent cancer cell growth. The organic sulfur that’s found in vegetables in the Brassica genus (like Broccoli) contain compounds called isothiocyanates. These enzymes help destroy cancer cells and help block any further growth.
5. Kale fights inflammation. Not only is it a powerful cancer-fighter, if you suffer from chronic illnesses like arthritis, kale is something that you need to incorporate in your diet. Kale aids in reducing inflammation caused by the over-consumption of processed meats and, considering that it has more iron than beef, it is nutritionally a better option.
So for cancer prevention, there is no better choice than kale. Recently, I have found many local grocery stores are stocking organic “baby kale”. If you don’t like the taste of the more common, large leaf kale, this may be a good alternative to try. I add it to spinach salad and it blends in quite nicely. I also stir-fry it with olive oil and garlic as a vegetable side dish.
Low Fat Lies
One of the recommendations for preventing breast cancer and heart disease is to follow a low-fat diet. This does not mean a no fat diet. To be healthy, 25 to 35 percent of your total daily calories can come from fat with saturated fat limited to not more than 10 percent of total daily calories. This recommended daily allowance is meant to encourage monitoring of your total fat intake, and not meant to be interpreted as an endorsement for “low fat” packaged foods.
Unfortunately, this low-fat craze has created a demand for newer versions of packaged foods made to taste seemingly like the original, but with a lower fat content. The key word here is the word packaged. Cookies, crackers, and dairy products are among the list of commonly purchased low-fat foods. The FDA allows food manufactures to advertise products with a "low-fat" label if it contains three grams of fat or less per serving. This is the only piece of information that the low-fat label can tell you. It doesn't tell you what’s in the product, how it’s made, or any other nutritional content such as sodium and cholesterol. Potato chips and other snack foods which are unhealthy choices are made to sound good for you by being labeled “low fat”. These are simply low fat lies.
By deceptive labeling, consumers are lead to believe that these packaged low-fat foods are healthy. Since they assume these foods are lower in calories, the temptation is to eat more of them. Researchers at Cornell University, report that many low-fat alternatives are advertised to have up to 40 percent fewer calories than regular brands, when the actual figure is more likely to be only around 11 percent.
Fat provides flavor in food. If you are buying a food that previously tasted good because of its fat content (like ice cream, for example), the fat has to be replaced with something else in order to be flavorful. In reality, some of the fat is substituted with increased levels of sugar and artificial ingredients for added taste. If you compare the original version of a product with the low-fat brand, you will often find a higher number of sugar grams. So don’t assume that low fat always means low calorie.
Our bodies need real fats to stay healthy. Fats are an efficient source of energy, providing more than twice the number of calories as proteins or carbohydrates---so a little goes a long way. In addition to providing energy, fats are also involved in the regulation of hormones, help support cell membranes, and are needed for the body to assimilate the four fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E and K.
Healthy fats like olive and coconut oil will help to feel fuller longer and diminish the temptation to overeat. The fact is that you’re better off with a half teaspoon of the real thing than two tablespoons of the fake. So before you purchase any foods labeled “low fat’, check the sugar content. Next count how many ingredients on the label you can’t pronounce or are listed as artificial. In this case, one is too many.
Probiotics and Kombucha: Your Digestive System Will Feel the Love
Most people when they hear the word Kombucha think it’s from a foreign language. Actually they are correct – it’s Chinese. If you’ve never heard of Kombucha you’re not alone. I had never heard of it either until I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Here’s how Wikipedia defines Kombucha:
Kombucha is an effervescent fermentation of sweetened tea that is used as a functional food. Sometimes referred to as a "mushroom", the kombucha culture is actually a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.
I was introduced to Kombucha by my daughter-in-law, Amber, as a way to prepare my body for surgery. The origin of Kombucha is mysterious. However, as far back as the Chinese Tsin Dynasty in 221 BC, a beverage made from tea and sugar was revered as "K'un Pa Chu'a, a tea like wine," and was reputed to have near-magical healing powers. It’s used in traditional Chinese medicine as a means to boost the body’s immune system, which is so important before any major surgery to prevent infection and promote healing.
Kombucha is made from tea and sugar fermented by a pancake-shaped yeast-and-bacteria culture called a scoby. Also called mushroom tea, Kombucha is served chilled. It contains acetic and other organic acids, B vitamins, amino acids, polyphenols, enzymes, probiotics and traces of ethyl alcohol, depending on brewing time and conditions.
My favorite flavor is GT’s Gingerade as it tastes a bit like ginger ale and is highly effective in treating an upset stomach. It was an invaluable tool for me the first few days after surgery when I was nauseous from pain medication. GT’s founder developed the drink for use when his own mother developed breast cancer. Laraine Dave was diagnosed in 1995 with an aggressive form of breast cancer and used Kombucha as part of her daily diet. She beat her cancer and still remains cancer free today.
If I were asked to describe the taste of Kombucha, I would describe it as an effervescent, very slightly vinegary, refreshing drink. Friends whom I have introduced to its use, say it gives them energy. Kombucha is available in health food and some supermarkets in various fruit flavors. A “green” flavor is enhanced with raw green Superfoods, but does have a bit of an acquired taste.
Simply put, Kombucha is a natural health beverage loaded with probiotics and other healthy amino acids. Probiotic literally means “for life”. Unlike antibiotics, which kill all of the bacteria in your body, even the good ones, probiotics re-establish the natural ecology of intestinal flora. Probiotics are said to boost immunity, enhance mood, fight allergies, detoxify the body and rid the body of disease. Sounds like the ancient Chinese knew what they were talking about. Kombucha is magical for your body’s digestive system.
Of course, there are other ways to get a healthy dose of probiotics. In addition to Kombucha, I use the supplement PB8. One capsule of PB 8 contains about the same amount of live probiotic culture as ten cups of yogurt. The digestive system is responsible for nutrition and elimination of waste and carcinogens. It’s vital to keep it healthy and running smoothly to avoid disease.
The choice is yours concerning which probiotic formula works best for you. If you include dairy in your diet, you could choose organic, Greek-style yogurt. Other choices are supplements and Kombucha tea. I choose both Kombucha and PB8 supplements. You can never get enough probiotics in your diet just like you can never overdose on fruits and vegetables. When you choose to boost your body’s natural healing systems, you can’t go wrong.
Beware of High Fructose Corn Syrup
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) began to be widely used in our food supply approximately 30 years ago. Ever since its debut, the problem of obesity has been on the rise. HFCS is a man-made sweetener that is used in almost every convenience and pre-packaged food on the market. New marketing strategies by the corn industry praise HFCS and mislead the public by calling it natural “corn sugar”. By putting the word natural in front of any product, the food industry makes unhealthy products appear as if they are good for you.
At the end of the 1970’s less than 15 percent of Americans were obese. According to the centers for disease control, 35.9% of adults over 20 and 18.4 % of adolescents ages 12-19 are now obese. This is an incredible increase in the last 40 years. One of the major causes of obesity and the rise in type 2 Diabetes is the most evil refined grain of all, High Fructose Corn Syrup. The production of HFCS rose from 3,000 tons in 1967 to 9,227,000 tons in 2005. A study at Tufts University reported that Americans consume more calories from HFCSthan from any other source. Obesity is a major contributor to developing breast cancer.
Why is HFCS so widely used? It’s one of the cheapest sweeteners around. By using it in place of sugar, processed food companies can boost profits considerably. Unfortunately, they are expanding our waistlines at the same rate. How does this happen? HFCS somehow tricks the body so that insulin and leptin are not released. These two hormones should be released when you’re done eating to make you feel satisfied. Of course these companies want you to consume their products in large quantities to drive profits, so by suppressing the body’s natural control mechanisms, you continue to eat even when you have exceeded your daily calorie limit. Thus obesity is the result. We continue to eat even though we should be full because the flavors are addicting and our appetite control hormones are being manipulated.
Here are the main reasons you should stay away from any product containing high fructose corn syrup.
1. HFCS is not a natural product but is produced by chemical means.
2. HFCS turns off insulin and leptin, hormones needed to feel satisfied.
3. Mercury contamination has been found in random samples of HFCS.
4. Most corn grown for HFCS is genetically modified and riddled with pesticides.
If you want to cut down drastically the amount of processed food you eat, don't buy anything that has high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in it. Unfortunately, when you shop, you'll have to read all labels very carefully because HFCS is in nearly everything: jelly, juice, sodas, whole-grain breads, cereals, ketchup, crackers, yogurt, sweet pickles, applesauce, salad dressing, ice cream, cough syrup and lots more.
Apple Cider Vinegar – More than Just for Salad
Apple Cider Vinegar is exactly what it sounds like: vinegar from fermented apple juice. Apple cider vinegar has many health benefits but one of the most important for cancer patients or for preventing cancer is that it fosters an alkalizing environment. I said in an earlier post how cancer cells do not survive in an alkaline environment but thrive in an acidic one. Apple cider vinegar is not only a great alkalizing agent, but it’s rich in enzymes and potassium which your body needs to regenerate soft tissue.
Apple cider vinegar tastes just like it sounds: vinegary with an apple flavor. Its main advantage includes its use as a powerful internal cleanser. In addition, clinical studies have confirmed many other health benefits for apple cider vinegar. These include lowering blood glucose levels, cholesterol, blood pressure and it can even slow or kill the growth of cancer cells.
Adding a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar to a chilled vegetable drink or water can help beat workout exhaustion, help with tummy troubles due to a bacterial infection, stop hiccups, and help prevent indigestion and nighttime leg cramps. Gargling with apple cider vinegar in the morning can help whiten teeth. The vinegar helps to remove stains, whiten teeth, and kill bacteria in your mouth and gums.
A 2006 review article in the "Medscape Journal of Medicine" concludes vinegar may have a role in blood sugar control and appetite suppression. Other studies show vinegar may also promote weight loss by preventing fat accumulation through its impact on insulin reduction. Recommendations for weight loss are to use 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in 16 ounces of water and sip it throughout the day. This helps to maintain a constant pH and keep your body in a constant, alkalized state and capable of blocking fat absorption.
I use raw, organic ACV and my favorite brand is Braggs. It’s unfiltered and loaded with living nutrients and enzymes similar to Kombucha. Clear vinegar is filtered and does not have any of the benefits of the raw, unfiltered kind. Always be sure to dilute it, as due to its high acidic nature, it can affect the enamel of your teeth. Braggs also makes a line of apple cider vinegar drinks with various added flavors like ginger spice, apple cinnamon, limeade, and concord grape-acai.
So the old saying: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”, also applies to apple cider vinegar. Admittedly, it is an acquired taste, but sweetened with a bit of honey or stevia, it can be very refreshing. With all the possible health benefits by drinking this simple food, you can’t afford not to try it.
Cancer Fighting Beans
We continually hear how fiber is so important for digestive health. We often think of fiber as eating whole grain products, which are certainly essential, but we often neglect another important source of fiber, the legume or bean family. Beans are not only an excellent source of fiber but are loaded with vitamins and phytochemicals that together are a powerful force in cancer prevention.
Beans include many varieties as well as green peas. Many people regard peas as a vegetable because they are either sold in the produce or frozen vegetable section, but they are in fact beans. If you have had breast cancer, there is controversy over the consumption of soy and soybean products for estrogen receptor positive patients. Soy is a powerful phytoestrogen so I err on the side of caution and try of avoid soy as much as possible.
The phytochemicals in beans that are found naturally in plants and appear to protect our cells from damage that can lead to cancer include:
1. saponins - have shown the ability to inhibit the reproduction of cancer cells and slow the growth of tumors.
2. protease inhibitors – have shown the ability to slow the division of cancer cells and help to prevent tumors from releasing substances called proteases that destroy nearby cells.
3. phytic acid-has the ability to significantly slow the progression of tumors.
Canned beans are easy and convenient sources of nutrients and protein. The Eden organic brand is packaged in cans that are BPA free and so they are my first choice.
Incorporating beans into your daily menu may be challenging at first, but well worth the effort. To help you get started, I am including a recipe from my book which is fast and easy and delicious. Give it a try and I hope you’ll agree. Bon appetite!
Go Nuts for Prevention
Nuts are a popular snack but most people may not realize that they are a super health food. In fact, nuts are a great natural source of vitamins, minerals, protein, fat, and fiber. The best way to consume nuts are to have them raw and unsalted or with sea salt. I enjoy almond butter on my wholegrain toast or English muffin each morning for breakfast. There are different opinions on which is the healthiest, almond or walnut, but you can’t go wrong with either. One thing on which all experts agree; when it comes to nuts, variety is best.
Almonds are a phytochemical powerhouse. One small serving of almonds contains 12 percent of your daily allowance of protein and no cholesterol. They have as much calcium as milk, and contain magnesium, vitamin E, selenium and lots of fiber. They can even lower cholesterol and almonds are the best whole food source of vitamin E, in the form of alpha-tocopherol, which may help prevent cancer.
Walnuts are extremely good for your heart and brain. Research has found that they contain healthy fatty acids that slow down the growth of breast cancer. Walnuts are one of several nuts that have been recognized by the FDA as having less than 4g of saturated fats per 50g, which makes them a good choice for the prevention of heart disease. They are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that lower LDL cholesterol, high in omega 3s that help your brain cells take in nutrients and eliminate waste products, help prevent gallstones, aid in sleep (they have natural melatonin), and help protect thinning bones.
Pecans have tons of vitamins and minerals like Vitamins E and A, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, B vitamins, and zinc. Pecans are high in oleic acids. Agreeable to laboratory tests, oleic acid is capable of suppressing the abnormal activities of gene cells that are responsible for triggering breast cancer incidences. They also help lower cholesterol.
Brazil Nuts are a good source of protein, copper, niacin, magnesium, fiber, vitamin E and selenium. Brazil nuts are the richest source of selenium in the diet. Selenium helps control blood sugar and since sugar feeds cancer, eating Brazil nuts is a good cancer inhibitor.
Pine Nuts contain Vitamins A, B, D, E, P and iron. They also provide 70% of your body’s required amino acids.
Cashews are rich in minerals like copper, magnesium, zinc, iron and biotin. They are actually a low-fat nut, and like olive oil, they have a high concentration of oleic acid, which is good for your heart. According to Dr. Andrew Saul, one big handful of cashews provides one to two thousand milligrams of tryptophan, which will work as well as prescription antidepressant Prozac.
The misconception that nuts are high in fat and unhealthy is simply false. Nuts roasted in oil are a different than raw, organic nuts. It’s the roasting and excessive salt that is the problem, not the nuts themselves. So when it comes to cancer prevention, it’s OK to go nuts for nuts!
Our bodies have been gifted with wonderful self-healing capabilities. Fresh fruits and vegetables are some of the most healing foods that God has given us for that purpose. Juicing makes it easy for our bodies to absorb high quality nutrients to feed our cells. Juices are highly detoxifying and cleansing. They help repair damage to our cells, heal and nourish. The entire focus of my daily tips has been that a holistic diet is the key to healing and prevention. Juicing takes eating healthy to yet another level.
In the initial two years following my diagnosis, I developed my own juicing program. I purchased a Green Star Juicer and juiced organic fruits and vegetables faithfully. Kale, celery, carrots, apples and spinach were my main ingredients. Juicing, although incredibly beneficial, requires a significant time commitment. I was retired so I easily had the time. I realize that many people simply do not. One strategy that was very helpful was juicing every few days, and freezing the juice in ice cube trays. Although not ideal, since the juice is most beneficial right after juicing, it was better than not juicing at all.
Six months later, I happened to be in Costco when a Vitamix Blender was being demonstrated. Vegetable smoothies were available for sampling and the presenter was making a lime and spinach recipe. A tasting was offered and it was delicious! Purists will argue that juicing is better than blending because juicing requires next to no digestion and can be absorbed and assimilated immediately into the bloodstream, allowing the digestive system to rest. The fact if the matter is, blending is a lot easier. Human nature being what it is, the easier method is usually the choice. The important thing is to pick one…whichever one you choose, but to faithfully do it.
In my case, I purchased a Vitamix, and must confess I prefer it over my juicer. I do still juice kale and spinach and freeze the juice in ice cube trays and add one or two cubes to my smoothie, but the Vitamix is so convenient and easy to use, that it’s part of my daily routine. Blending keeps the pulp as well as the juice so it’s a simple task to achieve 5-7 servings per day of fruits and vegetables.
The best base is apple juice, apple cider or coconut water. I begin by adding enough liquid to the bottom of the blender to just cover the blades. I then add spinach, kale and either blueberries, cherries or strawberries. You can also add lime or ginger depending on your taste. The important ingredient is the greens, the most powerful anti-cancer agents.
If a Vitamix is not within your budget, try to purchase the best affordable machine. A regular blender simply is not powerful enough to liquefy solids, and the texture and consistency of your smoothie will not make it appetizing.
I think if you’d have to choose between either buying a blender or juicer, a blender would be a better, more practical choice to start with. Smoothies are fun to make and let’s not forget: a blender can do more than just blend smoothies! What about chopping, making sauces and dips, or even making nut butters (high speed blenders)? However, a juicer will bring your already healthy lifestyle to a new level.