Prevent cancer with vegetables

To hear you have cancer is incredibly scary.
Cancer is a very broad word for a group of diseases all with one thing in common: good cells have become damaged, are now abnormal, and are growing and spreading. In 2015, it is estimated that there will be over 1.6 million new diagnoses of cancer according to the American Cancer Society. In the U.S., more of these diagnoses will be men, as the risk of developing cancer is one in every two. Women have a slightly lower rate of one in every three in the U.S. The American Cancer Society also found that 78 percent of all cancer diagnoses are in people 55 years of age or older. Sadly, cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, with more than 1,600 people dying every day.
All is not lost, though, as cancer death rates are dropping. The American Cancer Society found that there are more than 1.5 million people alive today due to advances in the prevention, care and treatment of cancer. The World Cancer Research Fund suggests that a healthy lifestyle can really be key to preventing up to 30 percent of all cancer cases; particularly by healthy eating. This means that you can really make a difference at home simply by putting healthy foods on your plate, namely vegetables.
On your next trip to the supermarket, make sure you head straight to the produce section and freezer aisle and load up on fresh and frozen vegetables, particularly cruciferous ones (not the ones smothered in creamy cheese sauces though). These vegetables are nutrient rich, containing vitamins C, E & K, folate, fiber, as well as phytochemicals (such as carotenoids and lutein). Additionally, these vegetables are known for a bitter taste and strong smell because of glucosinolates, which are sulfur based anti-cancer fighting agents. These naturally existing plant chemicals turn side dishes and entrée ingredients into nutrient powerhouses that boost the immune system and protect against the formation of abnormal cells. These veggies are a diverse group of plants that all stem from the mustard family, including:
• Arugula
• Broccoli
• Cabbage (Bok Choi, Napa, Pak Choi Red, Savoy)
• Cauliflower
• Celery
• Brussel Sprouts
• Garden Cress
• Greens (Beet, Collard, Mustard, Turnip)
• Horseradish
• Kale
• Kohlrabi
• Radish
• Rutabaga
• Swiss Chard
• Wasabi
• Watercress
There are many ways to enjoy cruciferous vegetables. If you haven’t had them in a long time, it is time to revisit these veggies. Keep in mind that your tastes change over time. As we age, we are less sensitive to bitter flavors. Also, there are many ways to prepare a vegetable for eating. Raw is always an option. Cooked is fine, too. If you smother these lifesavers with gobs of butter, salt and cheese and/or coat them in batter and deep-fry them, you will cancel out just about all the goodness they bring to the table.
If you are just starting out, consider adding some kale or celery or watercress to a salad or on a sandwich. Worried about the taste? You can hide cruciferous vegetables in soups, stews, pasta dishes and casseroles. One of the more popular ways to get sneak these beneficial foods onto the menu is to make a Smoothie using a dark green leafy vegetable such as kale (see the basic Smoothie recipe below)
Basic Kale Smoothie Recipe
Blend together until smooth:
1 cup of low fat milk, soymilk, almond milk, kefir or yogurt
1 cup chopped kale (chop & let sit for a few minutes before blending, to boost the chemical effect)
1-cup fruit (banana, blueberries, strawberries, peaches, etc.)
¼ tsp. cinnamon (optional)
½ tsp. vanilla or another extract
1- 2 tsp. honey, agave or another favorite sweetener (optional)
3-4 ice cubes (optional)
It’s a no brainer. Eating cruciferous vegetables can significantly decrease your risk of developing cancer. It may be new, and it may be a little scary to try some of these vegetables. But isn’t your health worth it?
Jennifer Giffune, R.D., L.D.N. is a freelance author, professional speaker and nutrition counselor. On the last Wednesday of each month, Jennifer can be heard on 89.5 WSKB radio on the “Wake up Wednesday Morning” Show. To make an appointment with Jennifer at Mercy Medical Group, call 786-1500.

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