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From Awareness to Action: The Anti-Cancer Way of Life

As the pinking of America during national breast cancer awareness month gives way to the reds and blues of the national election, it occurs to me that we cannot let our awareness of a disease that still kills one out of every 8 women in this country be packed away with the ribbons, teeshirts, and pink running shoes until next October. Awareness is meant to be a catalyst for action. And taking action against breast cancer boils down to prevention. I keep a clipping on my bulletin board, a letter to the editor of the NY Times that speaks to rising health care costs: “the 800-pound gorilla in the room – that large percentage of health care dollars consumed by a small percentage of the population who have illnesses that are preventable.” It goes on to say that the cost savings of people taking responsibility for their own health.. to stop smoking, overeating, and start exercising, would far outweigh the trillions of dollars spent on treating disease that is preventable. The writer is a breast cancer surgeon who in making the argument would presumably rather go out of business than perform  another mastectomy that could have been prevented.

And yet the National Cancer Institute’s expenditure of dollars for prevention is less than ten percent of its’ entire budget, despite the fact that most breast cancers are not a result of genetic risk, but of the risks we take with our god-given health.  When Kyle issued her cleansing challenge last month, simple sugars and carbs were at the very top of her NO GO list because not only do they cause blood sugar irregularities, hormone imbalances, and the dreaded belly fat, they cause insulin levels to rise. That in turn triggers the secretion of another molecule called  “insulinlike growth factor” (IGF-1) whose job it is to stimulate cell growth, an effect that not only creates inflammation in the body (a now recognized risk for cancer) but ultimately provides fuel for cancer cells! To make matters worse, this lethal spinoff of elevated blood sugar and insulin levels also promotes the ability of tumors to invade neighboring tissues. So when we take action to reduce our intake of simple carbs and sugars and find (as most of us did during the cleanse) that we are reducing inches around our waistlines, we are at the same time significantly reducing our greater risks for breast cancer… and obesity, diabetes, and heart disease too.

A study that tracked breast cancer patients for 6 years showed that those who ate the most foods rich in carotenoids, the brightly colored, red, orange and yellow fruit and veg lived longer than those who ate less. Lesson: eat all you want!

As we move forward into ever more optimal food choices that not only help us lose weight, but also boost our immunities against disease, I’d like to share with you some of the latest scientific information from a recent book that is all the rage on the subject.  ANTI-Cancer: A New Way of Life, has been credited with causing a sea change in the way providers and patients now confront cancer. It is written by David-Servan-Schreiber, a scientist, M.D, PhD. who when diagnosed with brain cancer refused to accept it as a death sentence. Over a 15-year period he learned what he needed to do to fight the disease and cure himself of the “incurable.”  Please check out the following Top 10 of Dr. Servan-Schrieber’s recommended Anti-cancer foods:

1) Green Tea 2 to 3 cups a day– steeped for at least 5-8 minutes to release the magic “catechins” that  block the growth of blood vessels tumors need to grow.

2)  Olives and Olive Oil – Black olives (vs. green) in salads, risottos, etc., and cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil – one half to one tablespoon used daily in cooking – are particularly rich in cancer fighting antioxidants.

3) Turmeric spice the most powerful natural anti-inflammatory known also helps stimulate the death of cancer cells. Mix 1/4 tsp. with 1/2 TB of olive oil and a generous pinch of black pepper. A few drops of agave nectar can remove any slight bitter taste. Add to vegetables, soups, salad dressings.

4) Ginger root is also a powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant. Add grated ginger to a wok vegetable mixture; marinate fruits in lime juice and grated ginger and a few drops of agave nectar. Make an infusion or tea by cutting into one inch slices and steeping in boiling water for 10-15 minutes.

5) Cruciferous vegetables (Brussells sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, chinese cabbage) contain powerful anticancer molecules called indole-3 carbinoles (I3Cs). They prevent pre-cancerous cells from turning into malignant tumors and promote the suicide of cancer cells. Cover and steam briefly or stir-fry rapidly in a wok with a little olive oil, sea salt, etc. Note: boiling destroys the anticancer properties.

6) Vegetables/Fruits rich in Carotenoids – carrots, yams, sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, persimmons, apricots, beets and all the bright-colored (orange, red, yellow, and green) fruits and vegetables contain Vitamin A and lycopene, which inhibit the growth of cells of several cancer lines.

There are significantly fewer breast cancers among Asian women who have eaten soy since adolescence; those that do occur are less aggressive with higher survival rates.

7) Soy compounds (edamame beans, miso, tofu, tamari, tahini, soy milk, etc.) block the stimulation of cancer cells by estrogens and the development of blood vessels that feed tumor growth. Use tofu, tempeh, miso, with onions, garlic, curry in vegetable dishes and wok meals.

8) Mushrooms – shitake, maitake (has the most pronounced effect on the immune system), portobello, oyster and thistle oyster all have properties that stimulate the reproduction and activity of immune cells. Use in soups, vegetables, oven-grilled or stir-fried in a wok with other vegetables.

Red wine, Pinot noir in particular, is rich in resveratrol, an antioxidant protector of healthy cells against aging. When taken in moderation it  is known to have hormone balancing benefits.

9) Red wine – contains resveratrol a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to slow the progressive stages of cancer development.  One glass of wine provides the observed effect – but caution, more is not better. Avoid in pregnancy.

last but not least! Drum roll please……

10) Dark chocolate – contains a number of antioxidants that limit the growth of cancer cells and the blood vessels that feed tumors. Eat a few squares of dark chocolate instead of dessert at the end of a meal (with your green tea!) Or melt dark chocolate in a double boiler, then pour over pears or any fruit combination. Also delicious with grated ginger or tangerine peel.

Let’s keep up the momentum …if adding any of these AntiCancer foods to your daily diet helps you feel better, stronger, calmer, safer and more balanced as you go about your everyday life…We’d LOVE to hear from you…and as always any great recipes you come up with please pass them on by commenting on the blog!

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