Sunday, June 21, 2009

8 Great Family-Friendly Foods that Help Fight Cancer

by Sheryl Crow

Being diagnosed with cancer was a life changing experience for me, as it is for anyone. One of the most significant shifts has been in the way I look at my body and what I put in it. When I was undergoing radiation, I began working with Nutritionist Rachel Bellar in order to eat foods that would help boost my immune system.

After working with her, I learned how to eat "defensively." I had never understood before how vital food was for protecting the body from sickness and disease. In fact, according to the National Cancer Institute, serious diseases that are linked to what we eat are the culprits in three out of four American deaths each year. And, recent research estimates that 35% of cancer deaths could be prevented through improved nutrition.

We truly are what we eat and what we put in our bodies matters to our long-term health. Rachel taught me this and I am so grateful to have worked with her. Her in-depth knowledge of how certain foods and spices are vital to promoting wellness throughout the body has become an integral part of my lifestyle after surviving cancer.

Even more importantly, having cancer made me re-think and re-define family - resulting in my greatest joy, my son Wyatt. As parents often joke, kids don't come with instruction manuals. Parenting is a constant challenge of self-education. One thing I do know, though, is that Wyatt is benefiting from what I learned from Rachel. And, I feel like I am giving my son one of the greatest gifts a mother can - the foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating habits.

Here are some of our favorite foods that pack enormous nutritional value (including anti-cancer benefits), and the ways we make them fun and tasty for both of us. Truly, toddler tested, mother approved.

1. Whole Grains

* What to look for: whole grain breads, pastas, brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, etc.
* How to make it: quinoa crusted chicken fingers, whole grain pita personal pizza, steel cut oatmeal cookies, vegetable barley soup

2. Beans

* What to look for: garbanzo, navy bean, kidney beans, lentils, etc.
* How to make it: hummus (use whole grain pita or raw veggies for dipping), puree navy beans and add to mashed potatoes, black bean nachos

3. Berries

* What to look for: blueberries, strawberries, raspberries
* How to make it: whole grain berry muffins, yogurt berry parfait

4. Tomatoes

* What to look for: tomato sauce, tomato paste, tomato juice (cooking releases the cancer-fighting lycopene)
* How to make it: pasta and pizza sauce, creamy tomato soup

5. Cruciferous Vegetables

* What to look for: cabbage and members of its family including cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts
* How to make it: steam it and serve warm or cold (in funny shapes for tentative toddlers), also good in stir fry, and soups

6. Dark Green Leafy Vegetables

* What to look for: spinach, romaine lettuce, swiss chard, kale, leaf lettuce
* How to make it: use to wrap favorite cheese or chicken, chiffonade and toss into pasta or pizza sauce, toss into green smoothies

7. Grapes and Grape Juice

* What to look for: red or purple grapes (the dark colored skin is the main source of nutrition)
* How to make it: Enjoy as is, frozen grapes are a great summer treat (but can be a choking hazard for small children)

8. Walnuts

* What to look for: whole, natural walnuts without additives or preservatives
* How to make it: add walnuts and bananas to oatmeal, crush and toss into pastas and salads, mince and add to muffins and pancakes

However you decide to fix your food, eat a healthy, diverse diet. And remember, real foods, not supplements, are best for your body. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends that at least 2/3 of your plate should be filled with vegetables, fruit, whole grains and beans. Start your children young and let them reap the rewards of healthy eating habits for a lifetime.


Sanewithoutdrugs said...

I agree with your last comment - real foods not supplements are best for your body. Who really knows what is truly in a blackberry or other foods that give them cancer preventing properties.

My worst vice is pop.

Banteringblonde said...

I'm not much of a pill taker... I agree with you and I'm happy to see that we eat most of these foods now!

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for the reminder about diet sodas not being so diet after all. I'm a diet soda fiend, and you're probably right, it's probably not doing me any favors.