By Catherine L. Kaufman a.k.a The Kitchen Shrink
October has always been a month associated with the colors of black and orange. Now it’s pink, in honor of its designation as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The ubiquitous pink ribbon symbol of the fight against this—fortunately treatable, and increasingly preventable—disease, is plastered on everything, from coffee mugs and bejeweled T-shirts, to such pricey bling as Cartier watch faces.
Although Asians are sparsely represented, there is no discrimination in the Breast Cancer Survivors’ Club, the membership of which includes women of all colors, religions and socio-economic levels. Even a few men slip in now and then, just to keep everyone on their toes. Members include politicians, athletes, everyday folks and celebrities like Sheryl Crow, Nancy Reagan, Elizabeth Edwards, Shirley Temple Black, Olivia Newton-John, and the mothers of Madonna, Andrew Agassi and Paul McCartney.
The good news is that dedication to a healthy diet and a mindful lifestyle are powerful weapons in the arsenal used to prevent and fight breast cancer. As a culinary maven of long standing, I have been researching the nutritional and medicinal properties of foods for decades, while also creating flavorful dishes that combine both. So listen up! I am offering you, woman to woman, the Kitchen Shrink’s special primer on Breast Cancer Eats 101. Learn from it what you choose, and pass on your favorite tidbits to your daughters, sisters, nieces and friends—as I keep doing.
A large percentage of women with breast cancer have hormone-sensitive tumors. That is, estrogen makes a buffet in the breasts and cancer cells pig out on it. Sneaky estrogen tends to hibernate in fat pockets, so, to reduce your body’s estrogen supply, it’s best to cut down on the bad fats—and especially, on hormone-laced foods. Here is how:
(A) The first step is to stick to ORGANIC meat, chicken and dairy products. Why? Because only organic meat, chicken and dairy products are guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s certification program (look for the USDA/ORGANIC label) to be free of growth hormones, antibiotics and pesticides. Organically grown cows and chicks are fed pure, pesticide-free nutrients, and are not injected with the antibiotics that have been found to contribute to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Nor are they fed or injected with the hormones that might trigger the formation or growth of cancer tumors. These hormones are also believed to accelerate human development—as is becoming evident from the growing number of pre-teen girls sprouting breasts, and little boys growing pubic hair. The food industry, of course, continues to stay mum about the fact that when kids chow down on non-organic burgers, chicken fingers, string cheese and ice cream, they also ingest invisible side-dishes of hormones, antibiotics and pesticides.
(B) Please make sure you don’t confuse “free range” with “hormone-free.” “Free range” simply means the chicken are let out of their coops for an hour or so a day, to stretch their legs. Their feed still contains–you guest it–hormones, antibiotics and pesticides.
(C) So choose ORGANIC chicken—and none but organic eggs, which are a good source of Vitamin D, another shield against breast cancer.
(D) Eat the colors of the rainbow – red and green peppers, tomatoes, yams, carrots, squashes, and especially the cruciferous greens like broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts. These contain indol-3-carbinol, which weakens the estrogen, making it unrecognizable to cancer cells. Tomatoes are a red powerhouse of lycopene. The mighty garlic contains breast cancer fighting compounds, too—especially when eaten raw. (Now and then, slice a clove of garlic onto buttered toast, salt to taste and enjoy. Make sure to stay away from people–or if you must socialize, just chew thoroughly and swallow a sprig or fresh parsley or a few roasted coffee beans to clear your breath before you go near anyone but a vampire you want to repel. Raw garlic is also an excellent flu remedy.)
(E) Organic whole grain pasta, rice, bread, couscous, cereal, barley, etc., are also an important part of the anti-cancer diet game plan. Since the conventionally grown (Frankenstein) grains are genetically engineered—which could mean being crossed with bacteria, viruses, and other biological materials—it might be prudent to stay away from them, until their long-term health effects become evident.
(F) Load up on Omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish like salmon and sardines. If you’re not a fish person you can get this Omega magic from flaxseed, which is believed to be an effective protector against breast cancer. Flaxseed’s healing power comes from its high levels of lignans and anti-inflammatory properties.
(G) Anti-oxidants like green tea, pomegranate juice and wild blueberries rid the body of toxins. Dark, bittersweet chocolate is another great detoxifier. I’m sure I won’t have to twist your arm on that one.
(H) Soy advocates claim that isoflavinoids contained in this ubiquitous bean work as an estrogen decoy to block the real thing that stimulates cancer cells. Others contend that soy has a phyto-, or plant estrogen that provides food for cancer cells. I deal with dueling scientific findings by sticking to my Grandma’s advice: everything in moderation.
(I) How to eat is almost as important as what you eat. It’s best to eat in a peaceful ambience. Leave heated discussions or dramatic revelations for between meal times, so as not disturb the delicate digestive process. Above all, don’t multi-task while eating. Have everything near at hand, so you won’t need to keep jumping up to serve yourself or others. And let your digestive system do its job without your energy flowing into reading, texting, emailing. . . yadayada. Eat foods as Goldilocks chooses her porridge: not too hot, not too cold, just right. Don’t stuff your face. Stop when you’re satisfied, not busting at the seams. Finally, eat breakfast like a queen (or king), lunch like a commoner and dinner like a pauper.
(J) And finally, remember that eating healthy doesn’t mean eating boring or insipid. Your food can—in fact, should—be fit for a gourmet, prepared with love and care, and bursting with nature’s own delicious flavors.
Stay healthy, get healthy, eat smart and enjoy!
Asian Salmon Burgers with Brocslaw
1 pound of salmon filet (wild caught)
1 teaspoon of grapeseed or sesame oil
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
½ to 1 teaspoon of Wasabi mustard
2 scallions, finely sliced
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Japanese Planko bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Remove the salmon skin and set aside. Place the skinless salmon in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the oil, juice, mustard, scallions, salt and pepper, and pulse until well blended. Spoon mixture from food processor into a bowl, add the bread crumbs slowly until the mixture is the desired density to form patties (about ¼ pound each).
Lightly grease a baking dish with grapeseed oil, place patties with small spaces between them, leaving room for the salmon skins to lay flat. Bake for about 10 minutes, then cut into the thickest part of a patty and check if it is cooked through. Garnish with sesame seeds and slices of daikon radish, and serve with Wasabi mustard and Asian Brocslaw (broccoli coleslaw).
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