Friday, March 26, 2010
I wasn’t planning to blog today and I don’t have any recipes prepared but I thought I would write a little about how what we eat can help prevent certain cancers. This is not going to be a preachy blog, I promise, just good to know the facts given the day thats in it. After this posting the focus will primarily be on tasty recipes ( with a little bit of nutrition advice)
For anyone living in Ireland, its hard to avoid wearing something yellow today. This is one of the biggest days of the year for the Irish Cancer Society, where an army of volunteers take to the streets persuading people to part with just €3.00 for a daffodil brooch(see picture) or a bunch of daffodils. Its hard to find anyone who has not been touched by cancer in some way, either themselves or someone close to them.
The other pictures are of some daffodils growing in my garden.
While genetics play a significant role in cancer development, its estimated up to 40% of cancers are lifestyle and diet related. In my final year of my nutrition course I did my dissertation on the link between low selenium and prostate cancer. Don’t worry I am not going to bore you with that, just some easy to follow advice for reducing your cancer risk ( and also you diabetes and heart disease risk)
If you read the papers are listen to the news there is always some new superfood that is linked to cancer prevention. Usually some rare berry that only grows up the side of a rock in Outer Mongolia. But it actually its much simpler than that. Unfortunately for us there is no magic bullet nutritionally but we can do a lot to reduce our risk. Drinking pints of pomegranate juice is not going to make much difference if you are guzzling pints of beer every night and wolfing down highly processed meat products and lots of dairy every day. The key is ............ta-dah............a healthy balanced diet
Epidemiological studies - (fancy word for studying the health of populations) show that a balanced healthy diet made up of lots of vegetables, fruit, whole-grains, fish and low on saturated fat has a positive impact on the incidence of cancer. Take the studies of Japan and South East Asia where incidence of many types of cancer are quite low when compared to those eating a “western diet”. In relation to prostate cancer there seemed to be quite a clear link between the amount of saturated fat consumed and the risk of prostate cancer. Studies of immigrants from Japan have demonstrated that native Japanese have the lowest risk of clinical prostate cancer, first-generation Japanese Americans have an intermediate risk and subsequent generations have a risk comparable to the US population.
Now I like my meat and especially my cheese but I also love vegetables and fish. My approach is not give anything up but just to work on getting the balance right. Rather than eating lots of cheap plastic cheese, I focus on buying one small piece of good cheese and savouring it. Even better choose cheeses that are strongly flavoured, I use parmesan and feta a lot when cooking as a little goes a long way.
Nowadays I tend to eat red meat once a week, sometimes twice but this was never a decision I made it just happened. When I do have it, I really enjoy it or I use it in dishes where it is bulked out with delicious veg. Thai beef salad is a delicious way of making a small amount of delicious steak go a long way.
I am always searching out for new ways to cook veggies and fruit. There is nothing worse than over cooked, soggy, flavourless veggies. I think that is what has put a lot of people off veggies here in Ireland. But a few simple tricks can make your vegetables a lot more exciting and less like a chore. No recipes but here are some quick tips, Roast up some sweet potatoes wedges with crushed fennel seeds, salt and a drizzle of olive oil - much tastier alternative to chips. Roast some beetroot( even the precooked vacuum packed ones) with some honey and thyme. Fry a few breadcrumbs with chilli and garlic and toss in some cooked (but not over cooked)broccoli. Add some lemon/orange zest, a grating of parmesan and some olive oil to steamed asparagus. I will be focusing on other ways of including more vegetables, fish and whole-grains in your diet - yes because they are good for you but also because with a few new ideas and recipes they taste great! It can be easy to get stuck in a food rut, even me! So if anyone has any suggestions for vegetables to try and jazz up or vegetables they are not sure what to do with, please feel free to comment and I will try to cover them.
Healthy eating that may help reduce your cancer risk
Foods to enjoy
Lots of these
- Foods rich in Selenium : Found in brazil nuts ( only a few a day though, not like my Dad who only heard half what I said and went through a whole packet in one day which can be dangerous too!/ Also nuts keep much fresher in the fridge), fish, whole grains and seeds
- Foods rich in Vitamin E : Found in nuts and seeds: walnuts, linseeds, pecans, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, vegetable oil, egg yolks
- Foods rich in Lycopene: Tomatoes( particularly cooked tomatoes); Ketchup is great source. Also found in grapefruit and watermelon.
- Cruciferous vegetables : Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, mustard greens, brussel sprouts, cabbage, rocket, watercress
- Increase fibre – found in fruit, vegetables and whole-grains
- Aim for 5-7 servings of vegetables and fruit a day. If you are not eating many portions at the moment. Try and eat one extra portion every day for a month, then increase that again the following month etc. Small changes are much more achievable
- Eat a mixture of colourful vegetables -
Foods to enjoy, just less often and in smaller quantities
X Foods high in fat especially animal fats.
X Red meat and processed meats. Particularly well done/burnt red meat and
processed red meat. Try and replace with fish and poultry when possible. if you're eating red meat every day at the moment - Try and change 2 days a week - 1 to fish and 1 to chicken. Try this for one month and then increase by another day the next month etc.
Happy Daffodil day ( promise to keep my blogs a little shorter in future ;-)