Each October DEFINE honors Breast Cancer Awareness month. From our annual Pink Ride benefitting local breast cancer research organizations, celebrating our clients who bravely fought the battle to providing health and wellness education, our goal every October is to shed light on this disease rapidly effecting women across the globe.
Erin O’ Leary Stewart, Creator of DEFINE foods, tackles the topic of Breast Cancer Awareness month from the standpoint of food. Hippocrates said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Our DEFINE foods program is dedicated to educating on the importance of whole foods health and the correlation of disease and diet. There is no denying that what we eat plays a significant role in our health and the way we feel every day.
Once a rare disease, cancer is now widespread, affecting as much as one-third of the population. A disease caused by uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body, every single one of us has potentially cancerous cells within us and it is our lifestyle that either provokes or inhibits its growth.
Between 1900 and 1995, cancer went from contributing only 3.7% of all deaths to 23.5%. This is an incredible rise of disease and if you consider the dramatic changes in the food industry during these years, the pieces of the puzzle start to fall into place.
In 1900, food naturally came from grass-fed, family farmed animals, which are lower in fat, and richer in omega 3s and CLA (beneficial trans fats). There were more whole foods, ‘heirloom’ varieties, actual real, ‘slow foods’ and home cooked meals. Everything was local, fresh, organic and nutritious, and very little sugar consumption.
1995 brought on food processing, added chemicals and preservatives. Foods were pasteurized, homogenized and factory farmed. Sugar consumption was high and artificially created ‘fake foods’ made with hydrogenated oils were produced rapidly. Produce was sourced globally, which meant forested prematurely and, in turn, less nutritious. Mass produced industry meats from sick animals that were fed processed corn, soy, and pumped up with hormones, and antibiotics, made their way to our grocery shelves. ‘Fast food’ became the way of life with microwaves and plastic packaging. The list goes on but as you can see, over the years our foods have become less nutritious, and striped of vital minerals, nutrients and phytochemicals that are necessary for our health and survival.
Apart from mutations in certain genes, we don’t know for sure what causes cancer. However, we do know a lot about the lifestyle factors that can increase the risk. Thirty years ago the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences found enough evidence to suggest that diet may help reduce the risk of cancer. It is now well known that cancer can be caused by poor eating habits, especially of high-fat animal products, fried foods, and excess protein foods. It is just as important to eliminate these foods and toxins that fuel cancer cells while also providing nutrient-dense foods to fight cancer and support your body.
Consuming a diet rich in produce, whole, fresh foods that are not processed or refined reduce a person’s statistical likelihood of getting cancer. Fruits and vegetables comprise of cancer-protective phytochemicals, especially cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale and bok choy. These contain sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinols, which drive to excrete carcinogenic substances while preventing precancerous cell growth. Omega-3 fats, found in cold-water fish (especially wild salmon and sardines), freshly ground flaxseed, whole grains and walnuts have also been associated with inhibiting the growth of breast tumors. Regular consumption of green tea is another connection to a lower incidence of many kinds of cancer, and opting for fresh ginger, garlic, onions and turmeric to season foods in place of salt or other high-sodium substitutes all have anti-inflammatory effects. Beta-carotene, the vegetable precursor to vitamin A also has found to prevent tumor formation, and can be found in all dark yellow and organic vegetables like carrots, yams, winter squash, and dark leafy greens, like kale, collard greens and turnip tops.
Decreasing your intake of animal fats in red meat, dairy products, refined sugar and carbohydrates in order to control cancer-promoting inflammation in the body is even more important. Women who eat the most meat have a higher breast cancer risk than those who eat the least or none. Avoid all chemical additives, such as colorings, flavorings, emulsifiers, preservatives, and keep your dietary fat content low. Consuming animal fats, polyunsaturated fats (including many vegetable oils), and hydrogenated oils (margarines and vegetable shortenings) can all increase cancer risks.
Cancer is not a simple thing, but a complex journey. Though there may not be the perfect cure or solution quite yet, it is easy to consume lots of anti-cancer foods that can improve the outcome, whether a patient is using conventional or alternative treatments.
-Erin O’ Leary Stewart
Erin, Co-Owner of DEFINE body & mind and in house Natural Foods Chef, is a graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts. Erin focuses on educating others on using natural seasonal ingredients aimed towards healing in order to live a balanced and grounded lifestyle. She offers culinary and nutritional insight and whole foods products through the DEFINE foods program.
Here is a recipe for a one-skillet quick meal full of phytonutrients and anti-inflammatory whole foods. Kale, bok choy and cauliflower are anti-inflammatory and contain carotenoids and flavonoids, two powerful antioxidants that protect our cells from free radicals. Quinoa has a higher protein content than any other grain and contains all 8 of the essential amino acids. The key is to precook grains or long-cooking veggies and prepare sauces at the start of your week to have on hand and ready for quick dishes. Swap out vegetables that you have on hand – you cannot go wrong!
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© Erin O’Leary Stewart
Resources and further reading:
Food and Healing, Annemarie Colbin
The Macrobiotic Cancer Prevention Cookbook, Kushi, Aveline with Esko, Wendy
The Food Pharmacy, Carper, Jean