During my yoga teacher training this year I had the most delightful opportunity to meet and form a friendship with a beautiful soul, my now good friend Billie Drury. We noticed that we seemed to be taking many of the same yoga classes to fulfill our 40-class minimum for our 8-week program requirements, so Billie and I started scheduling our classes together.
This made us accountable to each other so that we actually showed up to the studio on those days that Chicago’s cold weather and our own exhaustion were tugging at our sleeves to stay home. Needless to say, Billie and I have done a LOT of yoga next to each other. We’ve also done a lot of talking in the locker room and a whole lot of lunching after class! Billie is much younger than I (I’m not saying how much younger!), but when we first started talking, I related to her so well that I knew we were headed for a lasting friendship.
Through our conversations I learned that she holds a Master’s degree in exercise and wellness from Arizona State University, is a certified Pilates instructor, and now (with me) a certified yoga instructor! I knew that Billie was pretty knowledgeable about the human body when I met her, but I also learned that her interest in health, exercise, and nutrition moves beyond merely looking and feeling good. Billie is also a sister to three equally beautiful women who, along with their mother, and Billie’s brother in law Billy Cundiff who is the kicker for the Cleveland Browns, developed an ovarian cancer research foundation named Colleen’s Dream Foundation. Named after their mother, Colleen Drury, who died from the disease after a lengthy misdiagnosis and five year fight in February of last year, the foundation “funds scientific research that leads to the establishment of comprehensive and accurate early detection testing” of ovarian cancer. In short, Billie and her sisters are in the business of saving women’s lives.
As Colleen’s Dream notes on their website, ovarian cancer is sometimes called “the silent killer” because many woman do not discover the disease until it is in its advanced stages. Early detection can increase survival rates dramatically; therefore, Billie and her sisters have made early detection their main focus. 1 in 69 women will develop ovarian cancer in her lifetime but fewer than 15% are diagnosed in an early stage, and only 34% will survive 10 years.
After talking with Billie about her mom, sisters, and their wonderful organization (click here to spread the word by “liking” their Facebook page and click here to read the blog about Colleen’s story), I was compelled to think of ways that I could help them. Because cancer is a disease related to poor nutrition and inflammation (among other factors), and because Clean Cuisine is both a cancer-fighting and risk-reducing, anti-inflammatory nutritional program, I thought that writing an article about cancer-fighting and risk-reducing “dream” foods would be a nice way to contribute to Colleen’s Dream. If you’d like more information on the foundation or on ovarian cancer in general, click on the logo below.
Along with early detection, proper nutrition is the key to obtaining the nutrients needed to fight and reduce our risks of getting cancer. And, while it would be more fun and easier for me (and more fun and easier for you) to give you a magic food that will prevent you from getting cancer, it would be criminal for me to suggest that eating one type of vegetable, fruit, grain. or supplement is going to keep you healthy and cancer-free for the rest of your life. However, this fact is both a curse and a blessing. It is a curse because you can’t just eat apples to cure your cancer. It is a blessing because who wants to eat only apples for the rest of their lives? Luckily, for those of us with taste buds, it is only through a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, and healthy oils that the human body can absorb the thousands of nutrients located in whole, unrefined, fiber- and nutrient-rich foods. And…well…if variety is indeed the spice of life, it is also that which flavors the monotony of our day to day meal routines. But, since we at Clean Cuisine work hard to give you the necessary tools to reach optimal health, and since this article is focusing on “cancer-fighting and risk-reducing” foods, I will provide a list of foods that can be designated as such by breaking them into three important categories. Each one of these cancer-fighting categories makes up the nutritional nuts and bolts of the Clean Cuisine program. And again, lucky for you and your taste buds, there are more foods on each “magic” list than you can dream of.
1. Plant Power (Phytonutrients)
Phytonutrients are not found in processed foods and they are not found in animal foods. They are found in…you guessed it…plant foods. They offer tremendous health, anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, as well as cancer-fighting and risk-reducing benefits. These plant-based foods help cells repair themselves by stimulating the release of protective enzymes, playing an important role in both the prevention and the treatment of certain cancers. But again, for optimal health, you need lots and lots of phytonutrients from a mix of all sorts of different plant foods. Scientists have identified over 10,000 different phytonutrients to date. To name a few:
Chlorophyll, the green pigment located in dark leafy vegetables, carries oxygen to our red blood cells, helping fight off disease. In cancer studies, it reduced carcinogens binding to DNA and diminished metastasis.
Isoflavones, found in peanuts, lentils, and other legumes, are considered to be natural selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) that partially inhibit the activity of excess human estrogens. Isoflavones are believed to play a role in protecting against hormone-sensitive cancers, such as breast cancer and prostate cancer, and also offer protection from osteoporosis.
Lignans, found in flax seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, sesame seeds, and peanuts, are powerful antioxidants that fight free-radical damage and offer protection against hormone-sensitive cancers, such as breast, uterine, prostate, and colon cancer.
But again….these are only three of the over 10,000 phytonutrients that have been identified. There is a rainbow of nutrients and flavors to choose from! Wait a minute….this IS easy and fun!
2. Clean Carbs (Antioxidants)
Yes…..CARBS. That dirty word of yesterday is actually not so dirty at all. Well….some carbs are dirty, but the clean ones are not. Confused yet? Well…you’re not alone. The truth about carbohydrates has been trapped in a labyrinth of erroneous information for decades. It is actually pretty easy to be confused about carbohydrates on some level.
Despite all of the diet crazes out there who still advertise “low carb” lifestyles, low carb diets are not only unhealthful but can actually be quite dangerous; complications such as increased cancer risk, lipid abnormalities, osteoporosis, kidney damage, and even sudden death can all be linked to long-term restriction of carbohydrates in the diet. Whole carbs contain a broad spectrum of antioxidants, such as vitamins A and C and lycopene, that can actually neutralize the damaging effects of free radicals and fight cancer on the cellular level, before disease begins.
While the powerfully protective phytonutrients in whole carbs (such as chlorophyll, flavaonoids, and carotenoids) have additional antiaging, antioxidant properties that not only help plants in nature defend against bacteria, insects, and bad weather but also help you, the plant eater, fight inflammation, slow aging, and prevent disease. I can hear your brains working overtime….you’re thinking, “wait…she just mentioned phytonutrients; I thought we were talking about carbs?” Good work, we are talking about carbs, but fruits and vegetables ARE carbs, and they are packed with cancer-fighting and anti-aging properties, including, and most importantly…FIBER.
Although fiber is not digested and is basically devoid of calories, it is absolutely essential for optimal health. And, no, carbohydrates don’t make you fat either. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Fiber-rich whole foods, such as beans and greens, not only make you lean but help remove nondigestible and potentially carcinogenic toxins from your body.
Resistant starches, like those found in bananas, oatmeal, beans, POTATOES (yep…potatoes…eat them!!), yams, corn, brown rice, lentils…..the list goes on, are a type of fiber and thus whole carb that is as close to “magic” as it gets. Considered a functional fiber, resistant starch actually resists digestion, meaning the calories in resistant starch are much less likely than the calories in other foods to be stored as fat.
They also remove toxins from your body and can lower the risk for colon cancer. Because resistant starch is a prebiotic fiber that promotes good bacteria and suppresses bad bacteria, it can help normalize bowel function and support a healthy digestive system in general. A healthy digestive system improves your immune system and makes it easier for your body to fight disease.
3. Clean Fats (Omega-3s)
Omega-3 essential fats support the health of your immune system, reproductive system, cardiovascular system, and central nervous system. These fats are the most powerful anti-inflammatory substances available. Not only are omega 3s considered to be the beauty and brain nutrients, playing a vitally important role in supporting healthy skin, hair, and nails, while improving cognitive function, attention span, and the brain’s ability to process and retain information, researchers are studying the effects omega-3 fatty acids have on delaying or reducing tumor development in breast and prostate cancer. There are three types of omega-3 essential fats, and all three are important:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is found in vegan foods, including walnuts and hemp seeds, but two of the most concentrated sources of ALA are flax and chia seeds.
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
*EPA and DHA are nonvegan sources of omega-3 fats. The best sources of both are fatty fish and fish-oil supplements. Egg yolks also contain DHA.
The research validating the tremendous health benefits of fish oil is simply irrefutable. My favorite way to consume omega-3s? ANCHOVIES. Don’t knock ’em until you’ve tried squeezing some anchovy paste into your soups, vinaigrettes, tomato sauces, and pasta dishes. It has a rich, nutty flavor that brings a lot of flavor to dishes that might otherwise taste a little ho hum.
Ok….so….are you beginning to understand why the label “dream foods” works well when it comes to cancer-fighting and risk-reducing foods? The only foods that you should avoid are processed, industrial foods that expedite the aging process, making you sick and fat simultaneously…..a quite literal nightmare. In comparison, eating nutrient-dense, fresh whole foods that are bursting with phytonutrients, clean carbs, clean fats, and FLAVOR is the simplest solution to staying young, healthy, slim, and DISEASE-FREE. What more could you dream for?
Want more information?
More books that focus on nutritional science: Dr. David Servan-Schreiber who wrote Anticancer: A New Way of Life (2009) and T. Collin Campbell who wrote The China Study: Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health (2006) and, his newest book Whole (2013).
And…don’t forget to always cook on healthy ceramic cookware that prevents harmful toxins (like carcinogenic PFOAs) from leaching into your foods. Clean Cuisine is a huge supporter of Xtrema 100% Ceramic Cookware, non-toxic, non-scratch, 100% solid ceramic cookware. Clean Cuisine guests always receive a 10% off coupon code!