can healthy eating influence cancer?

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A few months ago I got a lovely email from a Stonesoup reader, a gentleman who had been living with cancer for a number of years.

After telling me how much he was finding Stonesoup helpful for expanding his cooking skills, he had a request… would I read ‘Anti-cancer’ by David Servan-Schreiber and come up with some Stonesoup recipes to fit the recommendations in the book.

It sounded interesting, so I ordered the book, not sure exactly what to expect.

Let’s just say I learned A LOT. But probably the biggest lesson was the answer to the following question…

can your diet and lifestyle influence cancer?

From the many examples in Servan-Schreiber’s book the answer would appear to be a resounding ‘YES’!

One of the most interesting studies detailed in Anticancer concerned a group of men with early-stage prostate cancer who had elected not to undergo surgery at that stage.

The group was randomly split in two. One group was monitored on a regular basis with no change to the diet, exercise and stress management practices of the participants. The other group followed a vegetarian diet with supplements (Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, Omega-3 Fatty Acids). They engaged in at least 30 minutes walking 6 times a week and stress management programs. Plus they attended a support group session each week with other participants.

And the results?

After 12 months, 6 people from the first group had their cancer worsen and had undergone surgery. Whereas in the lifestyle-change group, no one had required surgery.

Not only that. Over 500 genes in the prostrates of the lifestyle-modified group had undergone functional changes. They showed increases in activity of genes that protect against cancer and a decrease in those that promote cancer development.

So what we eat and how we move our bodies CAN make a difference to our ability to fight cancer. Exciting stuff!

For more details, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Anticancer.

In the mean time, to get you started, here are 15 anti-cancer foods highlighted in the book, including links to Stonesoup recipes that feature these foods.

15 anti-cancer foods

1. green & white tea
You’re probably already aware that green tea is a wonderful source of anti-oxidants but did you know that white teas contain even higher levels? I’m already a big white tea fan but after reading Anticancer was considering switching to green tea. Until I did a little research of my own.

I hadn’t ever thought to use tea in cooking until reading this book. So if you’re not a fan of tea, or even if you are, consider adding it to soups or stews instead of other liquids. Try the anti-cancer mushroom soup below to get you started.

2. olives & olive oil
Both olives and cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil are naturally high in antioxidants. Drizzling olive oil to add richness to dishes is an easy way to include more olio. My other biggest source is in dressings for salads.
:: the definitive guide to salads: Part 2. dressings
:: olive oil poached swordfish

3. turmeric & curry powder
Turmeric is a super powerful anti-inflammatory and has been shown to decrease tumour growth in lab tests. It needs to be eaten with black pepper to maximise the goodness and preferably dissolved in a little oil.
:: curried scrambled tofu
:: spiced red lentils
:: cashew chickpea & cauliflower curry
:: add 2 teaspoons turmeric to this red curry soup.

4. ginger
Another powerful antioxidant. My Irishman loves sliced of fresh ginger in his tea, with a little honey. Or add some finely sliced ginger to stir frys.
:: chicken vindaloo
:: self-saucing ginger puddings

5. cruciform vegetables
This covers some of my all time favourite veg: cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy and chinese cabbage. All contain powerful anticancer molecules, although it should be noted that boiling veg reduces the concentration of these.
:: super simple bok choy
:: addictive roast brussels sprouts
:: green curry of broccoli soup
:: super simple broccoli
:: cauliflower ‘pasta’ with peas & ricotta
:: beef & broccoli stir fry
:: shaved cabbage & parmesan salad
:: raw broccoli salad
:: roast cauliflower with chickpeas & almond cream

6. garlic, onions, leeks, shallots, chives
The alliaceous family not only helps promote the death of certain cancer cells, it also helps to regulate blood sugar levels. The active components in garlic are easier to utilise if dissolved in a little olive oil.
:: warming onion & white bean bake
:: balsamic onions

7. vegetables rich in carotenoids
Includes all red, yellow and orange fruit and veg. Examples include sweet potato, pumpkin, carrots, red capsicum (peppers), tomatoes (especially tomato sauce or puree), beets, apricots.
:: the most amazing beets, ever
:: roast butternut hummus
:: warm salad of roast beets & lentils
:: roast butternut curry
:: white bean & tomato soup
:: roast butternut salad
:: beetroot pesto
:: chicken & peppers
:: sweet potato & red curry soup
:: lentil balls with roast tomato sauce

8. soy
Soy tends to be controversial but Servan-Schreiber gives non-GMO soy the thumbs up from an anti-cancer perspective.
:: super simple carrot soup – includes carotenoid rich veg + soy sauce
:: scrambled tofu with tomatoes & peppers
:: tofu steaks with chimmichurri
:: carroti tofunaise

9. mushrooms
Mushrooms contain chemicals which stimulate the immune system. And they’re also super delicious! Don’t forget the mushroom soup below.
:: mushroom ragu
:: roast portabello mushrooms
:: roast mushroom & bread salad
:: mushroom sarnie

10. herbs
Herbs contain chemicals which help to block the spread of cancer cells. It’s easy to include a little parsley, mint, basil, rosemary or thyme in most dishes. As a rule of thumb woody herbs like rosemary and thyme are best added at the beginning of cooking and leafy herbs best added at the end.
:: chimmichurri sauce
:: low maintenance pesto

11. probiotics
These friendly bacteria help with digestion and support the immune system.
:: yoghurt
:: coconut yoghurt

12. dark chocolate
Dark chocolate contains antioxidants and other compounds which help slow the growth of cancer cells. So a little dark chocolate is a good thing, but aparently the milk solids in milk chocolate cancels out the benefits. So stick to 70% cocoa solids or higher.
:: divine gluten-free chocolate muffins
:: rich dark chocolate ice cream

13. berries & stone fruit
Both berries and stone fruit, especially plums contain high levels of anticancer molecules. Freezing doesn’t damage the molecules, so frozen fruit is fine.
:: raspberry gelato
:: raspberry & dark chocolate muffins

14. citrus
Citrus fruit contain anti-inflammatory molecules and help the liver eliminate carcinogens. The zest appears to contain the highest concentrations of these molecules.
:: preserved lemons – includes ideas for using preserved lemons as well.
:: single girl salmon
:: delicious lemon birthday cake

15. red wine
As a former wine maker, this is one of my favourite inclusions! Although it should be noted that more than one glass a day may lead to an increase in cancer. If you’re looking for tips on cooking with wine, I recommend reading wine week: 7 tips for cooking with vino.
:: coq au vin
:: pasta with butter beans & red wine

mushroom soup

anti-cancer mushroom soup
serves 2

All the ingredients in this soup come from the anti-cancer food groups listed above. To boost the anti-cancer nature of the soup even further, consider adding in some thyme leaves or a little turmeric or curry powder.

I’m doing well with my goal to expand the soup recipe collection here on Stonesoup. I just adore mushrooms especially when they’re in soup!

Feel free to play around with different types of mushrooms. I used a mixture of field mushrooms and shiitake this time. Wild and cultivated work equally well here.

2 onions, peeled & chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled & chopped
500g (1lb) mushrooms, sliced
3 cups white or green tea or water
3-4 tablespoons natural yoghurt, to serve

1. Heat a generous glug of olive oil in a medium saucepan. Cook onion, covered for about 10 minutes or until soft. Stir every now and then.

2. Add garlic and mushrooms and stir fry for a few minutes.

3. Add tea or water and bring to the boil. Simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender.

4. Puree soup using a stick blender, leaving some chunks or however you like. Taste. Season serve with yoghurt on top.

VARIATIONS
dairy-free – skip the yoghurt and serve with a good drizzle of peppery extra virgin olive oil.

caffeine-free – use a caffeine-free tea or take the water option.

creamy soup – fans of creamy soups can stir in a few tablespoons of double cream after pureeing.

mushroom ragu
– replace half the green tea with a can of tomatoes. Simmer until thickened and skip the pureeing step.

__________

video version of the recipe

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recently on the stonesoup diaries

:: a whole new meaning to ‘baked’ beans
:: the tapas trick
:: the most amazing beets, ever

The 2-Minute Meal Plan

2MMP Video 3D Cover

Struggle with planning healthy meals?

Then you need the 2-Minute Meal Plan! For more details about this revolutionary approach to planning and cooking healthy meals go to:
http://thestonesoupshop.com/2mmp/

Cheers
Jules x

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{ 29 comments }

Jade June 5, 2012 at 6:52 pm

Jules a fantastic story
I think many of us worry about cancer. Thankfully my diet is full of most of these already! Love the recipes too. Time to get cooking

jules June 5, 2012 at 8:40 pm

Glad to hear you’re ahead of the game Jade!

Sarah @ nourishing crunch June 5, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Great post. Very interesting read. I strongly believe nutrition and other stresses we create on our bodies are the catalyst for many diseases that’s why it’s so vital we look after ourselves. It can be so confusing though with the promotion of so many diets – I try to eat healthy majority of the time but sometimes I do fall off the bandwagon. My analogy on nourishing your body is ‘you don’t put diesel in a petrol car’

jules June 6, 2012 at 6:45 pm

I love the car analogy Sarah!
I think it’s important not to eat completely healthy all the time.. we all need some guilty pleasures. .it’s what you do most of the time that makes the difference rather than 100% compliance

susan g June 6, 2012 at 12:26 am

Jules, you have made a wonderful gift to all your readers. The book has excellent information, and you have made it very accessible through the recipes. I just brewed a pot of white tea, and remembered a turmeric tea that you would enjoy, especially as you go into the cold season. http://www.food52.com/recipes/12219_summer_seltzer_winter_wellness
Try it with fresh turmeric — it’s even more alive!

jules June 6, 2012 at 6:44 pm

Susan!
Thanks for the reminder about turmeric tea.. I’ve heard of it but haven’t ever tried..

It's Carmen June 6, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Great article. It’s beneficial to spread this type of accurate information. Eating well and exercising regularly are practically foolproof ways to increase wellness.

jules June 6, 2012 at 6:43 pm

Thanks Carmen!
I think it’s really empowering to know that our lifestyle changes can actually CHANGE our genetic expression… makes it more compelling to do as you say

tiffani hafen June 6, 2012 at 1:10 pm

this is so wonderful. thank you.

jules June 6, 2012 at 6:42 pm

pleasure Tiffani
thanks for stopping by :)

Amanda@EasyPeasyOrganic June 6, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Mushies are great for anti-breast cancer! But soy … not so much … I’ve cut it out completely since my own diagnosis, but it’s soooo hard to eliminate completely. You have no idea how much soybean oil/flour/etc is included in our everyday foods. Ugh. :)

jules June 6, 2012 at 6:41 pm

Yay for mushrooms Amanda!
I was surprised that soy was recommended in the book.. interesting to hear that you’ve but it out.
Thanks for getting in touch!
J

jennifer June 7, 2012 at 7:03 am

Brilliant post! Just chock-full of information and links to your recipes. Thank you!

jules June 11, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Thanks Jennifer!

Leah June 8, 2012 at 5:03 am

Thank you so much for a great article the reinforces the importance of food for our wellness! I think it’s so wise to look to what we are eating for our health and to instill those values early on with our children. I’m excited to incorporate some of these foods and recipes with the little ones I teach!

jules June 11, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Wonderful Leah!

Darya Pino, Ph.D June 8, 2012 at 12:54 pm

I really like your blog, but I feel like you’re a little out of your area of expertise here. Yes diet and cancer are related, but citing a random book with lists of antioxidant rich foods isn’t the same as real scientific evidence for cancer prevention. Biology is very complicated, and it’s important to be rigorous in how we discuss food and health benefits.

jules June 11, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Hi Darya
You’re right biology is complicated! But we don’t all need to understand the mechanism to benefit from sharing knowledge such as this. My aim was to give my readers another reason to eat more vegetables!

If you’re looking for the science behind the recommendations, you’ll find the studies well documented with references in the book.

Renata Dabbur June 9, 2012 at 1:16 am

Jules, I`m from Brazil and I always read your blog.
I liked very much this post because I love mushrooms and discovered I eat many anti cancer foods!
Congratulations for your blog and thank you for share interesting informations!

jules June 11, 2012 at 4:16 pm

You’re welcome Renata!
Lovely to hear there’s a Stonesoup reader in Brazil

Nao June 9, 2012 at 10:19 pm

Love this post, Jul! Really interesting to read about. I think anything that is within our control to prevent cancer is a plus so why not eat as many anti-cancer foods and this mushroom soup sounds delicious with this wintery weather. LOVE the first pic of the mushies, too!!!

Luv u xoxo

jules June 11, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Thanks Nai Nai!
So glad you found it interesting :)
Love you too xx

thyme (sarah) June 10, 2012 at 9:50 pm

How very interesting. The lists from the book look healthy and include lots of foods we incorporate in our diet. We recently have cut out sugar and flour for awhile and it has forced us to eat so many more vegetables. I love mushroom soup and am always looking for various options. Your soup looks delicious.

jules June 11, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Hi Sarah
Good for you cutting out sugar and flour and eating more veg!
Hope you enjoy the soup

Lauren June 11, 2012 at 1:36 am

The book AntiCancer-A New Way of Life, was recommended to me, two weeks ago when my husband was diagnosed with Lung Cancer. At the saddest and most helpless period of our lives, this book put things in a different perspective. We have hope and in addition to modern medicine, good food can give us a fighting chance to survive a horrible cancer. It certainly can’t hurt. I have read Tastespotting for several years now, but haven’t checked in for a couple weeks since my husband got sick. Imagine my surprise to find your post about AntiCancer foods…..! Thank you for posting this.

jules June 11, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Lauren!
So sorry to hear about your husband. Really hope this helps in some way
Jx

Stacie June 14, 2012 at 1:40 am

Excellent article, thanks! I’m just starting the Eat To Live diet (from Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s book, Eat to Live) and it mentions many of the same benefits from these foods. He is a huge proponent of eating BOM (berries, onions, mushrooms) and a mostly vegan diet. The BOM are anti-angiogenic, which means they starve fat cells of blood supply. Research shows that cancer cells are also known to hijack angiogenesis and keep it permanently switched on to ensure that it has a dedicated, uninterrupted blood supply so it can grow. It seems that eating foods that can block the process of angiogenesis, you can starve these cancer cells.

Either way, even if it’s all bunk, you can’t hurt your body by including all of these awesome nutritionally dense foods in your diet! Thank you, Jules, for the awesome mushroom soup recipe — I’m going to try it today! I’m sure it will be fabulous as all of your recipes are!

jules July 3, 2012 at 9:07 pm

Thanks for sharing Stacie
He doesnt mean eating the berries onions and mushrooms together does he?

eifeh February 23, 2013 at 10:03 pm

greetings from taiwan!

i’ve been on a soup kick since getting a new blender a month ago and have been searching for simple recipes online. i made this soup for dinner tonight and think it’s delicious! i used shiitake mushrooms, like you, since they’re one of my favorite types. love your simple 5 ingredient recipes! hope to see you add more soups!

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