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.

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


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

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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:

Jules x

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