By Kim Robson:
It’s no secret that a good diet and regular exercise are the best first line of defense against disease. The emerging science of culinary medicine, with recipes and meals designed to heal, maximizes what’s on your dinner plate to combat illnesses like heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Proponents of culinary medicine maintain that food is the best way to prevent, treat and even reverse illness. Food is medicine. I’ve long known that garlic and hot, spicy Thai food help me fight off a cold. Anyone can harness the power of a healthy diet to fight obesity, diabetes, arthritis, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, even depression. And your cancer risk may be reduced: over 80% of cancers are caused by controllable lifestyle factors like diet.
Dr. Timothy S. Harlan, MD, is a board certified internist and a former chef. Sensing the need for better education about food, especially in blighted urban areas, he became one of the forerunners of culinary medicine. Using his knowledge of both medicine and delicious cooking, in 2002 he launched the Food Network’s Dr. Gourmet television show as a definitive evidence-based source for diet, health, wellness and lifestyle information. He also recently founded The Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane University. This program educates future physicians and the greater community about fundamental culinary skills and nutrition to empower healthy living.
Introducing nutrient-rich “superfoods” into your diet doesn’t have to be difficult. Full of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, these five foods — eaten just once a week — can provide potent illness fighting benefits. Just remember B-I-T-E-S:
· Indian Spices
Try these cancer fighting foods:
Bulgur Wheat – This powerful Turkish grain is packed with cancer fighters including magnesium, zinc and fiber. Research has shown that pre-menopausal women eating more than 30 grams of fiber per day cut their risk of breast cancer in half. Just 1 cup of cooked bulgur wheat supplies 8 grams of fiber – one-third of the recommended daily dose. Choose coarse bulgur wheat, which raises blood sugar more slowly than the finely ground variety. Swap in this grain as a replacement for rice or potatoes; add it to ground meats as an expander; or serve it as a side dish. Try to eat 1 cup per day.
Limes – We’ve written before about the benefits of lime and coconut. Both the skin and juice of limes contain a natural flavonoid called hesperidin, a cancer fighting powerhouse shown to help combat breast, colon, lung and liver cancer. To maximize cancer fighting benefits, aim for half a cup of fresh lime juice daily. Make your own energy drink by blending 3 peeled limes, 2 cups cold water and a couple tablespoons each of apple cider vinegar and honey. There’s also an intense concentration of antioxidants in lime zest. It’s perfect as a garnish on grain salads, as a flavor booster for drinks, or as a salt alternative when sprinkled on veggies.
Concord Grapes – Concord grapes are known for their tart, musky flavor. Seeded wine grapes like the Concord have thick skin and a high concentration of polyphenols, including resveratrol, which has been demonstrated to inhibit lymph, liver, stomach and breast cancers. This powerful antioxidant is found mostly in the skin and seeds, so make sure to eat the entire grape. If you can’t find Concord grapes, make sure to choose dark red or purple types – they contain significantly more resveratrol than green table grapes. Eat up to 2 cups a week for maximum benefit.
For even more cancer fighting benefits, indulge in a glass of red wine. When consumed in moderation a few times a week, red wine has proven to reduce the risk of renal, lung and ovarian cancers.
Arugula – A cruciferous vegetable like cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower, this leafy green contains two cancer fighters called kaempferol and quercetin that are released when you chew it. One study found that eating leafy greens like arugula daily reduced the risk of lung cancer by 15% in nonsmokers. Try arugula raw or tossed with olive oil and lemon, or pile it on top of pasta. Baby arugula is sweeter and nuttier in flavor. Try to eat a cup and a half daily.
Bluefish – Studies have demonstrated that this fish, chock full of vitamin D, interferes with the growth of colon and breast cancer, and can improve the survival rate of lung cancer. Grill or bake bluefish without using oil (oil leeches out the vitamin D) to unlock its health properties. Aim for at least 6 ounces a week.
Natural Immunity Boosters:
Tahini – This classic Mediterranean spread is made from ground sesame seeds. It contains two immunity boosting ingredients: magnesium and zinc. Magnesium is vital for optimal immune function, while zinc protects against infection. Try tahini with hummus or in an open-faced sandwich with honey and apple. It also makes a great dip for veggies. Mix 1 cup yogurt, 1 minced garlic clove, 1 tablespoon of tahini, and the juice of 1 lemon for a nutritious and tasty spread. Aim for 2 tablespoons of tahini daily.
Black Pepper and Oregano – Black peppercorns are high in piperine, a compound with anti-inflammatory
qualities that can reduce joint swelling. Piperine also helps you absorb the benefits of other spices. Fresh oregano leaves release aromatic oils that are antimicrobial and antiviral. It’s been proven to kill Staph bacteria on the skin and E. coli in food, and helps fight off yeast infections. A Cornell University study found that oregano was effective against 30 different germs. Experience the benefits yourself by crumbling fresh oregano onto your pizza or pasta. Try to use 2 teaspoons of both black pepper and fresh oregano per week.
Pumpkin – We love pumpkin year-round for its many benefits. It contains beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant found in all bright orange, yellow, and red fruits and veggies. Carotenes convert into vitamin A, which is essential for a strong and healthy immune system. Pumpkins also contain zinc, a powerful immunity booster. Have a cup of pumpkin daily to obtain your daily recommended dose of vitamin A.