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Palate-Pleasing Cancer Prevention

Help prevent cancer and boost health with these delicious dishes.
By Kris Wetherbee
March/April 2007
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Cancer Fighting Foods

Decrease your cancer risk by adding fruits and vegetables rich in protective compounds to your diet.

It’s true. You are what you eat, at least when it comes to your health. According to the National Cancer Institute, a poor diet is the cause of serious diseases in three out of four Americans; scientists estimate that 50 to 75 percent of cancer deaths are due to smoking, physical inactivity and poor dietary choices. In fact, what you eat could be one of the most important factors in preventing cancer. The consensus is in—diets rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains not only have been shown to reduce the risk of many diseases in general, they also lead the way in cancer prevention.

Fruits, vegetables and other plant foods contain thousands of cancer-fighting compounds in the form of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that occur naturally in plants. Nutrients and compounds like vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, flavonoids and carotenoids act as antioxidants that protect cells from the ravages of free radicals—highly unstable oxygen molecules that can damage normal cells and lead to cancer. Certain B vitamins found in foods—especially B2 (riboflavin), B6 (pyridoxine), folate and pantothenic acid—also can help reduce your cancer risk.

There is no one food in particular that can prevent or treat cancer. The key is to make sure your diet includes a range of colorful plant foods to ensure you’re getting a healthy balance of anti-cancer compounds. Diets that include a wide variety of plant foods also include a wider variety of nutrients and plant chemicals that, when combined, have a greater ability to protect against cancer than by way of their individual effects alone.

So go ahead and take action against cancer. Include at least five (and preferably 10) servings a day of colorful fruits and vegetables. Consider cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and kale. Look for dark leafy greens, such as spinach. Include carrots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, garlic and other onion family members in the mix. Add soy products, such as tofu or tempeh, eat more nuts, and focus on whole grains, such as brown rice and bulgur. Feature a variety of different-colored fruits, such as figs, grapes, citrus and especially berries. The following recipes will help you work these flavorful foods into every meal.
Chicken, Broccoli and Tomato Pizza

Makes one 12-inch pizza

This pizza has pizzazz, with food pairings bound to boost cancer protection tenfold. Combining foods that are rich in selenium (such as chicken) with foods rich in sulforaphanes (such as broccoli) may protect against cancer up to 13 times more than consuming these food compounds alone. Broccoli and tomatoes are another synergistic combo that may boost cancer protection, courtesy of the broccoli compounds sulforaphane and glucosinolate combined with lycopene and apigenin, two flavonoids found in tomatoes.

The tasty pizza crust, with hints of rosemary, includes whole-wheat flour and flaxseed meal for a light and distinctively nutty taste. Whole grains are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and hundreds of phytochemicals linked to lowered cancer risk. Flaxseed meal rates high as a dietary source for both omega-3 fatty acids and plant estrogens called lignans that also may reduce cancer risk, especially colon cancer and breast cancer. Rosemary, too, contains antioxidant properties that have demonstrated activity against colon, breast, stomach, lung and skin cancer cells.

Pizza dough:
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup lukewarm water
1 package quick-rising yeast
1½ cups unbleached flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
¼ cup flaxseed meal
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon snipped fresh rosemary

Pizza toppings:
1 cup prepared marinara or spaghetti sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1¼ cups shredded soy mozzarella-style cheese
1¼ pounds chicken, grilled or sautéed and cut into pieces
½ cup finely chopped onion
1½ cups chopped roma tomatoes
2 cups broccoli florets, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
2 teaspoons snipped fresh rosemary

To prepare the dough, add sugar to warm water and stir. Sprinkle yeast on top and stir again until dissolved. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine flours, flaxseed meal, 1 tablespoon olive oil, honey, salt and rosemary in a food processor; pulse several times to mix. With motor running, gradually pour in the yeast/water mixture and process until dough forms a sticky ball. Add more flour or water as needed (1 to 2 tablespoons) to get a smooth dough, then process for 1 minute to knead.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface, loosely cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove wrap. Spread and roll dough to desired shape on the floured surface, then transfer to a cookie sheet or pizza screen. Turn edges under to form a slight rim. Brush rim with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Combine spaghetti sauce and tomato paste. Spread sauce over crust, leaving a ½-inch border. Sprinkle with cheese. Top with chicken, onions, tomatoes and broccoli. Sprinkle rosemary over toppings. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until crust is crisp and golden. Serve immediately.
Pineapple Sage Tropical Fruit Compote
Pineapple Sage Tropical Fruit Compote

Serves 6 to 8

This tasty fruit salad is packed with flavor and includes a colorful range of fruits to ensure a powerful punch of anti-cancer compounds.

Grapes contain bioflavonoids and are rich in the plant chemical resveratrol, a type of polyphenol that inhibits the growth of cancer cells. Resveratrol is most concentrated in grape skins and is more abundant in red and purple grapes than in green. Kiwi fruit is rich in antioxidants that may help protect against free radical damage that can lead to cancer.

⅓  cup minced fresh pineapple sage leaves
¼ cup white wine, such as Riesling
1 tablespoon honey
1 lime, juiced
4 kiwis, sliced
2 small bananas, sliced
3 nectarines, pitted and sliced
1 cup seedless black or red table grapes
1 mango, cubed
½ fresh pineapple, cubed
2 tablespoons slivered almonds

Combine pineapple sage leaves, wine, honey and lime juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer just to dissolve honey. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature; then refrigerate until cold.

While syrup is chilling, prepare fruit and combine in a large glass bowl. Pour chilled syrup over fruit and gently toss to coat. Garnish with slivered almonds and serve immediately.
Shiitake Mushroom and Green Tea Soup
Shiitake Mushroom and Green Tea Soup
A healthy taste of the topics: This blend of fruits makes a light, satisfying dessert.

Serves 4

Antioxidants are abundant—and so is taste—in a flavorful soup that combines delicate green tea with the rich, earthy flavor of shiitake mushrooms.

Green tea contains potent antioxidants, including flavonoids and polyphenols, that appear to slow or prevent certain cancers from developing. Shiitake is one of many mushrooms containing immune-building polysaccharides, such as lentinan, along with a protein called lectin that appears to help the body fight cancer. Seaweed contains beta-carotene and fiber along with a high concentration of minerals and fatty acids that may help fight breast cancer.

2 ounces dry bean thread noodles
3½ cups organic chicken broth
¾ cup brewed green tea
1 tablespoon soy sauce
One 4- to 6-inch piece kombu (dried kelp)
1 large carrot, diced
6 green onions, thinly sliced (reserve green parts on 2 onions, for garnish)
12 to 15 fresh shiitake mushrooms (about 4 ounces)
Pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons water

Cover bean thread noodles with warm water and soak until softened, about 10 minutes. Drain and cut into desired length. Set aside.

In a soup pot or Dutch oven, bring chicken broth, green tea, soy sauce and kombu to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 10 minutes. Stir in carrots, onions and mushrooms. Simmer 10 minutes more, or until carrots are tender.

Remove kombu and discard or set aside for another dish. Add pepper to taste. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and water until smooth. Add to soup pot and continue simmering for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in bean thread noodles and heat through. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with reserved green onions.
Pecan Salmon with Dijon-Dill Sauce

Pecan Salmon with Dijon-Dill SauceServes 6

The combination of flavors play well in this easy yet elegant dish full of phytonutrients. Salmon contains selenium and is high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fats that may help protect against certain cancers. Pecans also contain selenium, as well as antioxidants that include quercetin, campferol and ellagic acid that may inhibit the growth of cancer. Ditto on selenium in mustard seed, which also boosts plentiful amounts of phytonutrients called glucosinolates that may decrease cancer risk.

3 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
6 ounces pecans, finely ground
Salt and pepper to season salmon fillets and sauce
4 to 6 salmon fillets (about 2 pounds total), skin removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
⅔ cup reduced-fat sour cream
⅓ cup soy milk
2 teaspoons snipped fresh baby dill

Combine melted butter and mustard in a shallow dish; set aside. Put ground pecans in a separate shallow dish or a pie plate. Salt and pepper salmon fillets. Dip fillets, one piece at a time, in the butter-mustard mixture, then in pecans, dredging to coat on all sides.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add salmon and sauté about 4 to 6 minutes on each side or until flaky tender. Remove to serving dish.

Drain skillet and scrape out any remaining pecan pieces. Mix in sour cream, soy milk and dill; stir over low heat using a wire whisk. Add salt and pepper to taste. Immediately drizzle Dijon-dill sauce over the middle of each salmon piece and serve.
Spinach, Avocado and Mango Salad with Coconut-Curry Lime Dressing
Spinach, Avocado and Mango Salad with Coconut-Curry Lime Dressing
Avocado and mango are perfect complements to this healthy spinach salad.

Serves 4

Avocado and mango provide the perfect complement in this yummy spinach salad.

Spinach is a great source of folate and fiber and also is rich in flavonoids and carotenoids, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, that inhibit the growth of certain cancer cells. Avocados contain beta-carotene along with a powerful antioxidant called glutathione that attacks free radicals in the body. Mangos also are plentiful in beta-carotene, along with vitamin C, fiber and an arsenal of phenolic compounds known to help fight cancer. And curry powder has anti-cancer benefits as well, due to the abundance of antioxidant-rich spices and herbs, including curcumin, the yellow pigment found in the spice turmeric.

Dressing:
1 cup light coconut milk
¼ cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon water

Salad:
1 bag (6 ounces) fresh baby spinach
½ red onion, sliced
2 mangos, peeled, seeded and sliced
2 avocados, peeled, pitted and sliced
⅓ cup sliced almonds
Salt to taste

To make dressing, mix coconut milk, lime juice, sugar and curry powder in a saucepan or microwave-safe dish. Stir together cornstarch and water in a small bowl or cup. Add cornstarch mixture to coconut milk/lime juice mixture; stir and then heat in a saucepan over medium heat, or in the microwave (30 to 45 seconds), until dressing thickens slightly.

To make salad, toss together spinach, red onion, half of the mangos and half of the avocados in a large serving bowl. Pour half of the dressing on top and toss again. Arrange the remaining mango and avocado slices on top of the salad, and garnish with almonds. Drizzle more dressing on top and serve extra dressing on the side.
Turkey Cutlets with Raspberry-Balsamic Sauce

Serves 4

A good sauce can make any dish special, but a fruity sauce can make it extraordinary. Raspberries heightened by the full-bodied, slightly sweet taste of balsamic vinegar give this sauce a delicious fruity flavor worth savoring. Berries on their own provide a good source for many nutrients, including vitamin C and fiber—substances that have been associated with a lower risk of cancer. Red raspberries in particular pack a potent dose of ellagic acid, a naturally occurring phenolic compound that might help prevent cancers of the skin, bladder, lung, esophagus and breast.

4 to 6 turkey cutlets (1 pound total)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Raspberry sauce:
2 cups raspberries, fresh or frozen
⅓ cup orange juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
½ to 1 teaspoon minced fresh gingerroot
⅛ teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon water

In a large skillet, sauté turkey cutlets in olive oil for 3 to 5 minutes on each side, or until lightly golden and no longer pink inside. Transfer to a serving platter.

To make sauce, combine raspberries, juice, brown sugar, vinegar, gingerroot and chili powder in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for several minutes or until raspberries are reduced to a saucy consistency. In a small bowl, stir together cornstarch and water; add to sauce. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more or until sauce has thickened. Ladle sauce over turkey cutlets and serve.

Kris Wetherbee is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Herbs for Health. She lives in the hills of western Oregon with her photographer husband, Rick Wetherbee. Visit her website at www.KrisWetherbee.com.

The reference list for this article is extensive. If you would like a copy, please send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to “Cancer Prevention,” Herbs for Health, 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609; or e-mail us at editor@HerbsForHealth.com.


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