Tag Archive | cancer prevention

Black Is The New Green

Hello all!  Well, for thoes of you who have been following my blog for a while, you may have noticed that my posts are all over the place lately!  Recently I have been posting about anxiety and mindfulness.  Mostly because that is what I am dealing with in my psychology practice.   Occasionally, I will write a post about my son Ben.  Mostly because he is awesome.   (On that note, I am very close to the completion of my book:  “Calm the Fuck Down: A Day in the Life of an Autism Mom”.   More to follow in March!!!)   It seems like a long time since I have written anything about cancer prevention or healthy lifestyle practices.  Mostly because…..well, there is no excuse.

I have been researching a lot lately for another book I am working on, “Still Finding the Perks” , and I am learning a lot of new, interesting information about food.  I believe that when you are making the transition to healthier eating habits, you should concern yourself with what new foods you can ADD to your diet, not what you have to eliminate.  Once you add more and more healthy options, there will be no room on your plate for the unhealthy stuff…..and you won’t feel deprived!

Did you know that the darker the pigments in foods, the more health benefits they provide to you?  By “foods” I mean foods from the earth of course, not animals, in which case lighter is better.  Anti-oxidants are the agents that give color to foods and the darker the color, the more powerful the anti-oxidants.   As you may know,  anti-oxidants help to neutralize the harmful effects that free radicals have on our bodies which protects us against many diseases, including cancer. What gives foods their black color is anthocyanin, an antioxidant flavanoid pigment, which has been linked to reducing cancer cell proliferation.  So when choosing foods for cancer prevention, always look for the darker varieties because when it comes to healthy eating, black is the new green!


 Blackberries: Blackberries have one of the highest anti-oxidant levels of all berries.  In addition to being a great food for cancer prevention, blackberries help promote better digestive health, strengthened immune defense, and healthy functioning of the heart.  Blackberries have also been shown to aid in enhancing memory and keeping the bones and skin healthy.

Black rice:  You probably know that brown rice is a healthier choice than white rice, but if you want to go that extra step, try black rice.  Unlike brown rice, black rice contains a flavonoid called anthocyanin. Additionally, black rice contains Vitamin E, which is useful in maintaining eye, skin, and immune system health.

Black lentils: In addition to anti-oxidants, black lentils are very high in iron, with one serving offering nearly half of the daily recommended amount for women.  They are also high in fiber, helping to remove toxins from the body.

Black beans: While all types of beans provide a good source of plant based protein, black beans,  are also rich in potent bioflavonoids, which may help to prevent cancer.

Chia seeds: These little powerhouses are touted for their high, heart healthy, omega 3 content.  In addition, one ounce of chia seeds provide four grams of protein.  They are also a good source of calcium and give you 42% of your recommended daily allowance of fiber, per serving.

Black soybeans: With more antioxidants and protein and fewer carbs than other beans these legumes are not only good for you, but also are a powerhouse food for weight loss.

Black sesame seeds: In addition to being high in anti-oxidants as well as several vitamins and minerals (such as magnesium which lowers blood pressure and helps to prevent diabetes), black sesame seeds promote healthy skin and hair.  They have also been proven to help promote healthy liver functioning.

Black garlic: Black garlic is simply the aged version of garlic. While garlic is known for its anti-cancer properties, the black variety has twice the antioxidants of regular garlic, giving it an even greater cancer kicking punch!

Black mushrooms: There are several black varieties of mushrooms, and all are rich in anti-oxidants.  They also help to stimulate the immune system as well as prevent cancer.

Black pepper: Black pepper has numerous health benefits including antibacterial properties and it aids in digestion.   The thing that gives black pepper its “super-power” however, is its ability to increase nutrient absorption from other foods by up to 2,000 percent!  (Black pepper helps your body to utilize the cancer fighting effects found in turmeric, for example.)

While many of these foods may sound exotic, it is easy to substitute them in the place of other, more familiar foods.  For example, I recently used black rice instead of brown rice in my veggie soup.  It darkened the broth a little, but had the same flavor. As a general rule of thumb, remember that when it comes to fruits and vegetables, the darker, the better, so seek out not only black varieties, but also dark greens and purples. Iceberg lettuce, for example, has very little nutritional value, whereas romaine is much richer in vitamin A, vitamin K, folate, vitamin C, calcium, phosphorus and potassium.  Knowledge is power and now that you know how much better darker foods are for your body, go ahead and make yourself a powerful, cancer-kicking salad!  (But don’t stop at the dark foods….try to include all the colors of the rainbow!)



Follow The Rainbow

Hey, it has been a while since I have posted about cancer prevention and healthy living, so here goes…….

When eating for disease prevention, the best health tip that you can follow is to “follow the rainbow”, meaning that you should include as many colorful foods in your diet as possible.  No, I am not telling you to eat bag of Skittles a day, I am referring to nature’s treats, fruits and vegetables!

Nothing looks more appealing than a plateful of richly colored food.  The beautiful colors found in fruits and vegetables are the result of chemicals called anti-oxidants.  While there are tiny amounts of anti-oxidants found in meats and dairy (due to the fact that animals eat plants), by far the vast majority of anti-oxidants are found in plant based foods.  There are many classes of anti-oxidants, such as beta-carotene, which gives squash its yellow color; lypocene, which gives tomatoes their red color; and crytoxanthins, which lend oranges their orange color.  It is not important that you know all these fancy words, but it is important for you to know that you need to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables in order to get the health benefits from an array of anti-oxidants.

So why are anti-oxidants important to good health?  Good question!  Throughout our lifetime, our bodies produce a nasty substance called free radicals.  Free radicals are the result of normal metabolism and energy production in the body, and are formed when we exercise.  They are also produced by exposure to the sun’s rays, pollution from the environment, and poor diet, among other things.  These free radicals wreak havoc on the body, causing our tissues to become stiff and rigid.  Eventually, these free radicals will lead to degenerative diseases in the body, such as arthritis, heart disease and cancer.   The good news is, we can help to protect our bodies from the damage of free radicals by building a shield around them so that they are unable to damage the cells in our body.  This protective shield is formed by anti-oxidants.

Our bodies can manufacture some types of antioxidants, but not others, and our natural antioxidant production tends to decline with age.  Fortunately for us, plants are able to produce these anti-oxidant shields which protect their cells from the harmful effects of free radicals, and by eating plants, we get the same protection.  It is impossible to stop our bodies from accumulating free radicals, after all, they are a bi-product of living and breathing.  In addition, pollutants and carcinogens are all around us: in our air, food, water and sunlight. However, we don’t have to do it alone.  By eating more fruits and vegetables we are able to borrow their anti-oxidant super powers, and thereby reduce the aging and disease effects that free radicals cause in our bodies.

So, some of you are thinking, “I am not a big fan of fruits and veggies, so I will just take an anti-oxidant supplement instead.”  Sorry, think again.  When you eat whole foods, you get more than the anti-oxidents. You also get essential vitamins, minerals, and energy in the form of protein, fat and carbohydrates.   Although you can get some types of nutrients through supplements, it is better to get them through food. The nutrients and other components in whole foods are more balanced, more biologically active, and are usually better absorbed by the body, according to a 2009 article by David R. Jacobs, Jr. published in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.”  While taking a supplement can do no harm, it is wise not to depend on them as your main source of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants.  See how many colors you can incorporate into your meals today!

To Drink Or Not To Drink……..

….that is the question. When it comes to cancer prevention, the answer is clear: No!…..and, well….Yes! It all depends on what you are drinking. When it comes right down to it, there are some beverages which increase your risk of getting cancer, as well as many other chronic illnesses. There are others that have cancer fighting properties, or are just plain good for your overall health. First let’s take a look at the No’s:

No: Alcohol.

WINE…..sigh….(this coming from the woman who loves wine more than dessert). The fact is, alcohol is a known cause of cancers of the mouth, throat (pharynx), voice box (larynx), esophagus, liver, colon, rectum, and breast. It may also increase risk of cancer of the pancreas. It is not known exactly HOW drinking alcohol leads to cancer, but there is a definite link. Researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine and Boston University School of Public Health have shown that alcohol is a major contributor to cancer deaths. These findings, published in the April 2013 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, show that alcohol is a carcinogen, even when consumed in small amounts. Therefore reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption is an important cancer prevention strategy. While this study indicates that no amount of alcohol is safe, both the American and the Canadian Cancer Society recommend that people limit their intake to no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women. (And no, it’s not ok to save them all up for the weekend.)


NO: Soda or energy drinks.

popTwo simple facts: they are high in sugar or artificial sweeteners, and they contain zero nutrients. It is a known fact that cancer loves sugar! Cancer cells consume anywhere from ten to fifty times more glucose than normal cells do! So in fact, when you feed your body sugar, you are actually feeding cancer cells. Excess soda can also lead to weight gain, which is another risk factor for cancer. If you think that switching to diet soda is better, think again. Diet soda drinkers have twice the amount of obesity than the general population. Artificial sweeteners are no better than sugar. They are up to 100 times sweeter than real sugar, which blunts the taste of nature’s sugar, such as that found in fruit. They also increase the craving for sugar since the brain has receptors designed for sugar that do not accept the artificial substitute. Don’t be fooled by drinks that tout “all natural flavors”, since these natural flavors that they speak of are actually Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) in disguise! MSG is a neurotoxin that is hidden in many foods, under many different labels, including “natural flavors”. While there is no direct link between MSG and cancer, it has been linked to brain lesions, neuro-endocrine disorders, and neurodegenerative disease, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

NO: Cow’s milk.

cows milk        Humans are the only mammals on the planet who consume the milk of another mammal. We are not baby cows and our bodies were not designed to drink a beverage that nature intended to make calves gain hundreds of pounds in a matter of months! Whether or not dairy causes or promotes cancer is open to debate. The fact is, factory farms inject their cattle with a substance called IGF-1, which has been linked to cancer. In addition, in order to keep them producing milk, cows are also injected with estrogen, which we know feeds hormonal cancers, such as breast cancer. (Since the type of cancer that I had was estrogen fed, I avoid dairy like the plague!)

NO: Fruit juice.

orange juiceWhat the…..? You heard me right. By extracting the juice from a fruit, you are getting rid of the fiber, which not only gives you good bowel habits, but also helps to remove toxins from the body. Drinking the juice without the fiber results in a higher glycemic load, and subsequent insulin spike. This allows the sugar to be more readily eaten up by awaiting cancer cells. (Even if you are a cancer survivor who is currently cancer free, these cells can remain in your body for the rest of your life. Do you really want to feed them?) For cancer prevention, it is best to eat the whole food, for example, an orange as opposed to having a glass of orange juice.

So then, what are the best beverages for cancer prevention?

Yes: Water.

lemon water The best beverage that you can drink to help flush toxins from your body is water. In 100 Perks of Having Cancer Plus 100 Health Tips for Surviving It (p. 294), Susan does a great analysis of the different types of water and which are good for us. As a general rule, if your tap water is deemed safe to drink, this may be the healthiest and the cheapest option, as long as you filter the contaminants before drinking (for example, use a Brita filter). Chlorine is particularly damaging to the body, so it is a good idea to add a chlorine filter not just to your drinking water, but to your bathing water as well. Adding the juice of a freshly squeezed lemon to your water each day will also give it an extra cancer-fighting kick! For overall health, you should aim to drink at least eight glasses of water a day.

YES: Smoothies.

smoothie postBAM! Five or more servings of fruits and veggies in one glass. Smoothies are a great way to combine the cancer-fighting properties of berries, fruits, veggies and seeds in a delicious and satisfying way. Here’s a tip: if you notice your fresh produce is about to go bad, chop it up and freeze it for smoothies. For a REALLY healthy smoothie, I suggest that you avoid dairy, and use a plant based milk as the base.

YES: Green tea.

green teaStudies clearly show a link between green tea, and cancer prevention. One of the key cancer fighting agents in green tea is a compound called catechins. It is important to know that not all green teas are created equal. They may contain more or less catechins depending on factors such as where and when the tea was harvested, the type of plant used, and the processing techniques. Brewing time also plays a role in the release of catechins. Brewing tea for less than 5 minutes allows only about 20% of the catechins to be released, as opposed to brewing it for 8-10 minutes.

YES: Plant based milks.

almond milkWith so many plant-based milks on the market now, why does anyone even bother with cow’s milk? Let’s take my favorite, almond milk, as an example. It contains the exact same amount of calcium as cow’s milk (30%). Regular cow’s milk contains 8 grams of fat and 30 mg of cholesterol per serving, whereas the same amount of almond milk contains only 3 grams of fat, and ZERO cholesterol. Clearly plant based milks are a healthier choice. (Caution: always buy “unsweetened”, as some flavored varieties are high in sugar, and make sure it does not contain carrageen, a potential carcinogen.)

When it comes to cancer prevention, what you drink is as important as what you eat. It would be unrealistic to expect you to change all of your habits over-night, but now that you know the facts on drinking for cancer prevention, you can start to make small changes. You might want to begin by reducing or eliminating one of the “NO’s” from the list above and adding one of the “YES’s”. As this becomes habitual to you, eliminate another NO and add another YES. Each simple change you make brings you one step closer to reaching your optimal health!





Bacon Causes Cancer. So What’s for Breakfast?

Here are 3 Super Healthy Breakfast Ideas!

We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Yet, it is also the easiest meal to skip, usually for one of two reasons: 1. You don’t feel hungry when you wake up, or 2. You are in too much of a rush to prepare it. Well, I can give you two good reasons as to why you should not skip breakfast: 1. Studies have shown that those who eat breakfast consume higher levels of important micro-nutrients, such as calcium, protein and dietary fiber, than those who skip breakfast. 2. Eating breakfast aids in weight loss. Studies have shown that breakfast eaters are less likely to snack and over-eat later in the day than breakfast skippers.

Unfortunately, many of the foods that are considered “breakfast foods”, such as bacon, ham and sausage, have recently been declared by the World Health Organization as carcinogenic.   Eating less than two slices of bacon a day, for example, can increase your risk of developing colorectal cancer by a significant 18%. Read more here.    So then, what to eat?   For cancer prevention, weight management, and overall good health, there is no doubt that plant based breakfasts are the best choice. Here are three of my favorites.

The Breakfast Cookie

breakfast cookie

Breakfast cookies are my go to breakfast choice, and they actually taste as good as they sound. They are easy to make, packed full of nutrients, and they freeze well, making it easy to just grab and go in the morning. Also, you can mix and match the ingredients to suit your taste. Here’s how to make them:

In a bowl, combine dry ingredients:

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup flour of your choice (I like spelt flour which is much healthier choice than bleached white flour)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder (make sure your baking powder is aluminum free for a healthier choice)

Set aside and in another bowl mix the wet ingredients

2 over-ripe bananas, mashed

½ cup of almond butter OR peanut butter. (Hint: when buying nut butters, check the label to make sure that nuts are the only ingredient. Kraft brand peanut butter, for example, contains 7 ingredients, most of which you can’t even pronounce.)

¼ cup organic apple sauce (Apples are well known to be one of the most pesticide laden fruits on the market. When buying apples or apple sauce, always look for organic. For more information on which foods are heavily laden with pesticides, check out this link.

4 tablespoons of pure maple syrup (make sure it is pure and not sugary “pancake syrup”)

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons coconut oil (or canola oil)

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well. Then add:

1/3 cup of nuts or seeds of your choice, such as walnuts, pecans, or pumpkin seeds

1/3 cup of dried fruit such as raisins, cranberries or blueberries (if you have a sweet tooth, you can use chocolate chips in the place of fruit. Dark vegan chips are my faves.)

Optional: For a chewier version of this cookie, you can also add 1/3 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut.   For a chocolatier version, add ¼ cup of pure cocoa powder.

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Spoon 10-12 large spoonfuls of the mixture onto a baking sheet and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the edges are brown.  Let cool.

Anything Goes Green Smoothie

green smoothie

BAM! In less than 5 minutes you can have 5 servings of fruits and veggies, plus calcium and healthy omega 3’s in one big delightful glass, which you can drink on the run. The actual color of this smoothie will vary, depending on the ingredients, but I call it “green” because it contains “greens”, such as spinach, lettuce or kale. Here’s how to prepare:

In a blender combine:

1 cup of mixed frozen fruits and/or berries of your choice (remember, the darker the berry, the more anti-oxidant power!)

½ cup greens of your choice, such as kale, spinach or green lettuce

½ banana OR ½ avacado for creaminess

1 tablespoon chia seeds (just one tablespoon of chia seeds gives you the omega 3 equivalent of 5 fish oil capsules!)

½ cup low sugar juice, such as cranberry juice or orange juice

1 cup almond milk (note: almond milk contains the same percentage of calcium as cow’s milk, with no unhealthy cholesterol. Why would you even think about getting your calcium from cow’s milk when there are healthier, plant based alternatives? Make sure when you are buying almond milk that it is unsweetened and does not contain an ingredient called carrageenan, which can be destructive to the digestive system and cause inflammation in the body. My favorite brand is So Nice Organic.)

Blend on high speed until smooth.

Nutty Cinnamon Quinoa

breakfast quinoa

“How do you get your protein?”, is a question that is often posed to people who choose a plant based way of eating.   Well, vegans get their protein in the same place that cows and horses get their protein…..from plants!   One of the most protein rich plant foods is quinoa (pronounced keen-wah). One cup of cooked quinoa contains 8 grams of protein, which is 16% of your recommended daily allowance. Not only is it rich in protein, but quinoa is one of the few plant based foods that is considered a “complete” protein, meaning that it contains all of the essential amino acids that our bodies need.   Try this nutrient rich and delicious quinoa breakfast cereal:

1 cup almond milk or coconut milk

1 cup water

1 cup quinoa (rinse quinoa before cooking)

2 cups fresh fruit or berries

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted

4 teaspoons of sweetener, such as agave, honey or pure maple syrup

Combine almond milk, water and quinoa in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer 15 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Turn off heat; let stand covered 5 minutes. Stir in fruit/berries and cinnamon; transfer to four bowls and top with pecans. Drizzle 1 teaspoon sweetener over each serving. Serves 4.

(While the quinoa cooks, roast the pecans in a 350F degree toaster oven for 5 to 6 minutes.)

So there you have it, folks, 3 delicious and healthy ways to start your day. For optimal health, don’t be a breakfast skipper!




Guest Blogger: Dr. Arjun Rayapudi

It was a beautiful day in April, 2011, when a handsome young man looked me in the eyes and said those three little words that would change my life forever: “You have cancer.”  That man was my surgeon, Dr. Arjun Rayapudi (or Doc. McDreamy as me and my sisters referred to him.) I remember crying out in anguish, “I’m going to die!”, for in my mind, stage 3 breast cancer brought with it a guaranteed death sentence.  Little did I know that two years later, a very healthy Flo would be standing side by side with this very same doctor, educating people about diet and cancer prevention.

Dr. Rayapudi is a board certified General Surgeon with an avid interest in Cancer Prevention/Treatment and Nutrition, currently working at Burin Peninsula Health Care Centre.  He was kind enough to guest blog for me this post on the link between diet and cancer.  I welcome Dr. Rayapudi to the blogosphere!


Dr. Rayapudi Says:

It is a great privilege for me to contribute to the Perks of Having Cancer forum. Flo’s positive attitude towards cancer diagnosis is inspirational. Her attitude to seek opportunity in the problem she faced, reminds me of sayings “Tough people last tough times don’t” and “What doesn’t kill you make your stronger”. Her blog has been helpful to patients and families to navigate through difficult phases of their lives when faced with cancer diagnosis.

In this post, my objective is to empower women by raising awareness about the connection between the diet/life style choices and breast cancer.

The incidence of Breast cancer and Colon cancer on BurinPeninsula is appalling. I had the opportunity to take care of several patients with breast cancer in last 2 and half years at Burin Peninsula Health Care Centre. Most patients with breast cancer that were when diagnosed in early stages did well. There were some patients who died in 40’s and 50’s due to advanced breast cancer despite conventional treatments including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. The suffering of the patients and their families is enormous. It motivated me to explore the causes of breast cancer and increase my focus on breast cancer prevention. The causes of breast cancer are multifactorial. The important factors that increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer are positive family history of breast cancer, Diet, Obesity, smoking, amount of estrogen exposure throughout the life.

Genetic factors are important but genes by themselves do not determine who gets the disease. Genes load the gun with bullets whereas diet and lifestyle factors appear to pull the trigger.

Diet appears to play a significant role.  Cancer cells form and multiply because of alteration in the genes. Our bodies have immune system which helps to knock off the cancer cells. Numerous studies have shown that cancer is more common in populations consuming diets rich in fatty foods, particularly meat and much less common in populations with diets rich in grains, vegetables and fruits.

As you can see from below various colorful plant foods have anti-oxidants/phytochemicals and fiber which boost the ability of the immune system of the body to fight the cancer cells. Fiber in the plant foods also binds the toxic carcinogens in the gut before they try to enter the blood circulation.


(Source: Above chart is from PCRM website)

In contrast, animal foods lack fiber and several protective anti-oxidants which boost the immune system.  Attached graphs below show the relationships between animal fat intake, daily meat consumption and risk of acquiring breast and colon cancer in various countries. These charts display that as intake of animal fat and meat increases the risk of breast cancer and colon cancer increases almost in linear fashion. Studies show that animal products contain potentially carcinogenic compounds that may contribute to increased risk of cancer. Consuming high fat diets increases estrogen levels which can contribute to increased risk of breast cancer. Breast cancer has also been linked to consumption of cow’s milk products. Consumption of cow’s milk products increases the level of hormone called Insulin like growth factor (IGF-1). Studies show that circulating levels of this hormone is positively associated with breast cancer risk.


(Sources for above charts: Carroll, K.K. (1975), Cancer Res 35:3374-3383 and China Study by Dr. Campbell)

In summary, eating plant foods and less processed foods appears to decreases risk of breast cancer, and eating more animal based foods and processed foods appears to increases  risk of breast cancer. My suggestion to anyone who is serious about decreasing your risk of breast cancer is to minimize or eliminate animal based foods and embrace whole foods plant based lifestyle.

I encourage everyone to be proactive and learn more about this important health issue.

Click on the following links for articles for further education

http://www.pcrm.org/pdfs/health/cancer/women.pdf – Women and Cancer: Opportunities for Prevention

http://www.pcrm.org/pdfs/health/faq_dairy.pdf – Health Concerns about Dairy Products

Some resources I would recommend are

  1. Read book “China Study” by Dr. Colin Campbell
  2. Watch DVD – Forks Over Knives
  3. Browse website www.PCRM.org (Physicians committee for responsible medicine). This website is by Dr. Neal Barnard.
    1. There is extensive amount of  valuable information on this website about Nutrition and Cancer Prevention
    2. Look for low fat plant based recipes on the internet
    3. Read book “The No-Dairy Breast Cancer Prevention Program” by Dr. Jane A. Plant
    4. Some cookbooks to browse – Forks over Knives cook book, Cook books by Dr. McDougall, Cook Books by Dr. Neal Barnard.
    5. http://www.NutritionMD.org – this website has several recipes for plant based diet

I highly encourage everyone to educate their families and friends about the prevention of breast cancer.

Flo says:

Thank you Dr. Rayapudi for sharing this very educational post.  To my readers, I would like to say that even taking small steps towards a healthier diet  can have big benefits.  When I first started my “cancer-fighting diet”, I did not eliminate any foods. Rather I added foods that are proven to fight cancer, like berries, broccoli, and cauliflower.  Gradually, I decreased the amounts of meats and added more and more fruits and veggies.  After about a year, I had no desire for meat any longer and in its place, I had beans, legumes and nuts for protein.  As long as you are eating MAINLY a plant based diet, you are doing something good for your body!  Here is a good way to begin:  Meatless Monday.  Try eating plant-based for one day of the week.  And don’t forget, plant-based does not mean eating only salads…you can have soups, stews, burgers (black bean burgers), pasta dishes…..the possibilites are endless!