Tag Archives: food

Nutrition’s Role in Cancer Prevention

By:  Donna Quirk, MBA, RD, LD
LMC Clinical Nutrition Manager

October is Cancer Prevention Month and Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  All of us probably know someone who has had cancer.  The food choices you make can play an important role in cancer prevention.

There are a wide variety of foods that contain macronutrients, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that may provide protection against developing several different types of cancer.  The good news is that not only are they good for cancer prevention, but they are just plain good for you!

So what should you eat to make a difference?

  • Apples provide 10% of the Vitamin C and fiber needed daily.  Gut bacteria uses an apple’s pectin to protect colon cells.  Apples have a variety of phytochemicals.  Be sure to eat the whole apple – the peel has at least a third of an apples’ cancer protective compounds.
  • Cruciferous Vegetables are excellent sources of fiber, Vitamin C, carotenoids (beta-carotene), and folate.  The vegetables in this category provide protection against cancers of the colon, esophagus, mouth, and stomach.  Cruciferous vegetables are broccoli, brussels sprouts, rapini, green cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, and dark green leafy vegetables like kale and collard greens.
  • Blueberries and Cranberries are antioxidant “powerhouses” due to their rich amount of phytochemicals such as flavanols, anthocyanins, catechins, resveratrol, and ellagic acid.
  • Dry Beans, Split Peas, and Lentils provide 20% of our daily fiber requirements and 10% of our daily protein needs.  They are also an excellent source of folate.  Folate may help reduce pancreatic cancer and fiber may help reduce colon cancer.  Other phytochemicals in beans, peas, and lentils help reduce the effects of inflammation and, therefore, may decrease cancer risk but the research is ongoing.
  • Whole Grains such as wheat, oats, barley, brown rice, quinoa, and corn also provide fiber, selenium, and other anti-oxidants.

So, how do you put it all together?  Ideally, start planning your meals and eating based on the “My Plate” recommendations from the USDA or the “Healthy Eating Plate” from the Harvard School of Public Health.  Both recommend filling half your plate with vegetables and fruits and a quarter of your plate with whole grains.

And, finally, researchers believe that it is how nutrients work together in all the foods we eat that really makes a difference.  So, enjoy a wide variety of whole foods – they are your best cancer defense.

Winter Squash

By: Susan K. Wilkerson, RD, LD
Clinical Dietitian

Acorn Squash

Squash comes in many different shapes and sizes.  Different varieties are available throughout the year.  Summer squash arrives in stores soon after harvest is meant to be eaten shortly there after.  Winter squash is available in the summer and late fall.  Winter squash are “good keepers” and became known as a winter vegetable because they would “keep” until December back in the days when refrigerators were not around.  Winter squash is harvested when the “fruit” is fully matured.  The skin is a deep, solid color with a hard skin.  When you purchase them, the stem should be attached.

All varieties of winter squash are low in calories and are good sources for complex carbohydrates and fiber.  They are excellent sources of Vitamin A and a very good source of Vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber and manganese.  They are also a good source of folate, omega 3 fatty acids, thiamin, copper, tryptophan, vitamin B6, niacin and pantothenic acid.  They contain healthy supporting antioxidants – lutein and zeaxanthin.

It would take a whole page to describe all the healthy reasons to eat winter squash!

All varieties of winter squash are easy to prepare.  For butternut and acorn squash, just cut the squash in half, remove the seeds and place in a baking dish with one inch of water to “steam.”  The squash is ready when it is fork tender.  Remove the flesh from the skin with a spoon or just eat it out of it natural container.  Spaghetti squash can be steamed whole in the oven or microwave.  Once tender to touch, cut it in half, remove the seeds, and “rake” out the flesh with a fork.  The flesh will look like spaghetti.  You can serve it hot, tossed with a drizzle of olive oil and parmesan cheese or use it in place of spaghetti noodles and top with your favorite pasta sauce.

So, eat a variety of squash.  They are delicious, good for you and add more color to you plate.

Spag Squash

Butter Squash

5 Second Rule – Are You Safe?

by Susan K Wilkerson, RD, LD

The majority of Americans are familiar with the “5 Second Rule.”  Drop a piece of food on a dirty surface or the floor, and if you pick it up within 5 seconds, it is not contaminated and is O.K to eat.  This is a common superstition and proven to be a myth.

The “5 Second Rule” was featured on an episode of the Discovery Channel series “MythBusters.”  They found there was no significant difference in the amount of bacteria collected from a 2-second exposure and a 6-second exposure.  The moisture, surface geometry, and location where the food item was dropped did, however, affect the number of bacteria.

Ted Allen put the rule to the test in an episode of “Food Detectives” and found that bacteria will cling to food immediately. High traffic areas will lead to even more bacteria on the food.

So says Dr. Jorge Parada, medical director of the infection prevention and control program at Loyola University Health System.  Parada cautioned that as soon as something touches an unclean surface, it picks up dirt and bacteria.  The amount of bacteria and what type depends on the object that is dropped and where it lands.

Rinsing off dropped food with water may not clean them entirely, but it could significantly reduce the amount of bacteria on it Parada noted.  “Maybe the dropped item only picks up 1,000 bacteria, but typically the amount of bacteria that is needed for most people to actually get infected is 10,000 bacteria – then the odds are that no harm will occur,” he said.

That’s not the case for items that are “cleaned” by licking them off or putting them in the mouth. “That is double-dipping,” Parada explained. “You are exposing yourself to bacteria and you are adding your own bacteria to it.  No one is spared anything with this move.”

So the lesson learned here is if food drops on an unclean surface, throw it out.  No minimal amount of time is safe from bacterial contamination.