3 Secret Foods to a Healthier, Cancer-Free You

Broccoli stalks

Eating fruits and vegetables is a recommendation many of us are familiar with and strive to achieve every day — especially when you are undergoing mesothelioma treatment or striving to prevent cancer.

We eat bucketsful of broccoli and blueberries, and we crave kale and cauliflower — well, some of us.

The best intentions are certainly within most of us, but are we maximizing our nutrition from the foods we buy, or are we actually trashing the best parts?

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports show approximately 90 billion pounds of edible food is uneaten each year.

Reducing wasted food not only saves money, but it also helps us get the most value from the foods we are already eating.

Here are three foods that you probably haven’t been using and should because they contain cancer-preventative properties.

Making the Best of Broccoli Stalks

There are several ways to buy broccoli, but the most inexpensive way is to buy the whole vegetable — stalks and all.

Many of us only use the florets in cooking and toss out the remainder of this highly nutritious food. There are probably several reasons for this:

  • We don’t really know what do with it.
  • Most recipes only call for the top part.

The florets make up about 30 percent of the whole vegetable, which means we are potentially throwing out 70 percent of this highly valuable food.

We know that broccoli contains phytochemicals and antioxidants that make it an anti-cancer food. The polyphenols and glucosinolates found in broccoli play a large role in disease prevention.

Recent research shows the stems and leaves of the broccoli plant are just as biochemically active as the florets. In addition, they are a great source of fiber.

Think of stems as transit corridors — nutrients from the ground enter the plant’s roots and travel along the stems to the tips and leaves.

Other tasty stems include kohlrabi, celery and asparagus.

Need ideas on what do with the stem? Peel and grate it to make a broccoli slaw, or chop it up and roast with the rest of the broccoli.

The stems are crunchier in texture than the delicate florets and can be used in stir-fries, salads and dipped into salad dressing for a healthy snack.

Clever Uses for Citrus Peels

Most parts of citrus fruits, including lemons, oranges and grapefruits, are thrown out because we usually only consume the juice.

What we dispose of primarily includes the peel and the pith (the white part of the fruit). But the peel contains an interesting chemical called limonene, which has shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects.

More research is needed to determine its exact mode of action, but in the meantime, save those peels and use them in the following ways:

  • Grate the rind and include it in baked goods, stir-fries and stews.
  • Boil with sugar water to make candied lemon or orange peels.
  • Cut strips of peels and infuse in olive oil to use in salads.

If you start using citrus peels regularly, try to buy organic to avoid the pesticides absorbed in the outer layers.

A Sprig of Parsley Contains Hidden Antioxidants

We all know this herb as a garnish on our plates, but rarely do we think about eating it for its health benefits.

In reality, parsley is a wonderfully nutritious food high in vitamins K and C. Researchers continue studying its role in cancer prevention, but we currently know parsley contains high levels of cancer-fighting antioxidants.

Apigenin is a flavonoid found in parsley, thyme, chamomile and red peppers, and studies show a diet rich in flavones decrease the risk of various cancers.

The anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and antioxidant properties of parsley make it a worthwhile addition to your meals. Additionally, parsley stimulates the immune system and has cardio-protective effects.

Tabouli, a traditional Middle Eastern dish, is a great way to incorporate this herb into your diet.

Tasty Tabouli Salad Recipe

The Food Network provides a great recipe for tabouli salad.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup fine cracked wheat
  • 1 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 3 diced tomatoes
  • 2 seeded and diced cucumbers
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, pour the water over the cracked wheat and cover. Let it stand about 20 minutes until wheat is tender and water is absorbed. Add the chopped herbs and vegetables and toss with the mix. Combine the oil, lemon juice and salt in a separate bowl. Add to wheat mixture and mix well. Chill. Serve and enjoy.

  1. Hwang, J. et al. (2015, March 31). Antioxidant and Anticancer Activities of Broccoli By-Products from Different Cultivars and Maturity Stages at Harvest. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4391535/
  2. United Stated Department of Agriculture. (2015, September). Let’s talk trash. Retrieved from http://www.choosemyplate.gov/sites/default/files/printablematerials/2015-LetsTalkTrash-2page.pdf
  3. Shukla S. & Gupta S. (2010, March 20). Apigenin: A Promising Molecule for Cancer Prevention. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2874462/

Tejal Parekh is a registered and licensed dietitian in Florida with a master’s in nutrition and dietetics from Georgia State University. She realized her passion more than 10 years ago when she started working with cancer patients. Tejal also is one of the first dietitians in Florida to be board-certified as a specialist in oncology nutrition.

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