Pretty in Pink

October is the month I really miss my hometown, which is located in upsate New York, in the northeastern part of the United States. Autumn in upstate New York, before the snowy winds blow, is robust with color. Deep oranges, reds, and varying shades of yellow enrich the countryside. Reminding us of the changing seasons of the year.

Pink is the color I have been seeing most  recently in Shanghai and that can only mean one thing, it is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Awareness is the operative word in that sentence. Medicine has made great strides in controlling and treating breast cancer but health prevention measures and early detection are still the best tools in tackling this disease. Here are some general health recommendations that we can all adopt for this month and the years ahead.

Alcohol: In most cases nutritionists will allow that a glass or two of red wine has some health benefits, however in terms of breast cancer prevention, most studies indicate that less, much less, as in none, is best for women. The research includes all alcohol, beer, wine and liquer. According to drinking more than 1-2 drinks per week increases a woman’s risk of hormone receptive- positive breast cancer by 15% and the risk increases with every additional drink.

Optimal weight: Recently there was a weight-loss diet going around that featured good results from an alternate fasting approach to eating. The origins of this diet approach came from studies on women with breast cancer. The researcher wanted to see if  restricting  food would improve treatment outcomes. They found that this method of energy restriction did bring about some weight loss and reduced the amount of circulating hormones that can influence the development of cancer. The bottom line is that maintaining a healthy weight not only reduces your risk of breast cancer but also your risk of developing other chronic diseases such as Type II diabetes and heart disease.

Cruciferous vegetables: Think crunchy. Broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, cabbage, kale and arugula all fall into this category.  These vegetables have copious amounts of fiber and phytonutrients known to have cancer fighting properties.

Tumeric and Ginger: Both these spices have been studied for their anti-inflammatory effects on health and by reducing inflammation we automatically reduce conditions that increase the risk of cancer. To add turmeric to your life, sprinkle it in cooking, put some in your smoothie and  go out for Indian food. Ginger appears liberally in Chinese cooking and makes a wonderful soothing drink on a cold day. Add a few slices to your morning tea.

Many organizations in Shanghai are having luncheons to celebrate survivors, remember victims and remind us all that there is still work to do on breast cancer prevention and finding cures.

Eat Well, Live Well, Have Fun!

Cruciferous is King!

I bet you thought this blog would be about chocolate considering Valentines is right around the corner. Instead I want to highlight an overlooked group of veggies that are not only good for your heart but can enhance every aspect of your health.

Cruciferous vegetables are also known as the Brassica family. They get the name cruciferae, which means cross bearing, from the shape of their flower, which most of us never see. The flower blooms with the 4 petals arrayed in the shape of a cross, hence cruciferae. As interesting as that all is the real value of this vegetable group lies in the abundance of vitamins, minerals, fiber, anti-oxidants and sulfur that make this group one of the best health choices around.

Cruciferous vegetables, including bok choy, cabbages from purple to white, radishes, kale, cauliflower and broccoli and my favorite brussel sprouts, among many others, have been shown in over 70 studies ( per the American Dietetic Association) that there is a link between cruciferous vegetables and a reduction in  cancer risk.  According to the American Cancer Institute substances in these vegetables have been shown to reduce tumor growth in several cancers, including breast, prostrate, liver and lung.

Cruciferous vegetables are rich sources of the phytochemical, sulforaphane, which is quite important to the natural process of detox that our body does everyday. One study found that sulforaphane was able to engage certain enzymes that then “disarmed” carcinogens before they could do any harm at the cellular level.

All these studies add up to the conclusion that a twice weekly intake of cruciferous vegetables will reduce the oxidative stress on your body that you get from living a fast paced Shanghai lifestyle, which includes pm2.5 readings over 150! Oxidative stress is the build up of waste products we accumulate and this build up is thought to cause general inflammation which may be the root of many chronic disease states from cardiovascular to diabetes, to obesity.

Oh but the smell!  You know what it smells like when you over cook the broccoli? But it doesn’t have to be that way; in fact you will get more of the nutrient treasure offered in these veggies if you eat them raw, lightly steam them or roast them in the oven. Go ahead and drizzle them with some olive oil and sprinkle on some parmesan cheese for a delightful, healthy side dish tonight.

If the strong flavors are a roadblock for you or your kids, start with the sweeter cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, Daikon radish, rutabaga and turnips. Once these are  favorites you can try the stronger flavor relatives.

So this Valentines, treat someone you love to some roasted veggie love followed by a chocolate kiss for dessert!

Eat Well, Live Well, Have Fun!