Tag Archives: Healthy Food

Think Beyond Pink for Breast Cancer Prevention: Think Bright Colors

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Diet plays a critical role in a woman’s risk for breast cancer. Daily foods with bright colors are not only appetite-appealing, they can also be quite therapeutic, as research reveals that colorful fruits and vegetables are powerful weapons to fight breast cancer.

Two categories of dietary nutrients with bright colors are fruits and veggies that are red or orange/yellow.

Red grapes_comboThink Red.

Red grapes, red grape-derived products such as grape juice, and red wine are rich in resveratrol, a health-beneficial antioxidant that protect against breast cancer in both animal and human studies. Also, resveratrol offers cardiovascular protection. It’s important to remember that red and dark red grapes contain higher levels of resveratrol than green grapes and red wine.

I love sweet red grapes. I often eat red grapes as a snack or desert and incorporate them in my salads. To enjoy this nutritious red fruit, follow your taste and deploy your creativity.

Think Orange and Yellow.

Carrots bunch_1389068-mFruits and veggies with vibrant orange, yellow, and red colors are rich resources of carotenoids, organic pigments, micronutrients and antioxidants. These foods include carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and red peppers, plus some greens like spinach and kale. Research shows that eating plenty of these fruits and vegetables can be particularly beneficial for women at risk of non-estrogen-dependent cancer and those with a genetically increased risk for cancer.

More-peppers_580768-mThere are many ways to increase your daily consumption of bright-colored, plant-based foods. You can use them in fresh salads or sandwiches for lunch and prepare steamed or stir-fried veggie dishes for dinner. Whatever way you choose, these healthy treats are quick and easy to prepare, and they are yummy. Similarly, regular ingestion of tomatoes does good to you, because tomatoes are a wonderful source of lycopene, one of carotenoid compounds.

Keep in mind that carotenoid-rich fruits and veggies are low in dietary lipids that facilitate human absorption of micronutrients. Therefore, it’s always wise to consume them with olive oil or avocado (i.e., healthy fat) to improve the carotenoids’ bioavailability.


Not only can a colorful diet of fruits and veggies reduce your breast cancer risk, it can protect you from other major human diseases and positively affect your mental and emotional levels. Just remember: rainbows on your plate help create a healthy rainbow in your life!


Image credits: by redvisualg; DeLaMartre; and awottawa

Garlic—Its Healing and Preventative Properties and How to Reap Maximal Benefits for Your Immunity

Garlic (allium sativum) is a spice, a medicinal herb, one which is becoming popular as a natural product against health problems such as cardiovascular disorders, immune dysfunctions, and cancer. In particular, both epidemiological and laboratory findings have demonstrated that garlic consumption reduces cancer incidences of the stomach, colon, breast and cervix.

What is the science behind the wonders and mystery of garlic’s properties? Here I sum up how it may boost the immune system and lower cancer risks.

1. Anti-microbial: Garlic protects effectively against bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites, without damaging your normal cells. This natural antibiotic, unlike synthetic ones, has an affect on a broad spectrum of microorganisms with little or no resistance from the body. So it can work as your long-lasting agent for preventing and fighting infections.

2. Anti-inflammatory: Garlic acts as an antioxidant, inhibiting the secretion of inflammatory mediators/factors, reducing the migration of neutrophils, antagonizing the oxidation by free radicals, and stimulating immune response.

3. Anti-carcinogenic: Its anticancer properties are rather complex, and have been proposed to function through a number mechanisms that include scavenging of free radicals, increasing availability of substance(s) and enzymes that detoxify genetic damaging chemicals, assisting with DNA repair, and inhibiting tumor cell proliferation.

Furthermore, research suggests the anticancer effect of Allicin, a major component of garlic, is associated with its immune stimulatory properties. It’s of interest that garlic can be useful as a natural remedy against immune suppression. Apparently, suppression of immune response is linked with increased risk of cancer or other malignancies.

The next question is how you can turn scientific knowledge into a practical aide for your own health. Incorporating garlic into your diet requires a few guidelines to gain most of benefits from it. Things to consider are:

The amount—How much is enough? How many cloves a day?
Although accumulated evidence supports the health benefits of garlic, additional studies are needed to determine the quantity required by humans to minimize cancer risk. The current suggestion is to eat a minimum of two medium-sized cloves daily, based on a recent study that used garlic extract concentration equivalent to an adult’s intake. This amount can be increased to five cloves, again based on consumption of Asian adults.

Preparation—Should it be cooked or not?
The best way to consume garlic is to eat in raw (i.e. in its natural form). However, cooked ones are fine except for microwaving, which destroys much of the effective components. Some scientists claim that lightly cooked, crushed garlic provides similar health benefits found in raw garlic.

Crushed or not crushed?
Crushing may be best, since it enables the beneficial components to be released. Crush or chop the garlic at room temperature and allow it to sit for about 15 minutes.

How to reduce garlic’s odor and unpleasant breath?
Personally, I find cooking a dish with garlic and parsley together helps reduce the odor. After a meal, brush your teeth (including tongue) thoroughly. Since this concern is beyond the scope of this post, you may find solutions from other resources such as How to Get Rid of Garlic Smell and Garlic Breath Removal.

Supplements as an alternative—garlic pill or not?
Garlic supplements have some advantages, since eating lots of garlic isn’t always practical and/or socially appealing. The bottom line is—there is no clear evidence whether the pill provides the same benefits as garlic or its extracts, and whether the effective compounds detected in garlic remain potent after manufacturer’s processing. Also, depending on your health needs, you may wish to consult with your physician.

After all, maintaining immune stimulation can significantly reduce the risk of cancer. So, enjoy your daily dose of garlic!

What’s your take on garlic? Do you have a favorite recipe to share?

Photo credits: by nkzs ; by vieux bandit

Dark Chocolate Mini Review (Part 2)

How can you maximize dark chocolate’s cancer prevention benefits while enjoying the pleasure?

This is my focus on this part of the Dark Chocolate Mini Review. I strongly recommend you follow these guidelines in the choice and consumption of dark chocolate:

1. Eat dark chocolate containing at least 70% cocoa. Keep in mind, the darker the chocolate, the better it is for you. The higher the percentage of cocoa, the more flavonoids.

2. Find dark chocolate made from the least destructive processing technologies, or those created as close to its original raw state (unprocessed cacao).

3. Check the ingredients. Read the label. As the saying goes, “the devil is in the details”. Examine the nutrition facts. Avoid trans fat, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), artificial sweeteners, and anything that will compromise your health. Limit saturated fat too.

4. Select chocolate with a low sugar content, especially if you have certain health challenges. Chocolate is a calories-dense food, with fat, sugar, and other additives and preservatives added by the manufacturer.

5. Consume dark chocolate in moderation. By moderation, I mean having 1-2 oz a day or no more than 14 oz. a week.

6. Integrate it into a healthy lifestyle. Remember dark chocolate is not a substitute for a healthy diet. So eat it regularly along with a balanced, antioxidant-rich diet and exercise.

7. Consider real cocoa powder (not the instant hot chocolate). Research shows that pure cocoa powder has the most antioxidants, followed by dark chocolate, then milk chocolate.

Finally, I don’t sell chocolate nor do I receive fees from manufacturers for recommending them. My review is based purely on both solid science and my opinion after tasting various products over the years.

My experience? When I open a box of chocolate, I feel like I’m opening a world of mystery, joy and vitality. Once various shapes of chocolate appear in front of me, I pick up one piece and put it in my mouth for a bite. As it melts, I feel delightful, euphoric — a smile lighting up my face. Whoever thought something so dark could bring such brightness! Mmm…

Take home message: You can indulge yourself in dark chocolate moderately and regularly, without guilt!

What experience or tip would you like to share? And if you like this post, please share it.

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Dark Chocolate Mini Review

First, I’m writing this mini review as both a medical scientist and a chocolate lover, not necessarily as an expert on chocolate. (As the title states, this is not a full-scale review on dark chocolate either).

As everyone is aware from personal experience, chocolate comes in many forms, including bars, candies, chocolate coated nuts or dried fruit, cookies, and cakes …. What you might not know is that dark chocolate is chocolate without milk as an additive.
Why is chocolate so popular?
1. It tastes delicious.
2. It serves as a snack, treat, or an energy booster.
3. It can be a nice gift.
4. Noticeably, dark chocolate offers health benefits.

Let me zoom in a bit here and summarize these health benefits, esp. cancer prevention benefits.
The basic ingredients in dark chocolate are cacao beans. The cacao bean is a plant-based food and naturally rich in antioxidants such as resveratrol and flavonoids. In fact, the cacao bean is one of the most concentrated natural sources of antioxidants that exist.

Next, I’ll focus on one of the antioxidants — flavonoids, also known as vitamin P, a powerful antioxidant.

How do flavonoids benefit us?
1. They help prevent heart disease.
2. They promote our blood flow and lower blood pressure.
3. They fight inflammation — a common problem in heart disease and cancer.
4. They have a stress-relieving effect.
5. They protect our DNA from any damage that could lead to cancer.
6. They could help kill cancer cells and inhibit tumor invasion.

Preclinical studies have shown that flavonoids in chocolate stop cell division, which could potentially inhibit development of cancer. In addition, the flavonoids appear to cut off the blood supply to tumors, which could suppress cancer and starve it to death.

So, what’s the key when choosing dark chocolate? The main component in dark chocolate that reduces cancer risks is found in the cacao bean, hence the substantial amount of antioxidants. So if you shop for dark chocolate, the higher percentage of cocoa (i.e. the bean is called after cacao has been processed), the higher level of flavonoids antioxidants.

The cocoa content of commercial dark chocolate bars can range from 30% (sweet dark) to 70%, 75%, or even above 85% for extremely dark bars. The percentage of cocoa solids in the bars is usually labeled.

What are the downsides of dark chocolate?
1. Dark chocolate tends to have a dry, chalky texture and a bitter taste because of the lack of milk additives.
2. During the processing, flavonoids content is reduced or destroyed, sometimes substantially. All the wonderful traits from dark chocolate are only as good as the process used to create the end product. It is said that some dark chocolate producers remove the flavanols (a structural subgroup of flavonoids) during processing to eliminate the bitter taste. By doing so, they’ve essentially diminished your potential health benefits.
3. Chocolate, in general, is a calorie rich food with sugar and fat contents. The health benefits of dark chocolate come from the antioxidants in the cacao solids. All of the other ingredients, like sugar, or any extras, like nougat and caramel, just add calories.
4. Chocolate contains a variety of other substances, some of which have addictive properties, e.g sugar, theobromine, etc.

What’s the rating?
Sorry, I don’t rate these products in 1 to 10, or A to D. I consider ratings to be subjective, because the best item to me doesn’t mean it’s the best for you. My favorite dark chocolates, such as Dove and Lindt, provide a high cocoa content (70% and up) while remaining tasty. Again, personally, dark chocolate with 85% cocoa is too bitter for me, compared with those with 70% cocoa. So you get the point.

(Shortly, my next post will follow and provide the guidelines on how to maximize dark chocolate’s health benefits, so stay tuned.)

Photo credit: by EverJean