Alas, a brave, beloved soldier — my mom — who fought gallantly against the relentless and merciless enemy, lost her long battle with breast cancer last week. Keep your forks and knives shiny and sharp, along with amping up an A-(nti-cancer) List of foods impersonating as Herculean warriors found to be the best arsenal against breast cancer foes. So go pink, along with the colors of the rainbow, and varying shades of brown and white for Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October) and beyond.
The Cruciferous Cavalry: Punchy, sulfuric crucifers, including the mighty broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels Sprouts, turnip greens, bok choy, arugula, cabbage, and nature's Dristan — horseradish and its Asian cousin wasabi are a rich store of indole-3-carbinol, a compound with magical powers of warding off hungry cancer cells by transforming estrogen (cancer's favorite candy) into a bitter-tasting pill. BrocoSprouts, a new super hybrid of the brassica family contains a load of sulforaphane, a phytochemical that selectively seeks out and destroys the enemy without causing collateral damage to healthy surrounding cells. In addition, the Linus Pauling Institute reported that studies conducted in the United States, Sweden and China have found a link between low consumption of crucifers and high rates of breast cancer. So crucifer up with broccoli and cabbage slaws, sauerkrauts, braised Brussels, crunchy kale chips, warm wilted arugula salad, diced cauliflower "rice", or slather wasabi mayo on sandwiches, grilled wild caught fish or chicken.
Mushroom Militia: Feisty fungi, whether cremini, reishi, Portobello, white button, shiitake, oyster, chanterelle or maitake is an immune boosting powerhouse with polysaccharides, the protein lectin, along with a slew of antiviral compounds to shove cancer cells under the bus. Grill, stir-fry, sauté, puree, toss in soups, stews, sauces (see recipe below), frittatas or risottos, or top burgers of all manners for an anti-cancer oomph.
Garlic Gladiators: The "stinky rose" most potent when eaten raw (and best on off days from work), packed with a sulfur compound called allicin will clobber viruses, bacteria, breast cancer cells, and the occasional vampire. Chop in clarified butter and slather on your favorite baguette or choice seafood, but don't breathe it to a soul!
Seafood Samurai: Best sources of anti-inflammatory, omega-3 fatty acids that provide a defensive weapon against breast cancer come from wild caught, cold-water fish (but no bottom feeders, please) along with oceanic vegetables. Can't beat salmon, whether fresh or canned (with omega-3 rich skin and bones intact), sardines, anchovies, herring, shrimp and domestic lobster - the gold standard of seafood rife with vitamin B12 to ratchet up brain health, B3 to mellow out nerves and ease digestion, and zinc for tissue healing. Assorted seaweed is also a treasure trove of nutrients, such as beta-carotene, and the fatty acid chlorophylone to pack another one-two cancer punch.
Seed Shields: Assorted seeds are other omega-3 champions—and thus good substitutes for people who don't do fish. Flaxseed is known as an excellent Omega protector of healthy breasts, since it contains high levels of lignans and anti-inflammatory compounds. Pumpkin, sesame, sunflower and chia seeds also make the cut, along with nuts, especially almonds and walnuts. So sprinkle liberally on salads and cereals, in bread, muffin and pancake batters, or eat raw straight up.
Fruit Fighters: "Somewhere over the Rainbow" hummed under your breath will remind you to eat the colors of the spectrum throughout the day. Red, yellow, orange, green, and purple peppers, lycopene-rich tomatoes (even more effective when cooked), yams, squashes, spinach, blueberries, pomegranates, cherries and other fruits, berries and veggies contain powerful antioxidants that protect the body from harmful free radicals and toxins.
A Cane Mutiny: Sugar, the most energy-depleting substance on the planet, also creates a cancer-friendly environment. So curb that sweet tooth, and substitute junk food for healthier options and natural sweeteners, including honey, stevia, agave and maple syrups.
Whip up this mushroom mixture that is as protective as it is palatable. Eat healthy, stay well and enjoy life!
• RECIPE: Wild Mushroom Sauce
1 1/2 pounds assorted mushrooms, sliced (Portobellos, Oysters, Shiitake, creminis — your choice)
1/2 red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup red wine
Juice from one lemon (optional)
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon each turmeric, ginger powder, rosemary, thyme, smoked paprika
Cayenne or cracked black pepper
Spring water as needed
Method: In a large skillet, sauté onions and garlic in oil until glassy. Add mushrooms, vinegar, Worcestershire, juice, herbs and spices. Simmer with lid on for 15 minutes, adding spring water to keep mixture saucy. Add wine and simmer 5 minutes. Ladle over your favorite grain, pasta or bread, or serve as a side.
— Catharine Kaufman can be reached by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org