Let’s continue last week’s dialogue on promoting a long, happy, healthy and active life by maintaining an optimum diet, which includes throwing toxins and other dangers under the bus (hybrid, of course).
Fortunately, we have an arsenal of powerful, self-protective culinary weapons at our disposal to boost our immune systems, and ward off assorted cancers and other diseases:
• Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, turnip greens, kale, and the new super-nutritious BroccoSprouts are Herculean powerhouses that contain indole-3-carbinol found to fake out and starve cancer cells by morphing estrogen into a more diluted form.
• Garlic, the “stinky rose” loaded with a potent sulfur compound called allicin is a rugged shield against viruses, bacteria, inflammation, hypertension (it’s a natural blood-thinner), breast cancer cells, and even the occasional vampire.
• Fabulous fungi like shiitake, maitake and reishi mushrooms are known for their disease-fighting qualities, which contain polysaccharides to boost the immune system, as well as lectin, a protein found to keep cancer cells in check.
• Herbs and spices are not only flavor enhancers, but also healers. Like the mighty parsley touted by the American Institute of Cancer Research as a defender against cancer invaders by its rich store of Vitamin C, iron and flavonoids. Turmeric, the Indian spice that lends its golden color to curry is blessed with curcumin, the active ingredient that helps prevent painful joint inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis. Aromatic cinnamon puts the skids on the formation of bad cholesterol, while stabilizing blood sugar levels, particularly among diabetics. And don’t forget rosemary that perks up memory.
• Brew a cup of the oldest new health drink — tea, whether green, white or black — are all a rich store of polyphenol antioxidants, health-guardians against certain neurodegenerative diseases. A squirt of lemon ups the ante to reduce cancer risks, along with boosting heart and brain functions.
• Bone up on Vitamin D-rich foods like eggs, black and red caviar, fatty fish, cod liver oil (if you can stomach it), and fortified cereals to ward off osteoporosis, stroke, heart failure, and assorted cancers.
Oh yes, remember your daily walk, bike ride, or other weight-bearing exercise to bring your bones up to speed, as well as your telomeres. A UCSD School of Medicine study revealed that elderly folks with sedentary lifestyles have shorter, more fragile telomeres (the tips on DNA strands) than their active counterparts who partake in moderate to vigorous exercise for at least 40-minutes daily. When telomeres fray and shrink they become linked to serious diseases, including heart, diabetes, and cancers.
Along with inertia, other bad boys to steer clear of include:
• Simple sugars, particularly refined cane and high fructose corn syrup considered one of the most energy-depleting foods on the planet, as addicting as cocaine, and triggering dental, mental and physical problems. Some sweet alternatives include glyemic-friendly Stevia, xylitol, brown rice and maple syrups, date and coconut sugars, along with mineral-rich, immune boosting honey.
• Charred meats contain pro-inflammatory hydrocarbons, while processed and cured ones, including corned beef, bacon, and sausages laced with sulfites, sodium, and other preservatives are both notorious heart and cancer risks.
• Trans-fatty monsters whether partially- or fully-hydrogenated oils like margarine and palm oil lurk in commercially baked and processed foods. So read labels judiciously.
• Large fish such as tuna and shark, which have a tendency to accumulate dangerous levels of mercury in their flesh, along with bottom feeders like swordfish that are also contaminated with PCB’s, heavy metals and other toxins can all harm cardiovascular, nervous, and immune systems, along with kidney, liver and brain functions.
• Same with shellfish harvested in sewage-infested waters, particularly in Vietnam, China, Thailand, and parts of Indonesia, nuclear fallout zones (Japan’s Fukushima disaster), and crude oil contamination areas (Gulf of Mexico’s Deepwater Horizon spill).
• Peanuts, a crop heavily sprayed with pesticides and subject to a carcinogenic mold called aflatoxin (even organic crops), account for disproportionately high rates of cancers among peanut farmers.
• Alas, GMOs (genetically modified organisms found in conventionally grown crops like corn and soy), and BPAs (a harmful chemical in cans and plastic bottles that can leach into food and drinks, especially acidic ones) carry assorted health risks.
Recipe: Sassy Crucifer Slaw
• Ingredients: 1/2 pound Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced; 1 broccoli stem, trimmed, chopped; 1 cup red cabbage, finely chopped; 1/3 cup toasted pepitas, chopped walnuts or pecans; 1/3 cup dried cranberries or golden raisins.
• For the dressing (double if desired): 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger; 1 garlic clove, minced; 1 tablespoon dark honey; 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil; 3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar; 1/2 tablespoon horseradish mustard; salt and pepper to taste.
• Method: Toss crucifers in a large bowl with nuts and dried fruit. In a small glass bowl, whisk dressing ingredients until well blended. Add to crucifers. Toss well. Chill and serve.