Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Top 5 Anti-Cancer Foods

I have always had a special place in my heart for the phytonutrient known as Allicin, since my name is Debra Allison.  I first learned about phytonutrients in the 1990's during an undergraduate nutrition class. That is when my love for these natural chemicals in plant foods took off. As a religious woman who is also a nutritionist there is something special about learning the medicinal properties of our natural God-given foods that are intended to prevent disease as well as heal us from disease. New phytonutrients are being discovered all the time. Basically every single fruit or vegetables contains at least one phytonutrient that can provide antioxidant (kills free radicals), anti-inflammatory, or anti-cancer properties to your cells .  Yes, even humble cucumbers contain cucurbitacins which are anti-inflammatory and possibly have anti-cancer properties too. This is why food will always trump supplements and why we must go "Beyond Prenatal vitamins" when discussing women's health.

A few very special people I know were diagnosed with cancer these past few years. Some had surgery, some had chemo, some are having more chemo. These people all told me that when they were diagnosed with cancer, many people started telling them how “so and so cured cancer with (fill in alternative treatment here).” But most people don’t choose an alternative route when faced with a deadly disease. Most people will choose a conventional medicine route to try and eradicate the disease.  However, all cancer patients have a waiting period.  Waiting to find out results of biopsies; waiting to find out treatment options; waiting to find out which top doctor can make room in their schedule; waiting for blood counts to increase, or waiting to see if the chemotherapy will work.  What if these alternative methods are utilized during this waiting period? Would it make the patient feel empowered? Would it possibly help slow the growth of the cancer? 

So I thought I would compile a list of some the top well-studied (700+ research studies on garlic and cancer on Pubmed!!) anti-cancer foods that encourage apoptosis (cell death, a good thing when the cells are cancerous). This is certainly not an exclusive list, just a place to start. Notice how many different colors are represented here, as phytonutrients exist in the colorful components of the plant.

Five Foods that are Anti-Cancerous and encourage Apoptosis 
(and their magic power phytochemical)

1.      Raw garlic (Allicin)
          2.      Turmeric (Curcumin)
         3.      Oregano (Quercetin)
                      4.      Cayenne pepper (Capsaicin)
        5.      Ginger (Oleoresins)
6. "Bonus" Anti-Cancer Food: Green tea (Polyphenols: Catechins, ECG)

      These spices and herbs can be turned into delicious salad dressings, sprinkled on salad, rubbed on chicken or fish, added to meat or veggie stew, or added to rice, stir-fries, or soups. Green tea can be enjoyed as a tea or used in salad dressing and even in your cooking! You can also eat some of these foods, like garlic, crushed and mixed with some raw unheated honey to be enjoyed by the tablespoon (This is how I finally got rid of a nasty strep throat infection that just wouldn't go away with antibiotics). Just make sure to eat them daily. 

    I singled out these 6 foods but there are literally hundreds of foods that contain phytonutrients.

    For more examples of phytonutrient-rich food organized by food color, see this document put together by the Institute for Functional Medicine and for the name of the phytonutrients in each color food group, click on this link.

       Your blogging nutritionist, Debra Allison 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Crock Pot Cooking: The Rules and the Recipes

In response to a conversation on the BeyondPrenatals Facebook page, I am posting some rules and recipes for crock pot cooking. Enjoy them and like us on facebook for more health tips.

Debra's Ten Unofficial Rules of Crock Pot Cooking  

  1. Cook on High 4-5 hours or Low 8-10 hours.
  2. If cooking with beans or lentils, don't add salt until the end.
  3. If cooking with beans or lentils AND tomatoes, you should use pre-cooked (or canned or frozen) beans to ensure the acidity from the tomatoes won't discourage the beans from becoming tender. Or add tomatoes after beans or lentils are tender.
  4. "Saute" in the following recipes, refers to cooking the onions in the crock pot on high with some good quality extra virgin olive oil (or leftover chicken drippings for a deeper flavor) before you add water or other ingredients until the onions become translucent. This can be done while getting dressed. If you need to skip this step, feel free. You will lose some of the flavor but it will still be okay.
  5. If your mornings are just too hectic, fill up the crock pot the night before, place in fridge, and put it into the crock pot base in the morning. If you want to do the "saute" part, do it the night before.
  6. Be flexible.  If you start with onions and garlic and add in vegetables you have on hand, beef or chicken or beans, fresh or dried spices, you usually can't go too wrong.
  7. If using mushrooms, opt for portobello or baby portobello, it will deepen the flavor. 
  8. To prep beans for your crock pot without fuss or multiple bowls, simply pour them into the crock pot and cover with filtered water. In the morning, drain the water off using the cover of the crock pot (turn it over with the cover slightly off center allowing the water to drain out but not the beans. In fact, you might lose a few beans using this method, but it's simpler than taking out a colander in my opinion). Rinse and drain again. They are now ready. If you don't need your crock pot, you can cook the beans in there on low for about 5 hours. No salt. You can also soak during the day, and cook beans overnight. Lentils do not need to be soaked. Once you get in a rhythm, you won't be scared to soak and cook beans, it will become second nature to you. If your recipe does not call for cooked beans, cook them as part of the recipe with the other ingredients.. Or if you absolutely hate cooking beans, shell out the extra $ and buy them canned or frozen:) 
  9. You can also use your crock pot to cook rice and other grains for a few hours (not all day). Works great with "sauteed" onions and mushrooms first.
  10. Don't take my measurements too seriously. If you want more of one spice and less of another, go for it!  I love reading cookbooks but hate following recipes. All amounts are estimates. Use your cooking judgment.

Mung Bean Stew

"Saute" 2 onions in the crock pot (either in olive oil or leftover chicken fat). Add about 1 tsp each of dried spices: Oregano, Dill Weed, Parsley and 1/2 tsp turmeric. Stir and let cook until it smells fragrant. Add 2 cups of pre-soaked mung beans, 1 peeled and chopped sweet potato, and one red pepper. Cover with filtered water. Stir to combine. Place two bay leaves just beneath the water. Cook about 5 hours on high or 8 hours on low. When its done, gently stir in some salt but make sure not to mush the sweet potato, keep it chunky or it won't look pretty;) Serve over Fusilli pasta, spooning the extra juice on top too. 

Chicken Crock Pot Three Ways
1. Whole chicken over 2 cups of rice + 4 cups filtered water. Cover chicken in salsa or matbucha and cooked black beans.

2. Whole chicken rubbed with oil and salt, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and thyme or fresh dill (or other spice you love), surrounded by sweet potatoes. Cook on low all day. Can also be cooked over rice+water.

3. Coat pot in canola oil. Place whole chicken in pot. Cover chicken in honey and then unsweetened coconut shreds. Cook on low all day.  

Beef or Veal Stew
This is not as good as beef stew cooked in a dutch oven but if you want meat for dinner and you are short on time, it's pretty good.
Layer onions, mushrooms, carrots, garlic, celery. Add cubed beef, 1 cup of red wine, 1/2 cup of water, chopped packaged tomatoes or canned stewed tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, coarse salt, black pepper. When it's done stir in some red wine vinegar. 

Veggie Chili

3 cups combination of pre-soaked beans (kidney, white beans, and chickpeas work well)
4 stalks celery
1 bunch carrots
1 onion
4 cloves garlic
3 zuchini zucchini
Spices of your choice (we used: paprika, cayenne, cumin, pepper). 

When cooking beans, always add salt after the beans are cooked or they won't get tender.  
Put everything in the crock pot, add the spices and water to cover.  Cook on low all day. gently add salt to taste.  Make some brown rice or another grain to serve it with and enjoy!


Place in crock pot in the following order (all chopped): Olive oil to coat bottom of pot, 2 medium eggplants, 2 onions, 2 zucchini, 8 oz. Mushroom, 2-3 potatoes, 4 cloves garlic.  Add seasonings: pepper, basil, oregano, ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, 2 tbs maple syrup. Add chopped packaged (r canned) tomatoes.   Add 2 cups cooked chickpeas. Drizzle with some more olive oil. Don't stir. Cook all day.
The reason why you need pre-cooked beans here is because beans dont cook well in the presence of tomatoes. Cook on low all day. Serve hot or cold

Split Pea Soup

1 cup chopped yellow onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or more to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups medium-diced carrots (3 to 4 carrots)
1 cup medium-diced red boiling potatoes, unpeeled 
1 pound dried split green peas
8 cups chicken stock or water
Sliced hot dogs (nitrate-free)
Optional: celery, bay leaves, parsley
1-1/2 teaspoons coarse salt before serving

"Saute" the onions and garlic with the olive oil, oregano, pepper until the onions are translucent, about 20 minutes while you are getting dressed in the morning.. Add the carrots, potatoes, split peas, chicken stock, and hot dogs. If you are home, skim off the foam while cooking. Cook on low all day. Add salt. 
If you prefer your split pea soup with thyme, replace the oregano with thyme.

My kids enjoying mung bean stew over pasta tonight. Recipe above..

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Quotes that Inspire this Nutritionist

Here in Modiin (Israel) I have been busy teaching a Maternal & Child Nutrition course to international students at Hebrew University, working with some amazing clients who are making fabulous changes to their lives and their children's lives, and continuing to settle in this new country we now call home.

I wanted to share these quotes with my readers. I keep them written down in my work notebook and read them when I need some perinatal nutrition/public health inspiration. Maybe they will inspire you too!

It's easier to build strong children than it is to repair broken adults. - Frederick Douglass

I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way - Whitney Houston

Intense love does not measure, it just gives. -Mother Theresa

It always seems impossible until it's done. -Nelson Mandella 
(I think of this phrase whenever I start working on a new public health campaign!)

Appreciate what you have and you will be given more to appreciate.  -@IntuitiveMom

The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it. -Henry David Thoreau

Remember, you are not managing an inconvenience; You are raising a human being -Kittie Franz, RN, CPNP-PC 

When diet is wrong, medicine is no use.  When diet is correct medicine is no use. -Ayurvedic Saying

I love you but it's no concern of yours. -Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

From an acorn, a mighty oak shall grow. -Unknown

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Science, Schmience, and SIDS

I analyze research articles for the EAL, lecture on evidence analysis, and generally love the regimented science process.  But I am in a profession (nutrition.public health) where we still know very little about so much. As a parent, there is also so little we know about how to prevent SIDS and Food allergies despite research. Nothing makes sense. Put babies on their backs, put babies on their stomachs, feed your child solid food at 6 months, no, make that 4 months. Use sunscreen, but make it the non-nano kind, and oh yeah also get some "safe" sun time without sunscreen.  Plastics are safe but not when heated, except certain types of plastics, those are safe.  No wonder parents are confused!

I have been thinking about both issues a lot lately, mostly because I have a 2 month old and I am "maternity leave."  I spend some of her nap time helping to develop evidence-based guidelines for The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics's Evidence Library.  That word, EVIDENCE. A strong word but unfortunately the more articles I review, the more disenchanted I become with the quality of the research and the press that promotes it. Research articles that are neutral or even poor quality get published in very reputable science journals and are followed by snazzy headlines in papers around the world. In the years between 1978-1985 there were 5,000 peer-reviewed journal articles. In the years between 1994- 2001 there were 25,000 peer-reviewed articles!!! What doctor or professional organization can keep up with that? Or worse, conducting a very high quality study cannot be done due to ethical concerns for the human subjects involved. Or it's not funded due to political reasons.

Before the medical world was fixated on evidence-based guidelines, we used common science sense about what was biologically plausible. Of course, it's great of rigorous scientific studies back us up but sometimes that takes years.

For example, I took one of my older children to the doctor and as part of a blood workup, I requested that we check his Vitamin D level. It came back in the normal range. It was just at the end of winter. What happened after that was very strange:

Doctor: "Wow, I have never seen a child with a vitamin D level in the normal range, they are all deficient."

[By the way, I live in very sunny Israel]

Me: "Well, I supplement my children with vitamin D in the winter."

Doctor: "Why do you do that? The guidelines only recommend it until one year."

Me: "Because in my holistic nutrition training (through the Institute for Integrative Medicine), we look at a lot of research that points to the fact, that for whatever unknown reason, we are deficient in Vitamin D, especially in the winter."

Doctor: "Well I cannot recommend that you do that because we don't have guidelines that recommend that you do that just yet."

Meanwhile....we have doctors telling patients not to worry about their child's broken bones from a simple fall or legs getting caught behind their parent's bodies on slides in parks. "It's normal, we see them all the time," can often be heard after a concerned parent questions why the child broke a bone so easily. This article is a perfect example!

Another example, we have pretty good evidence that when you put babies to sleep on their back, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is reduced.  So public health professionals started campaigns to promote "Back to Sleep."  We don't exactly know why this works, there are many theories. One if that babies breathe in toxic air when they are on their bellies, either from re-breathing their own air or from toxins in indoor air. I, and others, think it's perhaps toxins from all the new furniture and mattresses in their rooms. Indoor air quality is always worse that outdoor air quality. This theory is bolstered by the fact that research shows that fans in a baby's room can further reduce SIDS. But this hasn't made it into the "Guidelines" yet so no moms know about it unless they read research articles or followed the small flurry of articles, such as this one.

And don't even get me started about food allergies and starting solid food recommendations, we have "Guidelines" that were based on professional opinions, and now the American Academy of Pediatrics clearly states that they don't know when exactly or what to feed babies.  More on that another time.

So what to do when we don't have supporting guidelines?

In the meantime, use the "precautionary principle," gets your kids vitamin D levels checked once a year, earlier if you see any signs of deficiency (bow legged, teeth coming in uneven, other bone deformities, delayed motor development, muscle weakness, aches and pains, and fractures. And put a fan in a room where a baby is sleeping. And in a future post, I'll hopefully get to baby-feeding "guidelines".

A good example of the precautionary principle in use regarding plastic safety can be found here: NPR's "Is Better Safe than Sorry Reason Enough for Law?"

In good health, Debra