The month of September is marked by our awareness of Ovarian Cancer, followed by Breast Cancer in October. As “Booming Women,” our concern for these two cancers with regard to prevention, supporting treatment, and reducing the possibility of recurrence does not require a calendar celebration but rather an awareness of choices we can make to address these concerns.
Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Following the wise words of the father of modern medicine, our choice of diet is a central part of our journey toward health, healing and vitality. By modifying what we eat, we can reduce our risk of age-related chronic degenerative disease, including cancer. In fact, current research suggests that 1/3 of all cancers can be prevented by modifying what we eat. Not only can these same changes be used to prevent cancer, but they can also be used to support treatment and reduce the risk of recurrence.
The Role of Nutrition in Ovarian Cancer
Population based studies have repeatedly shown a correlation between increased consumption of fruits and vegetables with reduced risk of ovarian cancer. Particular phytonutrients from the market basket have specifically demonstrated their capacity to both prevent and treat ovarian cancer.
Endive contains a phytonutrient known as Kaempferol (also present in spinach, kale and broccoli). Research from the Netherlands, has demonstrated the ability of Kaempferol to function as an antiangiogenic compound. Angiogenesis is the process by which cancer cells are able to grow new blood vessels which allows them to feed themselves.
½ cup of endive, twice or more per week
As described in my previous blog, onions, as well as relatives leeks and garlic, are members of the allium family of vegetables. Onion is rich in a range of phytonutrients that have been shown to reduce the risk of many types of cancer, including ovarian cancer.
There are many varieties of onions, but research has shown that red onions rather than white or yellow, are 60% more potent in their cancer fighting phytonutrients. In addition, consuming onions either raw or lightly sautéed in a little oil is optimal to maximize their anti-cancer potential. In fact, research has demonstrated that boiled onion has 30% less anti-cancer activity verse raw or lightly sautéed in oil.
To reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, it is suggested you should eat a ½ cup of raw or cooked onion a day and ideally red when possible. If that sounds like a challenge, find creative ways to incorporate onion into your menu, such as a lightly stir-fried medley of vegetables.
Italian research has shown that the consumption of omega 3-rich fish can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer by 30%. Like endive, omega-3 fatty acids exhibit antiangiogenic activity. In addition, the omega-3 essential fatty acids are also potent anti-inflammatories.
When adding fish to your diet, it is important to eat only those varieties that are low in mercury, including wild-caught salmon, sardines, mackerel, and herring. For those seeking a milder flavor, wild-caught cod, haddock, sea bass, and flounder are options. Fish can be cooked in variety of ways, such as steaming, lightly sautéing, baking, or broiling.
Consume about 6 ounces of the suggested fish 2-3 times per week.
Research has shown that lycopene, a phytonutrient in tomatoes, also exhibits antiangiogenic activity. In a California based study of 13, 000 women, those who consumed a ½ cup of tomatoes five or more times per week had a 60% reduced risk of developing ovarian cancer. In addition, the cooking process can significantly impact how much lycopene you will absorb. Simmering tomatoes in olive oil at medium temperature for about 20 minutes will increase the presence of lycopene.
Consume about ½ cup 3 times per week.
The cruciferous family of vegetables, particularly broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kale, has been recognized for its potential to impact ovarian cancer. Research found that the phytonutrient sulforaphane, most abundant in broccoli, has been shown to inhibit the growth of ovarian cancer cells.
Consume 1 or more cups of any of the cruciferous vegetables daily
Miso and Tofu
Genistein is an isoflavone (type of phytonutrient) present in soy foods. Numerous studies have demonstrated the anticancer potential of genistein in ovarian cancer, which it inhibits in multiple ways. Referred to as a phytoestrogen, genistein can bind to specific estrogen receptors interfering with our bodies’ potentials to bind to these receptors. Estrogen stimulates cells to divide and grow; therefore, genistein as a weak estrogen has much less proliferative potential than our internally produced estrogen. In addition, it also increases the apoptotic potential of cancer cells, inhibits angiogenesis, reduces metastasis (the spread of cancer to other organs) and acts as an antioxidant.
Consume non-GMO, organic, fermented soy foods such as tofu and miso twice per week.
Note: The consumption of soy should be in the form typical of an Asian Diet and not as a western form.
The National Cancer Institute determined that more than 1,000 different phytochemicals possess cancer preventative activities, including green tea catechins. Gallocatechins, such as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), are found exclusively in green tea. They appear to be responsible for most of the beneficial physiological actions associated with green tea consumption.
Numerous research studies have demonstrated the potential of EGCG in green tea to inhibit ovarian cancer cell growth.
Drink 2-3 cups of green tea daily.
Homemade Miso Soup
- 8 cups of water
- 1½ teaspoons instant dashi granules
- ¼ cup white miso paste, organic non-GMO if available
- 1 tablespoon dried seaweed, soaked in water
- ¼ cup scallion, thinly sliced
- 4 oz firm tofu, organic non-GMO if available
Preparing the Dashi
Boil the water in a pot. Add the instant dashi granules to the boiling water and stir to dissolve. Drain the seaweed and add to the pot. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes.
Note: You can substitute with chicken or vegetable broth, but the flavor will change.
Preparing the Tofu and Scallions
Cut the tofu into small cubes. Slice the scallions very thinly.
Finishing the Soup
Place the miso paste in a bowl and cover with ½ cup of the dashi broth. Stir or whisk until the miso is full dissolved and no lumps remain.
Pour the dissolved miso into the simmering dashi and add the tofu to the pot.
Simmer for 1 – 2 minutes, or long enough to warm the tofu.
Turn the stove off and sprinkle the scallions over the top of the soup.
Our nutrition expert, Peta Cohen, M.S., R.D., has been a clinical nutritionist and metabolic specialist since 1996. Peta specializes in examining the root causes of complex and chronic health issues, and helping clients prevent the diseases caused by lifestyle choices, environmental influences, epigenetics, and aging. With her extensive clinical and research experience, she's been invited to share her knowledge at seminars and conferences worldwide. In Peta's articles for the BoomSpot, the blog of the online store theBoomShop.com, she gives practical tips on how adults 50+ can improve their health right now. Learn more about Peta at PetaCohen.com.