An ad in my local newspaper read, “You Can’t Prevent Breast Cancer.” Reading this, I was upset when I thought about the thoughts of the women who read the ad: that they can only hope for the best. Preventing breast cancer has been made out to be a long shot, it seems.
This message is reinforced in subtle ways repeatedly in our medically dependent society. In grocery stores, PSA’s printed on shopping bags and at checkouts say “Early Detection: Your Best Protection.” A grocery store would be one of the best places to say, “Great Food Choices Available in the Produce Section, Scientifically Supported Real Prevention.”
Please understand that preventing breast cancer is not 100% possible. But you can reduce your risk, and the biggest achievable piece of that reduction is in your choices of foods.
The other good news: eating to reduce breast cancer risk is also really good prevention for heart disease (the leading killer of women), and similarly reduces the risk of prostate cancer (men), and other cancers. This is another great example of the holistic medicine approach, using one natural approach to health (in this case a cancer prevention diet) that benefits multiple outcomes at the same time.
A few things you can do to prevent breast cancer are:
1) Keep a sufficient daily intake of a wide variety of fresh vegetables and fruits
2) Keep your body weight normal and stay active throughout your life
3) Carefully choose the fats and oils you eat
4) Choose whole grains instead of refined sugars and flours
5) Avoid environmental toxins (including alcohol and charred meats)
6) Breast feed your baby
7) Supplement your diet with antioxidants like green tea
Monthly self breast exams and mammograms are also important. I say this because detecting breast cancer early means that as a result, you have ample time to start treating it.
One of the things I love about studying the healing properties of foods, whole foods specifically, is their multi-potent qualities. A single whole food rarely can be found which protects against only one disease, or promotes health in only one area.
And so it is with Rainbow Chard: we know because of its high levels of natural carotenoids (Vitamin A) that it contributes strongly to reduction in breast cancer risk. Rainbow Chard is a spectacular source of Vitamin A (as natural mixed carotenoids), providing over 5000 IU per ½ cup cooked serving. It is also a very generous source of vitamin K for strong bones (4 times your daily requirement in that ½ cup!), and provides a good dose of vitamin C and magnesium. That vitamin A protects the respiratory system, improves skin health, and along with other antioxidants protects the heart. Vitamin C serves of course as a very important antioxidant and is critical for wound healing and repair of the connective tissues that keep our bodies intact.
I am specifically emphasizing Rainbow Chard in this article for the very reason that it displays that splash of several bright colors. The research on phytonutrients is in its infancy, so we probably do not fully appreciate the disease preventing (including preventing breast cancer) value of all those natural pigments in Chard which show up as red, purple, and yellow stems in the middle of those deep green leaves. What we do know, especially from the research of Dr. David Heber (What Color is Your Diet?) is that purposely eating a rainbow of colors every day as fresh produce prevents many diseases, from cancers to heart disease and more.
Fall is a good time to look for chard in your local markets, because like many greens it grows well as a cool weather crop. So it may be that your local farmers are bringing it to market now, and that would be the best to get, a bunch that didn’t have to travel far to your table. But even in a large supermarket, this delicious a nutritious vegetable is a great choice; enjoy it now and commit to a healthier you with a rainbow of vegetable and fruit colors on your plate.
Rainbow Chard with Sundried Tomatoes (thanks to my wife Gail for this one)
First clean the large leaves by immersing in a sink-full of clean cold water, this gets any dirt or sand out of the curly leaves better than rinsing. Then cut off just the very bottom inch of the tough stem with a knife. Fold the leaf longways (like a paper airplane) and lay flat on a cutting board to cut slices across the leaf and the stem. The large pieces of stem below the leaf can be cut as well into short segments similar to celery. Definitely use these stem pieces, but they have to be cooked longer. Take a large flat bottom pan on the stove, heat 3 tbsp olive oil in the bottom, then sauté only the stem pieces with a clove of crushed garlic about 5 minutes. Then add 1/3 cup chopped sundried tomatoes and stir until hot. Place all the leaves in the pot, stir for one minute or until they start to wilt, then turn the heat down and cover the pot with a lid for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, and stir again to make sure it is ready to serve. Do not overcook, as it may become bitter. This makes a delicious side dish especially for a pasta or fish meal.