Every spring in Monmouth County, NJ we have a breast cancer initiative called Paint the Town Pink. Storefronts feature pink displays. Street medians are painted pink instead of yellow. Pink bows hang from trees. And each town adapts a cute little pink name. For the next month, I will be a resident of Pinkmar, NJ (see you in June, Belmar!). Which got me thinking how more pink foods can be incorporated into your home this month to help raise awareness towards the role of nutrition in cancer prevention. So it’s time to Paint Your Plate Pink!
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, with an estimated 29% new cases to be diagnosed in 2015. Women have a 1 in 8 chance throughout their lifetime of developing breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Early detection is key to survival, which is why annual physicals and gynecological exams are so crucial. Mammograms are recommended starting at age 40. While there are many factors that can cause cancer, diet and exercise have been shown to be preventative measures against cancer. Here are 10 pink foods that will not only add some color and flair to your meal, but also have cancer-preventing benefits as well.
Grapefruits are high in vitamin C for immunity and rich source of the cancer-fighting antioxidant lycopene. Graprefruits also have tumor-blocking nutrients called limonoids- one particular type, glucarates, may help prevent breast cancer. The soluble fiber found in the flesh of grapefruits can help lower cholesterol and even help prevent hardening of the arteries. Plus, that fiber helps keep us feeling fuller longer. Enjoy grapefruit by itself, on top of salads, or as a salsa. You can even turn it into a dressing to enjoy with veggies.
Not only a refreshing summertime treat, watermelon also contains anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients including lycopene, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and triterpenoid. Watermelons are high in an amino acid known as citrulline, which can help improve blood flow and heart function AND acts as a fat blocker to prevent the deposit of fatty tissue. While watermelon is perfect on its own or in fruit salad, it also makes a great base for cold soups, salad with mint and feta, skewer snacks, or a refreshing drink.
In addition to grapefruit and watermelon, guava is one of the highest sources of the antioxidant lycopene. Vitamins A & C are also abundant, helping to keep our eyes and bodies healthy. Guava is another high fiber food that keeps us feeling full, helps lower cholesterol, and can regulate our intestinal tract. Guava makes great jellies, glazes, and syrups, filling for empanadas, or a topping for desserts.
The rich red color of the red variety comes from anthocyanin, polyphenols high in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can protect, prevent, and treat many diseases. Cabbage also has an added super-nutrient of glucoraphanin, that plays a role in the prevention of breast cancer (along with bladder, colon, and prostate cancers). Cabbage juice can help protect stomach and intestinal lining, while the fibers in the leaves help reduce cholesterol levels. Red cabbage can be added to salads and slaws, sautéed or braised with vinegar for a side dish, base for soup, or as a taco topper.
These root vegetables contain the phytonutrient betalains for antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, and detox benefits. Noticing a trend with these pink foods yet??? Many studies are being conducted now about the reduced risk for cancer among those who eat beets! Just be careful when cooking beets- heat can destroy these benefits. Steam for ≤ 15 minutes, or roast under 1 hour. Make beets the star of a salad, turn into pasta using a spiralizer, create a traditional Borscht, or juice it.
Fresh figs are typically only available during the summer months, so keep your eye out in the produce aisle as the weather warms up. Atreano figs have a green skin and pink flesh. These potassium-rich fruits can help lower blood pressure, while the high fiber can assist with weight loss. For women, the high fiber in figs can also help fight against postmenopausal breast cancer. Figs can also help protect the eyes from from macular degeneration- all the better to see you with, my dear! Figs and cheese make a delicious combo, so stuff with goat cheese or serve along with a sharp cheese. Change up your usual jam. They even make a sweet topping for crostini or pizza! Poach figs in red wine or juice for a healthy dessert alternative served along with yogurt, while searing will create a caramelized texture.
As a kid the only thing I liked about radishes was that they made pretty decorative roses. But these colorful root veggies have cancer-fighting antioxidants from vitamin C and anthocyanins, along with folate. The detoxifying properties of radishes not only help protect against cancer, but can also help keep the kidneys functioning and protect against urinary disorders due to diuretic effects. Radishes and their high fiber content can help with weight loss, maintain GI function, and control blood sugar. While radishes are typically found on salads, turn them into a side dish, a slaw, or even the star of its own meal. The peppery flavor can naturally spice up any dish!
Kidney beans are high in fiber which can not only assist with weight loss by keeping you feeling fuller longer, but may also lower cholesterol and control blood sugar. This complete plant-based protein also provides a great source of iron, so vegetarians and vegans should make sure kidney beans become a dietary staple! And yes, beans are in fact good for your heart- the fiber, folate, and magnesium found in kidney beans can help lower homocysteine, an amino acid found to be a factor in heart attacks, stroke, and vascualar disease. As an added benefit, the thiamin found in kidney beans may help fight against Alzheimers. Invite these beans to your next Meatless Monday meal- enjoy kidney beans as part of a 3-bean salad, make a bean dip or spread, add to chili, or season with spices and swap out meat for kidney beans on your next taco night. Kidney beans can even make an appearance in your desserts as brownies or ice cream! Up the fiber and lower the sodium content by using dried beans and making a large batch- you’ll find a little can go a long way!
You’re probably already aware that salmon has heart-healthy omega-3s. Those fats can also help improve mood, mental function, and keep the joints and eyes healthy. In addition to helping fight breast cancer, omega-3s and selenium found in salmon can also protect against cancer in the colon, prostate, and blood. The high protein content of salmon may help protect against inflammation of the joints and organs. Smoked salmon (such as lox) can actually reduce the health benefits and therefore is recommended to be consumed in small amounts. Wild Alaskan salmon (including sockeye, coho, and chinook) and certified organic farmed fish are found to have the lowest risk for contamination. Up to 12 oz of salmon per week is safe for consumption for pregnant women. Broil, poach, or grill over indirect heat- just don’t overcook or it can become dry quickly! Salmon tartare makes a tasty appetizer, while swapping salmon for bacon at breakfast can add lean protein to start your day. Keep an eye out for my cedar-plank salmon recipe to be posted in a future post!
Ahi tuna is high in the antioxidant selenium. Recently, it was found that selenium binds to the mercury found in tuna and can actually lower our risk of mercury intoxication. Like salmon, ahi tuna contains many of the same health benefits from their high source of omega-3s, including cancer prevention. Pregnant woman are still encouraged to limit their intake of tuna to no more than 12oz per week. Enjoy ahi tuna as part of a Salad Nicoise, seared with a sesame crust, or impress your dinner guests with this simple carpaccio appetizer.
How will you add more pink to your plate? Have any favorite ways you like to enjoy these foods? Sound off in the Comments!
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