Stay away from carcinogens
Recently I was invited by PALS to get involved with their integrative oncology programme.
It’s a six-week holistic programme based on the amazing Penny Brohn model from the UK. As well as receiving the usual medical care, participants get individual and group nutrition support, group counselling from Solstice, yoga and the opportunity to take part in alternative therapies such as reflexology. We’re now on the third round and it’s been an amazing learning curve and privilege. It's getting better each time and it’s amazing to be able to share insights that really do make a difference to the day-to-day wellbeing of people at various stages of their cancer journey.
One of the things I love about the Penny Brohn approach is that although they teach – and rightly so – that nutrition has a large part to play in symptom management, recovery and prevention, they also have the philosophy that food can and should be a source of pleasure.
Humans eat for two reasons: 1) because they need to (biological hunger) and 2) because they want to (hedonic hunger). While in normal life we often let hedonic hunger get out of control, it’s important to give value to the happiness that a delicious meal can bring (especially when we share these moments with family and friends).
Within cancer treatment, a loss of appetite due to stress or treatment is often a challenge. In these moments, we tend to have a “something is better than nothing” approach and anything goes if the patient wants to eat it. However we also balance that with learning how to make everyday nutrition healthy, while keeping it delicious. It’s what we do most of the time that matters – and it matters so much!
In Bermuda, one of the most important aspects of cooking to get right, is how to safely barbecue your food. Many of us use the outdoor grill in the summer, partly as the house stays more cool and partly because it’s just fun, quick and easy to cook outside in the sun. But how you prep and cook your barbecue makes a stunning world of difference when it comes to the formation of carcinogens in your food. For those of you who don’t know, “carcinogens” are cancer causing compounds and they are generated especially by grilling, browning and charring food. Yikes!
So what can we do? The good news, is that we can do plenty. Every summer, I print these guidelines because they are so important! Here’s the detail on how to grill safely, and a recipe that will knock your socks off as a beautiful and tasty side. Enjoy!
How to keep your BBQ healthy!
1. Cook over a lower heat for longer. Obviously, it is important to make sure that poultry and meat are cooked to the proper internal temperature, but there is no harm in taking a little more time if you can spare it.
2. Given that flames flare up when fat drips down on to the coals, try and choose leaner cuts of meat, trim visible excess or cook marbled cuts of meat on a shelf away from direct heat.
3. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends marinating meat for at least 30 minutes – the impact of which is impressive. In a recent study, the American Chemical Society noted that marinating meats in beer slowed down carcinogen formation by up to 53 per cent (the darker the ale, the better). However, one study showed that a combination of olive oil and lemon juice was most effective, reducing cancer-causing compounds by 99 per cent. Whichever route you choose though, you will get amazing moisture and flavour with a marinade!
4. Add herbs to your marinade (fresh or dried) as these may reduce carcinogen formation too, according to Food Safety Consortium scientists at Kansas State University. Tear the herbs to allow their oils to infuse the marinade and consider adding extra fresh herbs to an accompanying salad, too.
5. Make half your plate vegetables. I know it sounds like a lot, but the “five-a-day” recommendation is, quite frankly, a starting point. Vegetables are full of the phytonutrients and fibre that help to reduce cancer risk. It is also about what those vegetables replace too. If by eating more veg you eat less carbs, you are on to a winner. I am very pro carbs, but they should only form about one quarter of your plate – especially in the evening.
6. Choose cruciferous vegetables (eg broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts). A study from the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention illustrated that the glucosinolates found so prolifically in cruciferous veg are protective against both HCAs and PAHs. Try a broccoli slaw or the Hong Kong confetti salad (made with red cabbage) at the Miles deli. It’s so good!
7. And finally, clean that grill! A mega pain I know, especially if you only get round to it the morning after. However, cleaning the grill reduces the amount of burnt char you eat. Char intake is linked to premature ageing as well as carcinogen formation, so it is a double whammy!
Rainbow Satay Salad:
Remember the almond butter satay sauce from two weeks ago? Finely chop red cabbage, yellow peppers, orange peppers and cucumber. Also halve some baby tomatoes. Toss them all together in the satay sauce and sprinkle with some chopped spring onions. It’s so simple but so good!
Satay sauce (makes 1 cup):
½ cup almond butter, 1 tbsp tamari soy sauce (gluten-free), 2 tbsp sesame oil, ¼ cup orange juice, 2 tbsp lime juice, 1 tbsp rice vinegar, 1½ tbsp sriracha, 1½ tbsp honey. Whisk together!
Catherine Burns is a qualified nutritional therapist. For more details: www.natural.bm, 505-4725, Natural Nutrition Bermuda on Facebook and @naturalbda on Instagram