This tag is associated with 6 posts

7 Cancer Fighting Foods

April is Cancer Awareness Month. (Watch for me on Breakfast Television in Vancouver on Friday morning, we’re talking about cancer prevention!)

Here, I’ve rounded up a few delicious things that can help you prevent cancer. Feast on these:


Garlic is bursting with phytonutrients and antioxidants. Several large studies have found that people who eat more garlic have a lower risk of developing cancer, especially cancer in the digestive organs. Freshly crushed garlic is your best bet–probably better than supplements.

Cruciferous veggies

Think: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kale. These nutritional powerhouses are packed with anticancer phytonutrients that have been shown in studies to reduce inflammation, inhibit carcinogens, and slow cancer cell growth. With cruciferous veg, you should cook them lightly and chew them thoroughly to release all the active molecules.

Green tea

Green tea is full of potent antioxidants. One subset of antioxidants–catechins–are particularly noteworthy in the fight against cancer. Lab studies have found that catechins can shrink tumors and reduce tumor cell growth, and may have a protective effect against cancer, breast cancer especially. Black tea and green tea both contain catechins, but green tea has approximately three times the amount.

Citrus fruit

Oranges, mandarins, and grapefruit are well-known to contain tons of vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant. But it turns out there are useful phytonutrients in the peel of citrus fruits, too–these nutrients are called limonoids, and one recent study showed a reduction in skin cancer rates with limonoid consumption. You’re probably not going to start munching on orange peel, straight-up…but you could use the zest for sauces and baking, no?


A staple in curries and Indian food, the active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin–which is a potent antioxidant. It’s a compound that’s under a lot of investigation currently, as it’s showing great promise in the fight against cancer. (Plus: yum!)


Tomatoes are off the chart on antioxidants and phytochemicals, but it’s especially lycopene–the compound that gives tomatoes their red color–that’s been shown to be anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer, notably against prostate cancer. The interesting thing about lycopene is that it becomes even more bioavailable after cooking and processing.

Dried beans & peas

Legumes contain flavonoids–and research shows that flavonoids protect against cancer by affecting cell growth, and also via antioxidant activity. They’re also high in fiber, which is known to reduce the risk of colon cancer. Also these are foods that help you maintain a healthy weight–and obesity is an independent risk factor for cancer.

Interested in other ways to prevent cancer? Read this next: 10 Tips to Prevent Cancer. And then this: Cut Your Cancer Risk With This One Simple Thing.

What to Snack On When You’re Stressed

I know–when life is throwing you curveballs, your impulse is to bee-line for the freezer (chocolate chip cookie dough Haagen-Dazs, anyone?) or the snack cupboard (hello, Sea Salt & Vinegar Kettle chips…).

But that’s not going to make anything better. Especially not your coronary arteries. Or your muffin top.

So I’ve rounded up some healthier options–and snack choices that may actually help you cope with that stress.

Try these:

Spinach salad. The magnesium in spinach can help regulate cortisol (a key stress hormone).

Walnuts. These yummy nuts have been shown to decrease blood pressure during stressful events.

Mandarin oranges. Vitamin C can decrease cortisol levels.

Gum. Okay, technically not a snack, but certainly something you can chew on–and studies have shown that chewing gum improves mental performance and decreases stress and anxiety.

Oatmeal. Complex carbs can help lower stress.

Tea, green or black. Tea, among its many health benefits, has been shown to decrease cortisol levels.

Guacamole & baked pita chips. The potassium in avocado can help lower your blood pressure, and the crunch in the pita chips will help satisfy that need for…well, something crunchy.

Salmon. Fatty fish is an excellent source of omega-3, and studies show that people with anxiety may be deficient in the omega-3 department. Replacing this insufficiency can improve symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Natural Ways to Boost Your Metabolism

It sounds like the holy grail: Boost your metabolism, lose weight without even trying!

Is such a thing even possible? All manner of supplements trumpet this claim. But to my mind, that seems pretty dubious. Chemicals to boost metabolism are out there for sure (meth, anyone?)…but they’re not always healthy

So, instead of that, are there natural ways to accomplish this goal?

Indeed there are. Here are some of them:

Increase muscle mass.

As in weight training. Muscle burns more calories than fat. Which means it’s just math from here on in: if that bod contains proportionately more muscle, you’ll burn at a higher metabolic rate. Pump that iron, people.

Drink green tea.

Research is beginning to show promise in this department. It’s the epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) in green tea that may improve bellyfat distribution, boost metabolism, and curb appetite.


This stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis, and basically it’s a way to get more activity (thus more metabolic burn) in your day without having to resort (gasp!) to hitting the gym. Excellent primer on NEAT right here.

Spice things up.

Studies are increasingly demonstrating that spices can help with weight loss efforts. Capsaicin (that’s the fiery stuff in hot peppers) appears to improve fat oxidation and metabolic rate and curb appetite. A new study showed a blend of turmeric, cinnamon, rosemary, oregano, garlic powder, and paprika reduced post-meal insulin and triglyceride levels.

Looking for more sneaky ways to jack up your weight loss efforts? Read this. And this. And, um, this.

How To Lose That Cursed Belly Fat

Women used to complain about their hips and thighs. Now, it seems, it’s all about belly fat. I suppose this could be my imagination since I have, in recent years, joined the post-baby ranks…and now share this particular preoccupation.

Or maybe it’s the attention paid to apple vs pear-shaped physiques. Which is an important distinction, actually. An apple silhouette (with fat accumulated around the belly) is more dangerous than a pear shape. Years of research have shown an association between belly fat and an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Of course there’s a recent study that threatens to debunk years of accepted wisdom re fat distribution in the abdomen vs hips/thighs. But this is just one study, and the jury is still out.

Regardless–whether you want to lose that spare tire for aesthetics or for health–it’s a good goal.

So, what to do?

1. Watch out for trans fat. Saturated fat, in general, is not your friend if you want a nice lean tummy, but trans fats are particularly evil. A study at Wake Forest University showed that trans fat increased the amount of fat stored around the belly…and even worse: it redistributes fat from other parts of your body to the abdomen. Now that is just not nice.

2. Drink green tea. A recent study showed that consumption of green tea enhances exercise-induced abdominal fat loss. Okay, seriously. Is there anything green tea doesn’t help with?

3. Go easy on the alcohol. Alcohol seems to be a particularly bad thing for belly fat. One theory: when you drink, your liver is too busy burning off the alcohol to metabolize fat properly. But worse, is this: alcohol can affect the hormones that regulate your satiety center. In other words, it can make you feel hungrier. And you know what that leads to, don’t you?

4. Manage your stress. Chronic, unrelenting stress does a lot of bad things to our bodies and minds. Not the least of which is produce a steady stream of cortisol. And, unfortunately, cortisol stimulates our bodies to accumulate fat around our abdomens. Great. As if being stressed isn’t bad enough. Now you’re stressed…and chubby. Check here for tips on stress management. And here. And, um, here.

5. Gobble blueberries. Blueberries have been shown in lab studies to diminish abdominal fat. Don’t get too excited, yet, though–the study was only done on rats. Still, it may prove applicable to the rest of us. Besides, blueberries have other benefits too.

6. Fiber, fiber, fiber. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that a diet rich in whole grains helped rid obese patients of extra belly fat. So that’s a good thing. But there’s another benefit to fiber, when it comes to achieving a nice flat belly. And I’m not going to be cute about this one. If you’re constipated, it’s hard to have a truly flat abdomen. No, this isn’t belly fat, per se, but you’ll still have that bloated roundness that’s not exactly pretty (or comfortable!). To get a trimmer tummy you need a combo of: less body fat, no constipation/bloating, and toned muscles…which brings me to…

7. Exercise. You knew I was going to get to this one, right? Yes, exercise will definitely help you get a flat tummy. Best approach: get a combo of cardio (to burn fat) and core strengthening to tone those muscles. My current fave? Yoga plank pose.

8. What about diet soda? It seems logical to cut calories by drinking diet soda. But the evidence is conflicting. Some recent studies have shown that diet soda can actually increase weight gain. Read this if you’re curious why this might be.

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Stress Ninja: 4 Stress Busters That Take Zero Extra Time

When I’m stressed, I fantasize about escaping to the spa for a nice long massage. Or getting centered at the yoga studio with a luxurious 90-minute class. Or crawling into bed for an afternoon nap. But there’s one problem: who’s got the time for all that? Trouble is, my stress is often there specifically because I’m in a time crunch. All the conventional de-stressing advice (Exercise! Meditate! Get more sleep!) is great, but sometimes, I simply don’t have the time.

 So, are there ways to detox from all that stress…without piling on more pressure by cutting into your maxed-out schedule?

 You bet.

 Here are four groovy stressbusters that can slip, ninja-like, into your life.

 1.Take a spoonful of music medicine. Research shows that music therapy lowers serum cortisol, heart rate, blood pressure, and perceived stress level. If music can alleviate the stress of parents waiting in a pediatric emergency department (as shown in one study), it can certainly help you. It only takes a second to pull out your iPod or pop in a CD; let music dissolve your stress while you keep doing what you gotta do.

2.Drink green tea. You’re at Starbucks already, topping up your tank with caffeine to keep you going…so try switching out that venti nonfat latte for a soothing green tea. Research has shown that a component of green tea, L-theanine, increases serotonin, dopamine, and GABA levels in the brain—changes that are associated with increased relaxation.

3.Don’t vent. This isn’t something to do so much as something you can skip doing. It’s a common impulse to vent about your stressors with girlfriends. Turns out, kvetching is not necessarily the best idea. Research shows that when we rant and complain, it actually makes us feel worse. If you need to unload, keep it brief. An hour can easily go by and all you’ve done is bitch, you haven’t solved any problems, and now you’re all riled up and feeling terrible.

4.Breathe with your belly. You have to breathe, right? Abdominal breathing is easy and has been shown in several studies to reduce anxiety, panic attacks, depression, headaches, and fatigue. Instead of using shallow “chest breathing”, you use your diaphragm to fill your lungs more deeply. To learn it: put one hand on your stomach, the other on your chest. Breathe in through your nose and allow your abdomen to push out. Exhale fully, allowing your abdomen to retract. Rinse and repeat.

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Why You Should Drink Tea

So I talk a lot about coffee. I love my Starbucks.

But what about tea?

Yes, I love tea too. At my house, 3 pm is definitely tea time. This is more a cultural thing than anything else, for me, having British parents and having spent two sabbaticals in the UK.

Most people have a vague sense that tea is good for you. But let’s dig into that a little.

Mountains of research link tea consumption to reduced cancer risk. Pretty much, name a kind of cancer, and tea has been shown to help prevent it.

Tea has also been demonstrated to reduce heart disease risk.

Diabetes? Yes, there are studies connecting tea intake with lower rates of diabetes.

Inflammation? Tea can help you beat it down. (read more about the anti-inflammatory diet here)

Green tea catechins have even been linked to weight loss, recently. Green tea just might increase metabolism–which is fabulous news, but the research is very young, indeed, and we’ll need to see how this one plays out.

Green tea, in particular, seems to get all the press. And I want to like it, I really do. But…I find so many green teas just taste, well, yuck. Too bitter, and overall kinda strange, like I’m drinking grass or something. I am on a hunt to find a green tea I like (and I’m narrowing in…the green tea I had when I went out for sushi last weekend was great. I had several cups and could have had more. I asked the waitress what kind of tea it was, exactly, and she said it was green tea with brown rice. So I’m looking for that. Anyone know any good sources?)

Meantime, though, how about my ordinary ol’ tea? Am I getting health benefits just from drinking my plain old orange pekoe? I know it’s not sexy and isn’t anything new. But…is it as good as green tea?

Well, looks like one confounding problem is that there are more studies on green tea than black. But, of the studies that have been done, the evidence seems to show that black tea is just as beneficial as green. We know that both green and black teas are rich sources of flavonoids. Black tea, however, has more caffeine than green does (although green tea certainly does have caffeine–something not a lot of people realize). Basically, until I find a green tea I like, I’m going to stick with my regular, boring old cup of tea.

And then there’s this: beyond the antioxidants, the catechins, the flavonoids…I think the de-stressing aspect of a nice cup of tea is significant. Is there anything more soothing? Ritual is a wonderful thing.

Want to know more? WebMD has a thorough primer on tea.

More of a coffee drinker? Check out what I’ve got to say about coffee here.

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Dr. Kim Foster, MD. (photo credit: Tamea Burd Photography)

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