Cooking and Cancer Prevention

As we continue the awareness about cancer this October, we take our recommendations to the kitchen. The following guidelines are recommendations from AICR to make the most out of your cooking at home.

Tomatoes offer an easy and delicious source of lycopene

  • Lycopene, an antioxidant found in red colored produce like tomatoes, papaya, grapefruit and watermelon, is better absorbed when cooked.  Heating tomatoes, as well as adding a little fat, like olive oil, helps us absorb lycopene more efficiently compared to a raw tomato.  Italian marinara sauce is a perfect example of this.  But if you buy jarred, just watch out for the added sugar. 
Garlic contains the phytochemical allicin.

  • Garlic is a great example of a healthy, strong flavored ingredient to season your food.  Cut garlic helps to enhance the phytochemical allicin, which cannot be formed in a whole garlic clove.  Let your cut garlic rest for 10-15 minutes prior to adding it to a hot pan since heat can destroy the enzyme responsible for creating this important phytochemical.

  • Beta Carotene and fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K are best absorbed with a little fat.  Salad dressing (preferably made with olive oil), avocado and nuts are important toppings on a colorful salad to better absorb the beta carotene and fat soluble vitamins in green, red, orange and yellow vegetables. 
Eating oranges or drinking orange juice with meals can help increase absorption of non-heme iron.

  • Non-heme iron (iron from green leafy vegetables and beans) isn’t as easily absorbed as heme iron from meat.  To increase the absorption, pair these vegetables with Vitamin C.  Drinking orange juice with a vegetable filled meal is a perfect example.

  • Cooking meats at a high heat, like grilling or broiling, and for a long time (well-done or charred meats) can cause the creation of carcinogenic compounds called HCAs and BAPs.  Reduce this risk by using a marinade for meat using a mixture of vinegar, lemon juice or wine with herbs and spices (for at least 30 minutes).  Use chicken, turkey or fish instead of red meats on the grill.  Cook meat by low, slow cooking methods or pre-cook the meat to reduce the time on the grill.  To include that grilled flavor to your meal, grill your vegetables (or fruit)!

Eat the skins of fruits and veggies for even more nutrition.
  • Eat the skins!  Leave the skins on of fruits and vegetables for even more nutrition.  Apples, pears, zucchini, cucumber are all examples of fruits and vegetables that pack a lot of nutrition in their skins.

  • Water soluble vitamins can be lost when vegetables are boiled for a long time.  Use other cooking methods like roasting, baking or steaming can help these nutrients stay in the vegetable instead of being drained in the cooking water.

  • Also, did you know that pork is actually a red meat?  Even though it looks white, nutritionally, it is similar to beef and lamb than chicken and turkey (true white meats).  The cancer prevention recommendation for red meats (beef, pork and lamb) is less than 18 ounces per week.  Try to focus more on fruits, vegetables and whole grains with animal protein as a condiment or side dish (or, of course, no animal protein at all).
  Source:  AICR.org

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