COLUMBUS, Ohio – Holiday meals offer the perfect opportunity to try new or unusual foods that may reduce the risk of cancer.
Research has shown that eating fruits and vegetables, such as berries and tomatoes, can decrease the risk of certain cancers, said Christine Sardo, a researcher at The Ohio State University Medical Center Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.
But too often, peoples’ diets are woefully lacking in these healthy foods that could be beneficial, Sardo said. The natural pigments in fruits and vegetables –providing their bright colors – are known as phytochemicals, which are potent antioxidants.
For example, anthocyanins give berries a purple/blue color; lycopene, which is a carotenoid pigment, makes tomatoes red and beta carotene makes carrots orange.
“Food rich in antioxidants sop up harmful molecules in our bodies called free-radicals that are linked to cancer,” said Sardo, who is a registered dietitian. “These foods are like armor for our bodies.”
Holidays are the perfect time to make subtle changes to meals that can really pack a punch health wise, Sardo said.
“Unlike a regular meal where you may have only one or two dishes, holiday meals often feature a variety of dishes, and this is a great time to try something new, or at least a different way of preparing the food,” Sardo said. “It’s a good opportunity to share new ideas and recipes with family and friends.
“Brightly colored foods are a signal for good health,” added Sardo, who is part of a research team at OSUCCC studying the chemopreventive effects of black raspberries on the progression of certain cancers, including oral, esophageal and colorectal cancers.
When planning holiday meals, try to incorporate the nutrient-rich, dark, leafy greens in salads, such as romaine lettuce and spinach, said chef Jim Warner, associate director of nutrition services at the OSU Medical Center.
“We don’t want to insult the salad by using iceberg lettuce,” Warner said.
For additional color, texture and nutrients in the salad, toss in some cranberries, red peppers, yellow tomatoes and toasted almonds. Other good add-ons include dried figs, mangos and apples, Warner said.
“People want to live longer and healthier, and good nutrition is a great way to start,” Warner said.
For a healthier side dish, serve baked sweet potatoes drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and kosher salt, Sardo said. And don’t forget the cranberry sauce, as long as it’s fresh, she said.
For dessert, consider serving angel food cake heaped with fresh blueberries, raspberries and strawberries, or a pumpkin mousse, instead of the calorie-laden pumpkin pie, Warner said.
“It’s all about composing a healthy plate,” Sardo said. “Holidays are a good time to make delicious foods that are not only satisfying to the palate, but are loaded with disease-fighting nutrients and phytochemicals.”
HEALTHY HOLIDAY RECIPES TO HELP REDUCE CANCER RISK
3 cups leafy greens, including spinach and romaine lettuce
1 small yellow tomato, cored and cut into 8 wedges
1 red pepper, sliced,
1 small jicama, peeled and cut into julienne strips
½ small red onion, sliced
½ cup dried fruit (figs, mangos, apples, cranberries); cut larger fruit into julienne slices
1 cup fresh berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries)
1 nectarine, sliced
2 tablespoons toasted almonds
Layer ingredients in large salad bowl, drizzle with vinaigrette (see recipe below). Repeat layers and dressing. Garnish with a couple of slices of red onion.
For an entrée, top the salad with a pan-seared salmon filet lightly seasoned with kosher salt and black pepper.
2 ounces pomegranate juice
1 ounce orange juice
1 small shallot, finely diced
1 ½ tablespoons cranberry honey mustard
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
2 tablespoons fresh basil, finely sliced
Mix together all ingredients except olive oil and basil. Slowly drizzle olive oil into mixture while whisking with a wire whip. Add basil and season with salt and pepper.###
Medical Center Communications