Add These Vegetables to Your Springtime Menu to Cut Your Cancer Risk
One of the best ways to create and maintain a healthy, plant-based diet that can cut your cancer risk is to think seasonally – and locally – when it comes to vegetables.
“The further your food has to travel to get to you, the more nutritional value it loses,” says Candice Schreiber, RD, CSO, LD, a JamesCare for Life outpatient clinical dietician.
Here are a few tips from Schreiber on giving your cancer prevention menu a scrumptious springtime theme.
Leafy green lettuce is sprouting everywhere – maybe in your own backyard garden. These plants are rich in carotenoids, a phytochemical that may inhibit cancer cell growth, work as antioxidants and improve immune response, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR).
“They’re chock full of vitamins, minerals and fiber. I always tell people to eat at least a serving of leafy greens ever day,” Schreiber says, while stressing that all of those greens are not nutritional equals. “An iceberg lettuce would be at the bottom of the scale, followed by romaine and green leaf lettuce.”
Darker leafy greens such as arugula, kale, spinach and watercress are even more nutritious. They’re great in salads, soups, grain bowls and as a side dish.
This is one of Schreiber’s go-to veggies.
“It’s so versatile,” she says. “You can cut off the ends and roast asparagus in the oven with a little olive oil and some garlic, salt and pepper. You can add it to pasta, soup, casseroles and to a stir fry.”
In addition to its preparation versatility, asparagus is also a diverse nutritional source, containing folate, vitamin C and beta-carotene.
“Foods high in these nutrients may offer additional cancer protection,” according to the AICR.
Artichokes are nutritious and versatile but often underutilized.
“They can be a bit intimidating, especially if you get a whole one at the grocery,” Schreiber says. “I learned how to prepare them by watching online videos, how to cut and trim the leaves, how to remove the choke and then steam them until they’re soft, or grill or broil them.”
An easier option is to purchase artichoke hearts. However, avoid artichoke hearts packed in oil, as they will be higher in fat and calories.
Artichokes contain folate, fiber and vitamin C and “can offer increased protection from cancers of the mouth, larynx, pharynx, esophagus and stomach,” according to the AICR.
This is another nutritious vegetable that can fly under the radar. For many people, strawberry and rhubarb pie is their only encounter with this stalky, somewhat bitter vegetable.
“It is on the savory side, and I like to sauté it and add something a little sweet, like some jam, and serve as a topping on lean meat or fish,” Schreiber says.
Rhubarb contains lots of vitamins and fiber, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin, “two phytochemicals that fall into the carotenoid family and have antioxidant properties,” according to the AICR.
Schreiber is a board-certified specialist in oncology nutrition. She leads a monthly, free lunch & learn sponsored by JamesCare for Life in which OSUCCC – James patients and their caregivers learn about a wide range of oncology nutrition topics. Click here for a schedule of JamesCare for Life events.