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Cancer

Cancer

The word used to strike so much terror it was whispered in hushed tones as if the mere mention could cause the disease to strike. While the subject still isn’t pleasant, our knowledge and ability to treat some – if not most – cancers has improved markedly.  Some of the confusion arises over the name.  Cancer isn’t just one thing. Instead, it a disease of a process that allows cells to grow unregulated. Cancer can occur almost anywhere in the body, and cancer in some parts of the body are relatively easy to treat and have high survival rates, like testicular cancer, and other cancers can be extraordinarily difficult to diagnose and treat and are still most often deadly when discovered, like pancreatic cancer.

Treatments like surgery, chemotherapy and radiation have radically improved cancer survival rates, and many types of cancer are now considered a manageable disease – more akin to having a chronic condition rather than the sword of Damocles it once was.  Of course, if you have never been diagnosed with cancer you still probably don’t want to be, no matter how much modern medicine can help.  So the most practical thing all of us can do – regardless of current or future diagnosis – is to take care of ourselves.  Eat well.  If you smoke, stop.  Get enough rest.  Find time to exercise.  Learn to relax.  Avoid the things you know are bad for you. Enjoy the things you know are good for you.

While some cancer research focuses on the genetics of cancer, and other research on drugs, treatment and cures, for most of us who are not oncologists and medical researchers, health and lifestyle are the only weapons we have.  In fact, one study in the medical journal The Lancet, found that 35 percent of cancers have triggers that can be modified by lifestyle choices. You can read more here:  http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(05)67725-2/fulltext  <http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2805%2967725-2/fulltext&gt;

Fortunately, some lifestyle choices are sweet, like this amazing smoothie recipe, developed by a foodie going through chemotherapy.


berry almond smoothie

 Berry Almond Smoothie 

 

  • 12 ounces almond milk
  • 1 banana
  • 1⁄2 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
  •  1⁄2 cup fresh or frozen strawberries
  • 3 tablespoons raw almond butter

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a blender and mix at medium speed for about one minute or until mostly smooth. If a thinner smoothie is desired, add more water or almond milk and blend for a few more seconds.

Yield:  makes 24 ounces.

Bitter Melon

Bitter melon is the fruit of a fast growing vine usually found in subtropic climates. The name comes from its bitter taste – it is considered the most bitter of all edible vegetables.  The fruit is oblong in shape with varying undulations – or warts –  on its exterior. It is the tender young fruit, usually 4″-6″ long, green to white in color, that are used in a wide variety of culinary dishes and medicinal applications. As the fruit ripens, the rind becomes tougher and is too bitter to eat. (http://bittermelon.org/)

As a culinary ingredient, bitter melon is an acquired taste. While in the same botanical family as a cucumber, it’s definitely different and much sharper on the tongue.  Why use such a bitter ingredient to cook with?  Probably because its such a unique and memorable flavor component. Many Asian culinary traditions, not to mention those in Central and South America, embrace bitter melon. The Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Thai, Vietnamese, Filipino, and so forth, counter the bitterness of the fruit with spicy, sweet, or savory components. (http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2010/07/seriously-asian-bitter-melon-stir-fry.html)

In medicinal applications, Bitter melon is promoted as a remedy for diabetes, cancer and various infections.  For centuries, Ayurveda has recommended the use of bitter melon (Momordica charantia) as a functional food to prevent and treat human health related issues.

A few studies have indicated that it may be effective in reducing blood sugar levels (a hypoglycemic effect) and treating type II diabetes. Reductions in blood sugar after taking bitter melon can be seen quickly—as soon as 30 minutes—with the greatest reduction occurring at 4 hours and lasting for 12 hours. (http://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/article_content.asp?edition=1§ion=3&article=371 , http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21211558).

Studies have also shown some effectiveness of using bitter melon in the treatment of breast cancer- one of the most common cancers in women-  and prostrate cancer – the second leading cause of cancer deaths for men. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20179194, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21911444).

One approach to controlling cancer is prevention through diet, and the anti-tumor activity of bitter melon has recently begun to emerge. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20198408)

One of the health risks of taking bitter melon is that it may work too well. Combining it with standard drugs can create an additive effect, reducing blood sugar levels too low. If you are already taking drugs for diabetes, you should your physician before adding bitter melon to your diet. (http://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=21580)

Bitter melon can be found in most Indian and Asian grocery stores.

Superpower Morning Smoothie

Bitter Melon 2013_1_31-green-smoothie-1

Serves 1

1 large handful roughly chopped kale, spinach, collards, or a combination

1 frozen peeled banana, cut into several pieces

1 cup pure unsweetened coconut water

2 tablespoons almond butter

1 tablespoon flax oil

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until completely uniform in color and all the bits of green are pulverized. Serve immediately.

http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-superpower-morning-smoothie-recipes-from-the-kitchn-183353

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