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Cancer Prevention and Cooking Tips

by Sarah Washburn , MS, RD, CSO, Oncology Nutritionist

Did you know that your seasonal food choices can help decrease your risk of developing cancer? As the morning gets chillier and leaves fall from the trees, think about the vibrant colors of beets, kale and winter squashes or pumpkins to brighten your meals and arm you with cancer-protecting compounds.

Beets: Betalains are responsible for the vibrant deep red color of beets. Along with other compounds, betalains provide unique anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory protections that contribute to decreasing your cancer risk. Remember to briefly steam or roast your beets as the water-soluble betalain content decreases as the cooking time increases. Steam your beets with the skins on for no more than 15 minutes and roast them for less than one hour.

Kale: Isothiocynates and many other phytonutrients help make this wavy-leaf vegetable a great cancer-fighting food. Try different varieties, including dinosaur (also known as Lacinato, or Tuscan) kale, curly kale or ornamental kale. If you are sensitive to bitter foods, choose smaller leaves as they are more tender and less bitter. Another option is to fold the leaf in half lengthwise and cut out a majority of the fibrous stem as the stem tends to be more bitter than the rest of the leaf. Finally, a little lemon juice or oil can also help decrease the bitterness as well. See below for a Kale Waldorf Salad recipe!

Winter squash and pumpkins: Various carotenoids make these winter favorites great for cancer protection. Try delicata squash for a change. This is a delicious squash with a thin skin (which makes it easier to cut) and has a nutty taste. Just cut in half, turn face down in a roasting pan and cook at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. It will melt in our mouth.

Green Kale Waldorf Salad

1 bunch curly green kale, rinsed, stems removed and kale finely chopped

2 firm apples or 1 pear and 1 apple, sliced

3 stalks celery, sliced

1/2 cup roughly chopped nuts or pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup chopped dried apricots, figs, dates, raisins or cranberries

1 cup halved red grapes (optional)

2 oranges, peeled and cut into wedges (optional)  

Orange Nut Dressing


1 cup raw cashews

1/2 cup orange juice or orange juice concentrate

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard Pinch of salt

washburn-s-wr1.jpgSarah Washburn is a Registered Dietitian and a Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition with more than 10 years of experience. Sarah is passionate about providing tailored whole food nutrition recommendations and education to patients throughout the spectrum of their cancer experience. She and our other oncology dietitian, Kristin Price, RD, are integral members  of a patient’s care team, working closely with physicians and other support staff. You can make an appointment to see one of our Oncology Dietitians by calling (805) 898-2204.

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