The holidays are here and so is all the festive food. Some of it is naughty, but much of it can be nice.
“When party planning during the holidays, it’s important to have variety,” says Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN, a nutritionist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. “Many of the foods we enjoy around the holidays are not only delicious to eat, but they may also contain cancer-fighting nutrients.” Kennedy says it’s easy to include them in any menu when you know what to look for. Here is a list of foods and recipes from Kennedy and her colleagues that belong on anyone’s “nice list.”
Skip those holiday dips that are buried in excess fat and calories. Kennedy says lighten up by substituting with an easy-to-prepare hummus. This recipe calls for pine nuts, which are rich in protein, zinc, copper and manganese, which are important for a healthy immune system. Legumes, like chickpeas, are a great source of protein and dietary fiber, which can help reduce the risk of cancer and help lower cholesterol.
Dust off that family nutcracker. Recent research finds that walnuts may help prevent kidney and colon cancers. In addition, the study suggests that walnuts are a rich source of antioxidants that may help protect cells from oxidative damage. Walnuts contain essential fatty acids, or the so-called “good fats,” which are known to help reduce blood pressure and boost the immune system. So go nuts with this simple pesto recipe.
Mangoes are naturally sweet and rich in a variety of antioxidants. One of them, lupeol, is thought to rid the body of harmful molecules known as free radicals, which can damage a cell's DNA, triggering some forms of cancer and other diseases. Studies have indicated that mango pulp may lower the risk of prostate cancer, inflammation, arthritis, and diabetes. This colorful and refreshing mousse recipe will delight dinner guests.
Pomegranates have definitely moved to the top of many people’s “nice list.” They are now found in everything from drinks to desserts and for good reason. Recent research suggests that drinking pomegranate juice may be a delicious way to help prevent prostate cancer, as well as prevent the metastasis and spread of prostate cancer cells. Try this good-for-you dessert that is layered with flavonoids, vitamin C, and other antioxidants.
Want something magical this holiday? Try making a dip with fresh roasted pumpkin. Pumpkin can spice up many recipes, from muffins to ravioli. “It’s also one of the tastiest ways to enhance the body’s own natural cancer-fighting ability,” says Kennedy. Pumpkins are packed with nutrients called carotenoids, which have been linked to the prevention of colon, prostate, breast, and lung cancer. It’s actually the bright orange color that makes pumpkin rich in nutrients. Here’s a twist on a classic party-size recipe.
Festive Finger Food
This appetizer (or snack) is made with winter squash. It’s not only delicious but also a good source of carotenoids. They act to clean out the dangerous free radicals that enter your body from stress or the environment. Click here for the recipe.
Kennedy says don’t be afraid to experiment. Other tips to make this a healthy season – in dips, try substituting sour cream with low-fat plain Greek yogurt, go raw with crudités, add as many colorful foods as possible, get plenty of exercise, and remember, it’s a time for celebration so it’s OK to indulge a little.
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (www.dana-farber.org) is a principal teaching affiliate of the Harvard Medical School and is among the leading cancer research and care centers in the United States.