The last month has proved to be a huge learning curve for me. I was forced to tackle a subject I prefer to run away from. Cancer.
The word cancer will evoke some kind of emotion in everybody that sees it. Today’s version of the plague, it is a rare – and lucky – person that hasn’t been touched by it in some way. I have watched friends suffer through their own or their parents treatments and some have lost loved ones as a result of this disease. My father-in-law died of a unique type of lung cancer, mesothelioma, almost 15 years ago.
Now it touches me again. My mother, a couple of months ago, was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer. She was hurriedly taken into surgery to remove a portion of her lung and lymph nodes the cancer had spread to.
The initial thought is why? Why does lung cancer hit an otherwise healthy woman in her late 60’s? She doesn’t fit the profile of somebody with lung cancer, but then again, nor did my father-in-law.
We can analyze all we want, but the past is in the past and it’s time to review her diet and lifestyle to help her beat this.
So, to the books I went. Research and more research using the resources I had but until now, hadn’t used. Some things were consistent with diets used for other diseases, some were more cancer-specific.
But overall, what I needed to do was to provide a diet that was mainly alkaline (in order to keep the blood pH level in it’s very narrow, healthy range), rich in antioxidants and high in foods that increase the oxygen level of the blood.
Of course, diet is not the only factor we need to consider but a good diet will help fight against the toxins that are around us everyday. Those that are known to be carcinogenic and those that are too new to know the full effects, such as GMOs and WIFI.
The best place to begin is with leafy, green vegetables. A food that can be almost as hated as disease itself but once you get to know them, figure out what to do with them and maximize their flavour, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them in your diet every day.
A list of these foods would include the infamous kale, spinach, broccoli, cabbage and swiss chard. There are more than enough of them to create plenty of variety in the diet. And a good thing too as many of them have different properties and benefits that we gain the most defence by rotating through all of them regularly.
If there was a good time of year to start adding leafy greens into your diet, it’s now. Springtime brings the crop. Start looking for local produce at the grocery store and from farmer’s markets, which will shortly kick off in earnest. Asparagus is one of the first green vegetables to arrive and it’s always a joyful day when I see that. Not because I love asparagus, although I do, but because it really, truly means that the winter is over.
Here are some ideas to add some leafy greens to your meals every day of the week. Not only will they put your body in a better position to fight off disease, they will also fill you up with satisfying nutrients that will keep the cravings at bay.
Frozen greens or pre-packaged green make it quick and easy to include them in your meals.
MONDAY: Take an egg and watercress sandwich for lunch. Use the remaining watercress in a green salad in the evening. Mix it with a box of mixed baby greens and dress it with a homemade simple vinaigrette.
TUESDAY: Add some chopped arugula to a pasta sauce. It’s great with lentils and tomatoes.
WEDNESDAY: Finely chop some dandelion greens and mix it with some chunks of cooked potato. Dress it with a mixture of a clove of crushed garlic, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, a tbsp of white balsamic vinegar and 2 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil.
THURSDAY: Add a couple of handfuls of spinach to a morning smoothie. It’s mild flavour will go unnoticed in a fruit smoothie.
FRIDAY: Make some coleslaw using red and green cabbage. It will go perfectly with the fish you make on Fridays 🙂
SATURDAY: Snack on some homemade kale chips. Strip the leaves off a fresh bunch of kale, wash and pat dry. Roughly chop, toss with olive oil and sea salt and bake on a baking tray at 350°F for 15-20 minutes until crispy but not burnt.
SUNDAY: Prepare a side of sautéed Swiss Chard. Strip the leaves from the stalk and chop the stalk into bite sized chunks. Rinse stalks and leaves very well. Spin dry. Sauté a large sliced onion in 2 tbsp olive oil in a skillet until golden brown and caramelized, approximately 10-15 minutes. Add the stalks after 10 minutes, add the leaves a minute before the end. Season with 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. You can also try some other ideas for toppings for greens.