Just about every day you can read a new article on the wonder food that will save you from cancer – it’s kale this month, definitely quinoa next week, oranges and then cabbage – under breathless headlines that ask IS THIS THE CURE? (And they hardly ever ask Does chocolate cake cure cancer? How unfair!) The next week someone asks if the opposite is true: does kale kill you? Oh, the drama!
Well, you don’t need drama, wonder diets, or an emotional roller-coaster of hope and frustration. And I wish those headlines would stop jerking you around. Really. Sometimes the exaggerated claims have the opposite effect, making the genuine value of fresh produce seem like impossible hype. The question to ask is whether a food adds to your power to resist cancer and enjoy your life. Does it have anti-oxidants, anti-inflammation support, tumor-fighting power, non-toxic energy, hydration…? And does it add flavor, satisfaction, color, enjoyment? Yes to both? Then, you should definitely eat that.
I know kale has been the media-darling vegetable for a while, but i confess i can’t seem to learn to like raw kale. Just can’t. However, it’s great in a Tuscan bean soup . Maybe because the soup has other great Italian flavors and tomatoes, it works for me. You won’t eat something you dislike, so if you know why kale is recommended – anti-oxidants, vitamin C and K, calcium, iron, sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol – you can either choose other produce to fill that purpose or find a recipe that makes it palatable. Turns out other leafy greens – collard greens, swiss chard, sweet potato greens, turnip greens, dark leafy lettuce, spinach – have plenty to offer too.
While staying informed is empowering, trying to respond to every new article that promises a miracle and running after every newly announced super-food will just waste your time and discourage you. So take it all with a grain of (low-sodium) salt and keep a few things in mind:
- Fresh, unprocessed food will give you bolder flavor and vibrant nutrition, so try to get about 2/3 of your food from the farmers’ market, a CSA like Produce with a Purpose, or the produce section of your store. As Michael Pollan says, ““Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” He means REAL food, no food-like, processed products.
- More color, less brown and white! A plate full of color wakes up your appetite represents a variety of important nutrients. The deeper the color, the better – dark and luscious greens, bright reds, and richly purple foods. May inspire optimism, too.
- If you aren’t a saint about what you eat, incorporating every superfood in every meal, don’t beat yourself up. Use your common sense.
- The phytonutrients in plants are amazing because they connect with your body’s own wonderful abilities. That’s the real magic.