Archive for the ‘Breast Cancer’ Category

“Closing Out Pink Awareness With A Nod To Red (Meat)”

Saturday, October 31st, 2015

As “pinktober” comes to a close, I find it ironic that the cancer focus has shifted to red. As in meat.

In the event you missed it, earlier this week the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization, issued a press release highlighting its evaluation of the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat.

Suddenly, headlines stating that red meat, hot dogs, sausage and bacon cause cancer were EVERYWHERE, and  comments and conversations ranging from “doesn’t everything cause cancer” to “who cares, we’re all gonna die of something” were being slung around the world wide web.

Here’s a link to the actual press release: World Health Organization Consumption of Red Meat and Processed Meat.

Essentially, the WHO reported a classification of the consumption of red meat as probably carcinogenic to humans, mainly for colorectal cancer (with associations also seen for pancreatic and prostate cancer), and the classification of processed meat as carcinogenic to humans, again with regard to colorectal cancer.

FYI, red meat refers to beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse and goat, and processed meat refers to meat transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, and smoking.

Here’s my take on this announcement. It’s not new information. The directive to eat a plant-based diet in support of cancer prevention has been recommended for years. And while the overall pattern of one’s diet vs. only single foods is a balanced way to view the impact of food choices, I see nothing wrong with calling out foods that potentially fuel cancer; information that is of particular importance for those who’ve been through a cancer experience.

People who make dietary choices in support of remaining cancer-free deserve to know about food and health associations in order to decide what they’re comfortable including or excluding from their diet. Good health is about healthy choices, and the more information to help cancer thrivers eat to prevent secondary cancers or recurrence, the better.

WHEN “NATURAL” ISN’T

Friday, October 9th, 2015

I really wanted to like this product.

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“Wild Ophelia” http://www.wildophelia.com/#our-chocolate, an offshoot of the Chicago-based, woman-owned company Vosges Haut-Chocolat https://www.vosgeschocolate.com/story and the brand behind this particular chocolate bar is described as “the spirited younger sister of Vosges Haut-Chocolate”.  I mean, consider the things we have in common; Chicago is my adopted hometown, there’s a “sisterhood” of women biz owners, I’ve eaten Vosges products before and LOVED them, and dark chocolate holds ever-steadily at the top of my list of food must-haves. . .I really, really wanted to like this product.

And in support of my October breast cancer action to highlight food and nutrition to elevate health and optimize healing, good quality chocolate is a topic that fits right in – it’s flavorful, satisfying, and a source of antioxidants http://www.med.umich.edu/umim/food-pyramid/dark_chocolate.html

Earlier this week I attended a conference where piles of this chocolate bar were available, serving both as a complementary snack and a clever marketing initiative to ~ 2,000 women.

Never mind that I was drawn to it as a treat for my husband.

I like my dark chocolate either straight up, or smeared with homemade peanut butter; he fancies the kick of chili pepper.

Perfect. I snagged a couple.

But as I examined the label more closely it struck me (and not for the first time), how consumers trying to make conscious choices for health – particularly my audience of women eating to elevate health and optimize healing in the fight against breast cancer – can easily be duped.

Notice the words “ALL NATURAL” stamped predominantly on the front. But flip the package over, scan the ingredient list, and you find “soy lecithin.”

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Spoiler alert. The only thing natural about soy lecithin is that it originates (very early on in processing) as a soybean.

Hopefully, yet potentially not, a non-GMO soybean.

Here are two links to info on what soy lecithin is and how it’s actually derived from the soybean plant – the first, a quick read, the second, a deeper dive; 1. http://blog.fooducate.com/2009/07/07/what-is-soy-lecithin-and-why-is-it-found-in-so-many-products/, 2. http://www.soyinfocenter.com/HSS/lecithin1.php.

Essentially, soy lecithin is added to foods as an emulsifier to help prevent oil from separating from other ingredients while allowing the ingredients to bind or blend nicely together.

My concern with “natural” splashed across the front of so many food labels – you simply need to buy food to see hundreds of examples – is that it misleads people to believe that the food they’re eating is somehow “better or healthier” for them, when in fact that doesn’t always hold true. Here’s an article that speaks more to this issue: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/what-does-natural-really-mean-on-food-labels/

Let me be clear. I’m not saying “DON’T EAT” this product. It’s strictly a personal choice to determine which ingredients (and how much of them) you’re ok with. Will occasionally eating one of these chocolate bars trigger illness or death (as some would lead you to believe)? Of course not. My goal is simply to educate my readers so that they can make confident decisions on their own.

Katrina Markoff’s initiative and mission behind “Wild Ophelia” is incredibly laudable, http://www.wildophelia.com/#our-chocolate, and if my previous experiences with her product hold true, the chocolate bar is AMAZING (full disclosure – I haven’t tasted it). It’s simply my hope that small, “do-good” food companies such as hers will lead the effort in using food labeling terms responsibly and authentically so people can feel confident making food decisions for health.

I strongly encourage breast cancer patients and survivors to consider everything they put into (and on!) their body by asking themselves; does this support health, optimize healing, and support an internal environment inhospitable to cancer? Those questions can be game-changers; for both the woman, and food manufacturers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TRAVEL WELL

Monday, October 5th, 2015

Happy Monday!

For me, blogging consistently throughout the month of October accomplishes two goals:

#1 Helping women who HAVEN’T been diagnosed with breast cancer use nutrition, food and fitness to elevate their health – from whatever level of health they’re currently at.

#2 Helping women who HAVE been diagnosed with breast cancer use nutrition, food and fitness to optimize healing. That means during treatment, “assisting” radiation and/or chemo without further compromising health, and after treatment, to regain strength and vitality, and reduce risk of recurrence.

Today, I’m writing a healthy tip for travel.

If you’re working to optimize your nutrition and fitness routine, but get thrown off track when wanderlust kicks in, this tip that may help you stay steady.

First of all, realize that NO ONE eats a perfect diet, 100% of the time – even for someone focused on optimal health. It’s impossible. Boring. Limited. And yes, cancer treatment and travel do happen at the same time – so think about taking care of yourself wherever you are.

We all know that travel is about new EXPERIENCES, and trying regional, local foods is one of them.

When I’m on the road, starting the day with foods that nourish and sustain me sets the tone for making healthier choices (yes, new food experiences and healthy can co-exist) for the remainder of the day. And it FUELS me for whatever comes my way before lunch.

So when packing my luggage, I also pack my breakfast. Wait, don’t freak, stay with me here for a moment.

I know you’re probably thinking, “This woman is crazy. I barely can get my bags packed, let alone think about schlepping food.” But let’s make a deal. Just try it once, and let me know how it goes.

Here’s what I do:

  • To a Ziplock baggie, add 1/3 cup quick cooking oats, 1 scoop protein powder, 1.5 Tablespoons ground flax, 1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon, 2 Tablespoons raisins.
  • Make one for each day you travel. Toss them all in a gallon Ziplock bag, along with a piece of fruit (apples and oranges travel best) for each day. In the photo below you also see Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter; I had an extra package and tossed it in – because it’s HEAVEN stirred into oatmeal.
  • In the morning, simply dump the contents of your packet into a coffee cup, add hot water from the coffee maker and voila. . .you’ve got a healthy, delicious, nourishing, energizing start to your day.

You probably don’t want to hear this, but I also sometimes pack a sturdy, large mug. . .what can I say? Many hotel rooms only provide styrofoam cups, but I encourage you never to use them – once hot water hits the styrofoam, nasty chemicals are released – and trust me, there are enough cancer-promoting toxins floating around our environment; there’s no need to ingest them intentionally.

So there you have it. My “on-the-road”, keeping it healthy tip. If you try it, PLEASE let me know how it worked out for you. Call me crazy, but I think you’ll thank me.

If you liked this post, please share on FB, Twitter, etc., and follow me on Twitter and Instagram at @cathylemanrd.

Have a happy, healthy day!

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PUT MORE PLANTS ON YOUR PLATE.

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

It’s true I’m on a tirade against Pink Ribbons, but since I don’t envision them abating anytime soon, I’ve had a flash of insight as to where I feel they’d be most effective.

Wrapped around an enormous box of produce.

And that box of produce would be delivered to the front door of every person on the planet.

Indeed, fruits and vegetables are that powerful. For both protection against and as an aid in reducing the risk of recurrence of breast cancer, research continues to show the benefit of adding more phytochemicals to our diet. Where to find them? Produce!

According to Food, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer: a global perspective, a report produced by the World Cancer Research Fund together with the American Institute for Cancer Research; “evidence shows that most diets that are protective against cancer are mainly made up from foods of plant origin.” http://www.wcrf.org/int/research-we-fund/cancer-prevention-recommendations/plant-foods

That doesn’t mean you need to adopt a completely vegan or vegetarian diet, it simply means PUT MORE PLANTS ON YOUR PLATE.

Here’s how: fill 2/3 of your plate with non-starchy fruits and veggies, the remainder with lean protein (plant or animal-based) and complex carbohydrates (brown rice, quinoa, farro, etc.).

One way to get a jump on your daily intake is with the ubiquitous smoothie. While there are literally thousands of recipes on line, certainly enough to stress you out deciding which is “the best (read, healthiest) one”, trust me, the absolute best one you can choose to make is the one that you enjoy!

Six days per week I use my trusty Vitamix to whip up a smoothie. I like to include two fruits (I use dates (for sweetness) plus frozen blueberries or banana – and sometimes all three – crazy!), a large organic carrot, and a couple of handfuls of frozen kale (I buy Trader Joe’s pre-washed fresh and throw it in the freezer). This morning my supply of blueberries had dried up, presenting the perfect opportunity to add cocoa (3 tablespoons) and peanut butter (well, not exactly peanut butter, but certainly the flavor) to that lonely banana. It was soooo good.

SmoothieIngredients1SmoothieIngredients2Aim for AT LEAST 5 servings (1/2 – 1 cup = 1 serving) per day of a combo of fruit and veggies – but don’t be afraid to go OVER that number. Seriously.

Creating an environment INSIDE your body that is less hospitable to cancer is easy to do, completely free of side effects, and delicious.

Let’s wrap a pink ribbon around THAT.

I welcome your comments, and if you found this post helpful, please share!

P.S. Follow me on my new twitter account: @cathylemanrd

 

SEEING PINK? IT MUST BE OCTOBER.

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

Oct 1 sunrise

Welcome to October.

31 days of drowning in countless shades of pink while enduring a seemingly inescapable barrage of awareness messages.

You know what I’m talking about.

Some of you have heard this from me on countless occasions, but for the uninitiated, I’ll go on record.

We don’t need more pink anything (I hate pink, btw).

We don’t need more awareness.

We do need actionable behaviors aimed at prevention.

I’ve made it my mission to blog for the entire month of October about the power of nutrition and fitness in fighting the breast cancer beast.

Let’s begin with a question, shall we?

What if we could reduce the incidence of breast cancer from one in eight women to one in eight hundred women through the use of proven preventive lifestyle behaviors, and then, at the time of diagnosis, connect those women to a nutrition and fitness expert who would create programs designed to support their individual treatment plan to encourage optimal treatment outcomes, strong recovery, and reduced risk of recurrence?

 

“October Means Halloween & “Breast Cancer Awareness”. . .Coincidence?”

Monday, October 6th, 2014

October OFor me, the month of October has two highlights – my wedding anniversary and Halloween. Other than being great ammunition for bad jokes, they have absolutely nothing in common.

October is also breast cancer awareness month, which compared with Halloween has absolutely everything in common.

I don’t know a single woman, myself included, for whom simply the thought of a breast cancer diagnosis is not terrifying.

A little over a year ago, following news of a cancer diagnosis for two people very close to me, I titled my newsletter “Too Much Cancer, Dammit!”, and received more personal responses than I ever had before or since.

There IS too much cancer, damn it, so much in fact that I would argue that even without a month devoted to breast (or colon, or cervical, or liver, or brain, or ovarian, or prostate, etc.) cancer awareness, our collective awareness would remain steadfastly high.

We’re not winning the war on breast cancer. We may be winning the war on early detection, better screening, and treatment; death rates from breast cancer have fallen 1.9% per year since 2002, yet rates for new breast cancer cases have remained steady for the past 10 years. (1)

The theme of my aforementioned newsletter was prevention. I’ve devoted my career to educating on preventive lifestyle habits, primarily nutrition and fitness. The data is overwhelmingly strong – the choices we make on a daily basis directly influence our health. It’s what I advocate for, believe in, and strive to live in my own life.

Yet, regardless of how staunch my position on prevention and cancer, there is no guarantee; for anyone. In no way (and believe me, I could win a gold medal for trying) can we control every aspect of our environment – an environment that is toxic in so many ways. While we all carry cancer genes, some of us (yep, my maternal relatives) have the added risk factor of genetic pre-disposition. Sometimes the deck is simply stacked against us.

I occasionally wonder what would happen if I were diagnosed with cancer (my secret fear, by the way). I wonder if it would change your perspective on taking care of yourself, as in, “Well, if Cathy Leman has cancer, there’s no hope for anyone – I give up.”

If that were the case, it would make me really, really sad.

We can’t forget to pull back and consider the larger picture. Cancer doesn’t appear as the result of something unhealthy you did last week, it takes literally years to develop (for example, colorectal cancer begins with a single mutation to a gene, yet it takes on average 30 years from that point for the cells to acquire several other DNA mutations they need in order to spread and kill). (2)

If I were to be diagnosed with cancer, I couldn’t ignore the fact that I haven’t lived my entire life with the attention to prevention that I have in the last couple of decades. I can assure you, in my early twenties, breast cancer prevention wasn’t even on my radar; many of my habits during that time weren’t exactly supportive of good health.

At the time of a cancer diagnosis, it’s only human to wonder “what caused it?”, yet other than testing positive for the breast cancer gene(s), it’s essentially impossible to know. Excess weight, smoking, inactivity, and too much alcohol have all been implicated in contributing to breast cancer, but so has exposure to chemicals in certain plastics (who hasn’t experienced THAT?), and a dizzying collection of toxicity we’ve not clearly identified, yet couldn’t avoid if we tried.

That said, I maintain that practicing preventive lifestyle habits puts us in a position to fight back hard at whatever health curveball life throws at us – even a ghoulish, macabre cancer diagnosis. A healthy, strong body stacks the deck in our favor, perhaps by slowing the rate of disease progression, having a less invasive form of the disease, or giving us the ability to withstand treatments with fewer side effects and stronger recovery.

During the month of October I encourage you to heed the recommendations for breast cancer awareness; know your risk factors, get screened, know what’s “normal” for you, and practice preventive lifestyle behaviors. . .like maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and limiting alcohol; then repeat – over and over and over.

(1) http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/breast.html

(2) Spotting Cancer In A Vial Of Blood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fun Nutrition Presentation!

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

This morning I was privileged to be featured as a speaker at our local cozy, cute bookstore aptly titled, “The Bookstore” http://www.justthebookstore.com/. Two women from my community are participating in the AVON Breast Cancer walk and were interested in bringing folks together over healthy food in support of their fund raising efforts. I came in to speak about nutrition and cancer prevention, and eating to fuel activity (like a 2-day, 30+ mile walk!).

A few points that I made during the program were 1) focus on REAL food, 2) choose food that is as close to its original form as possible, 3) focus on a plant-based diet.

I prepared energy bars made with wheat germ, nuts, dried fruit, and oats, and whipped up soy smoothies made with vanilla soy milk, frozen strawberries, and orange juice concentrate. I wanted to share these easy recipes and tips to show just how simple (and inexpensive) it is to make your own energy bars.

I find that many of energy/meal replacement bars on the market are glorified candy bars. Preparing them yourself allows you to control the sweet, salty, and fat components of the flavor profile. You can even customize with your favorite dried fruit and nut combo – recipes are really just a guideline.

We had a great turnout, everyone loved the food, and we had an interesting conversation about the power of “real” food. As I like to say, make your kitchen your medicine cabinet!

Here’s the recipe for the smoothie we sampled; enjoy!

Fruit and Soy Smoothie

  • 2 Tbs. orange juice concentrate
  • 1/2 cup frozen strawberries, unsweetened
  • 1 cup vanilla soy milk

In a blender, puree all ingredients until creamy. Serve immediately.