Please welcome back to the kitchen, Cheryl Norman! She’s here to help us learn how to fight breast cancer by eating the right kinds of foods. Congratulations on winning your battle and through it all never giving up! And yay on your newest release, RUNNING OUT OF TIME!
It’s October and Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In 2010, I underwent surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments to rid my body of breast cancer. Happily, I’m 3½ years as a survivor today, but I’m still under treatment. For two more years I will take estrogen-blocking medication, and I continue to monitor with follow-up appointments with my oncologists. I’ll do anything to prevent a recurrence of this disease, including changes in my diet. I hope what I’ve learned will help you, too.
You already know regular aerobic exercise and a diet rich in vegetables and grains is good for you. You know to resist saturated fat in favor of monounsaturated fats like coconut oil, safflower oil, and extra virgin olive oil. You know to back away from processed or cured foods as well as empty carbohydrate, fat-laden desserts. But here are six things I didn’t know until I had breast cancer:
1. Did you know fat stores excess estrogen in your body? Yikes! Since taking this medication, I’m heavier than ever. I exercise regularly and try to eat healthfully, but I have to do more now. I avoid plant estrogen (and it’s everywhere!) in foods like soy. Soybeans are good for you. I don’t advocate giving them up unless you’re diagnosed with a hormone-fed breast cancer. Then give them up you should, as Yoda might say. Read labels when you buy groceries. I now make my own mayonnaise (recipe below), peanut butter, and salad dressings so I control the ingredients.
2. Did you know dairy products—even those labeled “no added hormones”—have hormones? Eighty to eighty-five percent of our milk supply comes from pregnant cows, making the milk hormone-rich. Good for the calves. Bad for the breast cancer survivor. Soymilk isn’t an option (see #1), so I now drink almond milk. It’s a taste worth acquiring as almond milk contains 50% more calcium than cow’s milk. I have it over my cereal and it’s fine. Survivors can adjust to anything.
3. Did you know the USDA allows a certain percentage of hormones to be added to our beef supply? I now limit my consumption of red meat to one serving per week and buy only grass-fed, antibiotic-free, and hormone-free meats. I’ve ventured beyond beef and pork to bison and elk burgers. They’re delicious. My one serving a week gives me my red meat fix without the nasty stuff.
4. Did you know you can combat anemia without red meat? Eat more spinach and pull out your grandmother’s cast iron cookware. Cooking in cast iron adds dietary iron to your food. If you keep your cast iron seasoned properly, it’s as nonstick as any nonstick coatings on the market, and safer, too.
5. Did you know there is good fish and bad fish? Some have questionable mercury levels and sanitation concerns. Some are higher than others in heart-healthy Omega-3s. When taking into account the sustainability issue, there’s much to consider when buying fish (and I love, love, love seafood!). After studying the National Geographic Seafood Decision Guide, I now limit my fish purchases to U.S. farmed catfish and rainbow trout, Alaskan wild salmon, Tilapia (Ecuador and U.S. farmed-only), Pacific halibut, U.S. farmed crawfish, and scallops. Occasionally, we indulge in shrimp but only from Canada or the U.S. We eat fish two to three times a week.
6. Did you know the more beans you eat, the more your digestive track adjusts so that excess gas isn’t troubling? Beans are affordable, low in fat, rich in nutrients, and delicious. We have a bean dish at least once a week, such as hoppin’ John, red beans and rice, navy bean soup, or barbecue beans. I make my own refried beans from pintos, using Pati Jinich’s recipe (Pati’s Mexican Table), and they are the best. You can be creative with beans and enjoy them in a variety of dishes.
It’s difficult to eat a perfect diet, particularly if eating in restaurants. I suspect restaurants use whatever fish, oil, and meat is the cheapest. I can’t expect Golden Corral to serve me elk burgers and almond milk unless I’m willing to pay much higher prices. But I do my best to keep the junk out of my body. I hope you do, too, especially if you’re recovering from cancer.
Healthier Mayonnaise Recipe
I use a Vitamix, but my sister makes this in her KitchenAid blender. It’s not just better for you; it’s economical, too. I’ve cut this recipe in half and made a pint with no problems. It’s cholesterol free and made with monounsaturated oil.
¾ cup Pasteurized egg substitute
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
2¼ cups Canola or Safflower oil
1. Add first four ingredients to the Vitamix container. Secure lid but remove plug.
2. Turn Vitamix to Variable Speed 1, gradually increasing to 10 then high.
4. Run Vitamix just until mixture thickens.
5. Turn off Vitamix, pour the mayonnaise into a quart jar, and put a tight-fitting lid (or canning ring and lid) on the jar. Refrigerate. Keeps up to 4 weeks.
Yield: 1 quart
- ¾ cup Pasteurized egg substitute
- 1 tsp. dry mustard
- 1 tsp. salt
- 4 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
- 2¼ cups Canola or Safflower oil
- Add first four ingredients to the Vitamix container. Secure lid but remove plug.
- Turn Vitamix to Variable Speed 1, gradually increasing to 10 then high.
- Pour the oil in a steady stream through the opening in the lid.
- Run Vitamix just until mixture thickens.
- Turn off Vitamix, pour the mayonnaise into a quart jar, and put a tight-fitting lid (or canning ring and lid) on the jar. Refrigerate. Keeps up to 4 weeks.
- Yield: 1 quart