What does colorectal cancer have to do with fresh produce?

One of our neighbors was diagnosed with colorectal cancer late last year. As a 57 year old Mom with two adolescents and a full-time job, she never had time to prepare healthy dinners (she describes them as either picking something up from the grocery or just a steak and potatoes for the family). Always running at work or picking up the kids, we tend to abandon ourselves from time to time. That’s when she made the switch to start eating healthier, buy fresh produce and she has incorporated local greens to her daily diet!

Colorectal cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the US and the 2nd leading cause of cancer-related deaths, affecting both men and women. More than 90% of cases occur in people aged 50 or older.

We are fortunate to have such a variety of fresh produce which provides many beneficial nutrients and non nutrients, fibers and phytochemicals that protect us against chronic illness including these types of cancer. Vegetables tend to be high in nutrients such as fiber, folate, vitamin C, beta-carotene and bioflavonoids. Unfortunately, about 70% of Americans don’t consume enough daily servings. You know, people tell us it’s because they don’t have time but one important tip is planning ahead so you use your fresh produce as soon as possible and cook larger portions to freeze the rest for a later date.

Right now is the best time to protect yourself against colorectal cancer with our seasonal produce – eat more cabbage, kale, turnips, bok choi, chard and spinach. Certain substances in our winter greens known as isothiocyanates and indoles protect cells against the effect of carcinogens and can decrease tumor development in the colon.

Eat more alliums! Allium, who? Let’s keep it simple: onions, garlic, leeks, chives, scallions and shallots. These have organosulfur compounds that have shown anti-cancer activities in the initial development and progression of cancer.

So, what’s on our dinner plate for tonight? Cabbage, kale and leek soup: chop and mince these vegetables and cook for about ten minutes in olive oil. Then add eight cups of broth, fresh herbs like cilantro, some salt and pepper. Cook for about 40 minutes. Once cool, blend for a thicker consistency (you might want to add ½ cup of low-fat milk). Voila – something healthy and warm for our cool evenings!