In Your Face Cancer! Healthy Holiday Foods

Cancer fighting foods can be easily incorporated into delicious holiday meals

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Holiday eating doesn’t have to be a diet-busting nutritional dread. Fruits and veggies can provide the most flavor and the best cancer-preventing nutrition money can buy.

Two major cancer institutes in the US have released holiday eating guidelines. Nutritional building blocks from these foods have been linked to reductions in incidences of certain cancers.

These researchers suggested for this holiday season, use the meal times as an opportunity to fuel the body with cancer-fighting foods that taste fantastic.

"Eat a variety of fruits and veggies."

Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, senior nutritionist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA, and Mary Ellen Herndon, MPH, RD, wellness dietician at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX, have both released cancer-fighting holiday food recommendations.

Ms. Kennedy said, “Eating a plant-based diet is the best way to help lower your risk of cancer all year long.” For nutrition made easy, Ms. Kennedy created the ABCDs of fall foods:

A – Apples – Medical studies have shown eating one apple per day may lower the risk of several different types of cancer including cancers of the colon, throat and mouth.

Apple pie, full of sugar, butter and flour might not be the best way to get the mighty apple’s fortified nutrients though. Ms. Kennedy said, “The key is to eat them raw and with the skin on. That’s where many of the nutrients are found.”

B – Berries – No Thanksgiving is complete with cranberries. The benzoic acid inside cranberries may lower the risk of cancers in the lungs and colon. Fresh or frozen cranberries are best incorporated into holiday recipes.

C – Colorful – Ms. Kennedy recommends, “The brighter and richer the pigment (color), the higher the level of cancer-fighting nutrients.” Beets, onions and squash are not only tasty, but have beautifully rich color to add to any fall dish.

Orange foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins and sweet potatoes are full of carotenoids, a nutrient that may lower the risk of prostate, colon, lung and breast cancer. Soups are a perfect place to add any of these orange veggies.

D – Dark Veggies – Ms. Kennedy explains, “Kale is a top choice because it’s rich in phytonutrients called indoles, which stimulate liver detoxification and help fight cancer. People who eat diets full of dark, leafy greens like broccoli, kale, cabbage and Brussels sprouts have lower risk rates for stomach, prostate and lung cancer.

Dana-Farber nutritionists also recommended ways to lower the calorie and fat intake of big holiday meals:

  • Remove skin from the turkey, which has 11 grams of saturated fat per 3 oz. serving
  • Refrigerate gravy to force the fat to settle at the top, where it can be easily skimmed off before reheating to serve
  • Stuffing can be delicious with lots of fruits and veggies instead of heavy bread or corn meal. Also, watch sodium levels with low-sodium broth.
  • Use skim milk, roasted garlic and Parmesan cheese in mashed potatoes instead of heavy cream and butter
  • Reduce sugar in as many ways as possible by using fresh fruits for flavor, excluding marshmallows on the sweet potatoes and nixing the whipped cream on deserts

Ms. Herndon, said, “People tend to gain weight in colder months because they’re indoors more, less active and overeat high calorie, holiday foods.”

“And, unhealthy weight gain, in the long run, may make it harder for the body to fight off diseases like cancer.”

“[M]ake sure you fill two-thirds of your plate with vegetables, fruits and while grains or beans. On the remaining one-third of your plate, choose a lean animal or plant protein.”

Below is a link to the MD Anderson recommended holiday shopping list that can be easily printed out to make grocery shopping for nutrient-filled foods easy and simple.

Fall food guides were published in November on the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute website and the MD Anderson Cancer Center website.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 19, 2012
Last Updated:
July 5, 2013