If you Googled “most important vegetables to eat”, you would find leafy greens at the top of every list. And there are some pretty good reasons for that.

They are one of the richest sources of nutrition and are the number one food you can eat regularly to help improve your health and boost weight loss.  This is because leafy vegetables are full of fiber along with vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (plant chemicals) that help protect you from heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. Many of these vegetables even help slow down the aging process.

What are leafy greens?

Some of the most common include kale, collards, Swiss chard, mustard greens, arugula, Romaine, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, dandelion, broccoli, spinach, turnip greens, cabbage, watercress and broccoli rabe.

If you notice, most of them are in the cruciferous family of vegetables that offer the most bang for your plant-based buck.

Cooking Greens

Although it can be a little intimidating to prepare greens if you’re coming home from the grocery store with a bunch of Bok Choy for the first time, don’t let that stop you! Once you learn a few simple preparation tips, you’ll soon be cooking up a “leafy-green” storm.

You have some preparation options by trying a variety of methods like steaming, boiling, sauteing in oil, water sauteing, preparing a pressed salad and waterless cooking.

Steaming creates gray, bitter greens (concentrates bitterness) – so strong tasting greens (turnip & mustard greens, kale, broccoli rabe, collards) are better boiled or blanched. Boiling a large amount of water takes time. And if you ever wondered if you lost lots of nutrients in the water cooking this way, you’d be right! So it’s best to boil or shallow blanch in a small amount of water. Use approx. 2 cups water for up to 1 lb. greens. Boil water, add chopped greens, cover and cook until tender. It can take from 3 – 10 minutes depending on the type of green.

You also want to cook at high temp to preserve nutrients, color and taste.

If your greens turn out too bitter using two cups water, try more water next time. You can control the bitterness of the greens this way. Then drain the greens and sauté if desired. or use in recipes. Make sure to drink any remaining cooking water – called “pot likker”. It contains many of the minerals and vitamins lost in the water.

Milder greens (spinach, chard, beet greens) can also be cooked this way, but because they are mild tasting and cook quickly anyway, they can be steamed or wilted in a skillet.

Boiling makes greens plump and relaxed. Steaming makes greens more fibrous and tight, which is great for people who are trying to lose weight.

Once cooked:

  • Drizzle greens with some vinegar and tamari
  • Sprinkle with lemon or orange juice
  • Toss with some toasted sesame oil and sesame seeds for an Asian flair
  • Sauté’ some red onions, add a little brown rice syrup and grated lemon zest
  • Sauté’ with garlic and olive oil and add some sun-dried tomatoes
  • Toss with your favorite healthy dressing
  • Add them to soups, serve over grains

Some greens can be eaten raw in salads: arugula, watercress, romaine, chicory, spinach, escarole, etc.

You can also prepare a Pressed salad - a wilted vegetable dish that gives the freshness of a raw salad but is processed with salt or vinegar to break down the tough outer cellulose layer which can make raw vegetables difficult to digest. Use ½ tsp sea salt or umeboshi vinegar per cup of salad. Rub the salted greens with your hands until liquid starts to be released. Then either set aside for 20 minutes or place a plate with a weight on top. Pour off the fluid that accumulates. Pressing eliminates a lot of the liquid in the raw veggies which can make us feel cold in winter. The secret is to slice the veggies very thin.

Try Chinese (Napa) cabbage, kale. Also add daikon radish, cucumber, carrots, celery.

When most people hear “leafy-green vegetables”, they probably think of iceberg lettuce. But the ordinary, pale lettuce in restaurant salads doesn’t have the power-packed goodness of some other greens. Get into the habit of adding these leafy green vegetables to your diet as much as possible.

Try it out for a month and see how you feel.

By: Christine Scalfo, Food for Living

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Many of the newer chemotherapy drugs used to treat cancer are called targeted therapies. Lapatinib, for example, is used for the treatment of many breast cancers.

These therapies target the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) protein, which act on certain parts of cancer cells to block the growth and spread of cancer. They work by affecting the processes that make normal cells become cancer cells and cause tumors to grow.

Although effective in the treatment of many cancers, EGFR inhibitors often result in adverse reactions in the skin, which occur in at least half of treated patients. They can leave patients overwhelmed with one more medical issue to contend with.

The dilemma is that normal skin cells also have a lot of EGFR. So drugs that target or block EGFR often affect these cells by turning off the signal for them to grow and making it harder for them to retain moisture.

The skin side affects include dry, dull, lifeless skin, many conditions related to aging. You may think the best approach to address these skin conditions would be the conventional anti-aging skin care products and treatments that are currently on the market. This may include exfoliation, skin peels, as well as moisturizers that have ingredients that increase cell turnover. However, it is important to consider how these skin care products affect skin function and whether they are appropriate for individuals undergoing cancer treatment, especially (EGFR), Epidermal Growth Factor inhibitors.

There are many conventional skin care products that oncology patients should discontinue using and even avoid completely. For instance, there is an increase use of EGFR in anti-aging creams, which are delivered to the skin through a technology called nanotechnology. Nanotechnology uses nucleic acid nanoparticles to penetrate the skin’s surface faster and deliver gene regulation technology directly to cells. These nanostructures are designed to stimulate epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), a biomarker associated with wrinkles in aging skin.

In fact, manmade proteins, peptides and enzymes extracted from human stem cells are used to stimulate your own skin cells by sending messages telling them to produce skin cells. This is not only inimical to what the medical industry is trying to accomplish in retarding cancer growth, but has other hazardous implications to one’s over all health.

Due to their ultramicroscopic size, these nanoparticles readily penetrate the skin, especially when it is inflamed and raw, thus invading underlying blood vessels and getting into the general blood stream, producing systemic toxic effects. As medical EGFR inhibitors are designed to retard the growth of cancer cells, anti-aging creams are formulated to stimulate cell growth and thus could stimulate cells affected by cancer.

Many of the anti-aging products can also contain other toxic ingredients, such as allergens, toxic hormonal ingredients, and known carcinogens such as, Ethylene oxide,Dioxane, Nitrosamines, Formaldehyde, and Acrylamide.

Other skin symptoms may occur due to targeted therapies and they include scaly, flaky skin. When skin demonstrates flakiness we tend to think our skin needs exfoliating products and/or skin resurfacing procedures. However, in this case the stratified cells that loosely organize on the surface of the skin, as an attempt by the organ to protect and defend itself. Disturbing this natural defense formation would only make skin more vulnerable and susceptible to further complications.

There are several ways to reduce side affects and to support the skin if symptoms do occur. Start with simpler skin care routines and invest in cleansers that heal, not products that peel. Stay away from cleanser with moisture-stripping alcohols and sudsy sulfates, and instead use cleansers based with seed oils and pure botanical ingredient. Oils in cleansers won’t clog pores, but will lift dirt off the skin and help build up the lipid barrier, which contain the skin’s natural moisturizers.

Skins natural defense functions best when there is improved suppleness and enhanced moisture levels. This can be achieved with serums based with oils of Acai and Broccoli. These pure botanical oils are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation and hydrate skin by reducing epidermal moisture loss. They also prompt skin cells to produce natural occurring glutathione, which reduces oxidative stress.

Caring for the skin during medical oncology therapies is about achieving balance. We can achieve healing to our skin and our bodies by supporting its inherent healing capabilities. Skin care products used for these sensitive conditions should soothe the impact that disease has on the skin and the body, not overburden the body with toxicity and harmful ingredients. The ultimate goal is to provide a holistic approach for an optimal healing environment that enhances the body and skin health, thus supporting overall wellbeing and comfort.

By Anne Willis

Anne C. Willis, LE, CME, is the founder of De La Terre Skincare® and one of the industry’s most outstanding innovators in the world of holistic skin care. Ms. Willis lectures nationally regarding collaborative care for medical institutions and skin reactions incurred by patients receiving combined chemotherapy. Ms. Willis has been published in multiple international holistic and beauty publications. She is the director of Oncology Skin Therapeutics™ and is certified by the NCCAOM, bringing over 30 years of experience and knowledge to a new generation of skin therapist.

Posted in Complementary Cancer Care, Daily Matters, Oncology Esthetics | Tagged | Leave a comment

With all the bread choices in the grocery store, how do you know which ones are whole grain? I get this question a lot! I’m sure you know the HEALTHIEST ones are whole grain, but the bread companies do a very good job of disguising their white bread as whole grain.

Ever seen any of these on your bread bag?

Rye, multi-grain and whole wheat bread loaves.

  • Honey Wheat
  • 7 Grain
  • White Wheat
  • Wheat Bread
  • Multi-Grain
  • Contains _ grams of whole grains
  • And my personal favorite: “made with whole grains” – Really??

What do you think all of those things mean?

They pretty much mean that the bread company is trying to distract you from the fact that it’s NOT 100% whole grain! You can call me cynical. Maybe I am or maybe I don’t like to be lied to!

The truth is that unless your package says 100% whole grain, you really won’t know unless you read the ingredient list. And even if it says 100%, it could have a lot of extras added to that 100% that you don’t want. I always suggest you read the ingredient list for any food item that you buy anyway, so let this be a reminder!

Here’s Your Step-By-Step Guide to Buying Whole Grain Bread

  1. See if you can locate a loaf that says 100% Whole Grain or Whole Wheat Bread
  2. Turn the loaf to the back to read the ingredient list. If there are a lot of ingredients that you wouldn’t use at home, put it back on the shelf!
  3. Find the next loaf that says 100% Whole Grain.
  4. If there are no loaves that advertise 100% Whole Grain, then find one that says “whole” somewhere on it. Turn it to the back and read through the ingredient list.
  5. When you find one that has all “whole” ingredients, You Have a Winner!
  6. Buy that same brand next time! Then you don’t have to go through the process over and over.

Here’s more on what to look for on the ingredient list.

The Whole Grain Bread Ingredient List

The ingredient list on 100% whole grain bread should always contain the word “whole” (such as “whole wheat flour” or “whole oats”). If there are more than one type of grain in the bread, each one should be listed as “whole”. According to the Whole Grain Council, if a bread has two grain ingredients and only the scone ingredient listed is a whole grain, the product may contain as little as 1% or as much as 49% whole grain. Look out!

Here’s a sample ingredient list for:

  • Generic whole wheat bread: Whole wheat flour, water, wheat gluten, corn syrup, honey, soybean, oil, yeast.
  • Arnold’s 100% Whole Wheat Bread: Whole wheat flour, Water, Sugar, Wheat Gluten, Yeast, Raisin Juice Concentrate, Wheat Bran, Salt, Molasses, Soybean Oil, Mono- and Diglycerides, Calcium Propionate (Preservative), Monocalcium Phosphate, Calcium Sulfate, Datem, Ethoxylated Mono- and Diglycerides, Soy Lecithin, Azodicarbonamide, Whey, Nonfat Milk.

The White Bread Ingredient List

There are a lot of confusing labels out there, as I mentioned before. White bread might look like whole wheat on the outside because packaging says “wheat” and the loaf even looks brown. Here are a few sample white bread ingredient lists:

  • Generic Wheat Bread: Wheat flour, water, whole wheat flour, corn syrup, honey, soybean oil, yeast (look familiar??)
  • Arnold’s Honey Wheat Bread: Unbleached enriched wheat flour [Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Reduced Iron, Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid], water, whole wheat flour, yeast, honey, sugar, wheat gluten, soybean oil, salt, cultured wheat starch, enrichment (calcium sulfate, vitamin e acetate, vitamin a palmitate, vitamin d3), Mono-and Diglycerides, datum, citric acid, grain vinegar, mono calcium phosphate, soy lecithin.
  • Subway 9 Grain Wheat Bread: Enriched wheat flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, yeast, whole wheat flour, sugar, contains 2% or less of the following: wheat gluten, oat fiber, soybean oil, wheat bran, salt, wheat, rye, yellow corn, oats, triticale, brown rice, barley, flaxseed, millet, sorghum, yeast nutrients (calcium carbonate, calcium sulfate, ammonium sulfate), vitamin D2, dough conditioners (DATEM, sodium stearoyl lactylate, potassium iodate, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide), caramel color, refinery syrup, honey, yeast extract, natural flavor, enzymes.
  • Subway Italian White Bread: Enriched wheat flour (wheat flour, barley malt, niacin, iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, yeast, sugar, contains 2% or less of the following: soybean oil, wheat gluten, salt, dough conditioners  (DATEM, sodium stearoyl lactylate, ascorbic acid, potassium iodate, azodicarbonamide), yeast nutrients (calcium carbonate, calcium sulfate, ammonium sulfate), wheat protein isolate, yeast extract, vitamin D2, natural flavor, enzymes.

I find it interesting that their 9 Grain Wheat Bread is almost exactly the same ingredients as the White Bread.

“Enriched wheat flour” is basically white flour. It’s been enriched with the ingredients that the government requires white flour to have added.

Next time you visit the bread isle, take a picture of the ingredient list and post it to theCancer Dietitian Facebook Page. Maybe it will help another reader to find a good bread!

By: Julie Lanford

Posted in Diet, Nutrition | Tagged | Leave a comment

It’s trite to say that a cancer diagnosis forever changes your life. A cancer diagnosis affects and shifts and disrupts life in so many different ways I could write a novel on that alone. Some changes are obvious and immediately clear (Yeah, I’m missing a body part and I’m bald. Boo), some may not manifest for a long time (Wait, what do you mean the chemo might have damaged my heart?), and some can take years to come to grips with (Yep. Working on this. Daily).  One of the worst things about a cancer diagnosis is the immediate loss of control.   You don’t have a choice. When the Cancer Train screeches to a halt to pick you up, you get on. When the white-coated conductor with a stethoscope and syringe escorts you to your very personal seat, you sit down.  Even in remission, the Cancer Train chugs along, its cars filled with doctor appointments and tests and the never-evaporated fear.

The worst train stop is Cancer Town.  Here you live while undergoing treatment. Doctors, nurses, hospitals, specialists, surgeries, radiation, chemo… these are some of the day-to-day denizens and aspects of life in Cancer Town. The changing reflection in your mirror is your security badge for this gated community.  Maybe you derive comfort in Cancer Town, maybe you rabidly hate it, or most likely, you feel a mixture of both. But you don’t have a choice about living there.   Mercifully, many people only lease in Cancer Town.  Once active treatment concludes, they can pack up their belongings and catch the Cancer Train to the next stop, and hope for a more “normal” life.

If you’re fortunate enough to be in remission, your choices expand and you do have the choice about visiting, about remaining really attached, to Cancer Town.  Connections come in many forms: physical support groups, online groups and chat rooms, continued closeness with your treatment facility or relationships with women you were lucky to bond with at the chemo lounge. You can also continue to keep current vis-à-vis medical information, maybe even attend cancer conferences, lectures, and webinars.

Staying connected has enormous benefits.  I was incredibly alone through all my active treatment.  My initial surgeries were in upstate NY where I didn’t have a team of doctors or a young support group to draw forth strength and comfort.  (Even the nursing social worker I was “assigned to” forgot about me. She called me after I moved back to Philadelphia to apologize that I dropped off her radar.)  My chemo was in Philly, but I didn’t meet anyone in the chemo lounge; indeed, I was always the youngest person there, which further depressed me.  About a year after diagnosis, I attended a cancer conference and was delighted to hook up with a group of young survivors.

What a relief!  A whole group of young women who knew exactly what I had gone through and what I was still going through. Fantastic!  Attending meetings could be a double-edged sword; sometimes I left feeling worse and even more anxious, sometimes I left feeling better.  The anxiety-provoking moments happened when women shared experiences that I could have (Oh my God, I didn’t even know that could happen!!), tests that I wasn’t having (Why am I not having those scans??), treatment options that I didn’t choose (Did I make the wrong choice??), and side effects that I didn’t suffer (Does that mean the meds aren’t working????)  It was enough to make my head explode!

But overall, those meetings were invaluable, and now that I live in NYC, I really miss those amazing women!  Although I may not “know” many of them outside of the support group, our shared experiences during treatment and perhaps more important, now, as we continue to deal with cancer fall out,  mean so much.  The simplest sentiment is clichéd but true:  “They just get it.”

I’m also connected with a large group of young BC survivors via a FB group.  It’s a great forum. Women at all stages in their treatment and their lives throw out questions, offer advice, share resources, and give unconditional support. The word awesome pretty much covers it. I will probably never physically meet most of these women, but the existence of this group is like my very own fuzzy security blanket.

But as anyone who is out of treatment knows, keeping close ties to Cancer Town come with a price.    Women you know (personally or just online) face further hardships and crises. Cancer comes back. Medical emergencies happen. And women die.  Choosing to remain in Cancer Town can amplify personal fears and concerns that otherwise might fade without the constant reminders.

I only attended my support group for a little less than a year, but by the time the full-year mark hit, two of the women I had peripherally met at group meetings or activities had died, one at 26 and the other at 40.  Seeing that kind of information pop up in my Facebook feed was a gut punch even if I barely knew them.  My initial reaction was sadness and rage at the really shitty hand these women were dealt. My second wave of feeling occurred almost simultaneously: those women could be me. I could be them.

The online forum runs the same risks.  Shared community and knowledge is beneficial, but the cancer fears can remain fresh and omnipresent. I know when women have recurrences or their cancer has metastasized, or when someone dies.  A strong and accepting mind is required to not feel anxious or frankly, freak out. I’m not great at it.   My stomach flip flops every time someone posts a new, horrifying medical diagnosis.  I’m upset for the person, but it’s no surprise that I feel anxious and project onto myself.

But I choose to be there, in Cancer Town. I choose to be connected.  I choose to write a blog once a month, to share, to talk about the cancer experience. Some people justifiably don’t want, or can’t, stay connected.  This cocoon of self-preservation holds strong appeal.  My anxious, overactive mind is my greatest enemy. I fully understand and respect wanting to cut the ties to Cancer Town.

Because it’s damn scary. To hear that someone’s cancer has come back scares the Crap out of me.  It’s not just an emotional fear; it can also be a physical one (Panic attacks suck).  Maybe it would be easier for me to shut it out and join what I consider the media’s pink wagon of happy survivors who scarcely mention those of us who do not thrive or survive.  But I feel strongly that women who are suffering with progressive disease need to be recognized and supported and valued even though thinking about Mets might bring me some distress, discomfort, or okay, scare the living daylights out of me. (To even give voice to these trivial effects on me is embarrassing.) Attention must be paid to these women. Their struggles must be recognized.  Our sisters with progressive disease no longer have a choice…. they have permanent housing in Cancer Town.

So I choose to keep an apartment in Cancer Town. A rental only, if you please.  For me, the benefits of community and sisterhood and support outweigh the fears and anxiety.


Jennifer Jaye is an editor, writer, actress, yogini, former karate instructor, and in her newest role, a cancer survivor. She lives, works, and plays in New York City as she attempts to navigate life as a young survivor of breast cancer.  

Posted in Spiritual Care, Survivor Story | Tagged | Leave a comment

Homeopathy is a powerful system of healing with the potential to enhance recovery. This system of medicine prompts the body to correct itself, treating the whole person rather than just the symptom. In the context of cancer care, homeopathy can relieve side effects of chemotherapy and radiation and then optimize longevity. Dr. Jen Green ND generously shares her homeopathic expertise in this audio.

By Dr. Jen Green
Published with the permission of Five To Thrive Live

Posted in Audio, Cancer Education, Complementary Cancer Care, Homeopathy, Integrative Medicine, Multimedia, Oncology Esthetics | Leave a comment