Today has been set aside by the American Cancer Society as the day Americans should pick a fight--with food against cancer.
The disease currently is responsible for more than 450,000 deaths annually in this country. And although cancer has a wide variety of unknown causes, there are some risk factors that are known. Diet is one of them.
As with its Great American Smokeout, ACS has chosen a day--April 19--to campaign for greater awareness of the connection between food and the risk for certain cancers.
Called the Great American Food Fight Against Cancer, the day-long observance comes at a time when more people are making lifestyle changes in order to reduce their risk of death from degenerative diseases--despite President George Bush's headline-making refusal last month to eat broccoli, one of the most highly praised weapons in the war against cancer.
Based on scientific evidence demonstrating that making a few lifestyle changes can lessen chances of death from cancer, the society has planned an assortment of activities for supermarkets and restaurants, in businesses, schools and hospitals that will provide consumers with practical tips on how to select nutritious foods. A brochure that outlines "10 Steps to a Healthier Life and Reduced Cancer Risk" will be available.
Other nutritional brochures and healthy snacks will be distributed at Von's Pavilion on Jefferson Boulevard in Culver City from noon to 4 p.m. An ACS volunteer dietitian will give a cooking demonstration that follows the organization's guidelines at Bristol Farms Market, 937 Silver Spur Ave., Rolling Hills Estates, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
A free education program focusing on nutrition and its role in cancer control also will be offered from 7 to 8 p.m. at the ACS LA Costal Cities Unit, 5761 Buckingham Parkway, Culver City.
"Taking Control," another booklet offered by the society, outlines some of the protective as well as destructive factors that influence an individual's risk for certain cancers. It describes common risk factors, including high fat diet, high intake of salt-cured, smoked, nitrite-cured foods, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption and too much exposure to the sun.
It also makes the following recommendations for protective benefits:
-- Eat more high-fiber foods: A high fiber diet may protect against colon cancer. Fiber is found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables including peaches, strawberries, potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, wheat and bran cereals, rice, popcorn and whole-wheat bread.
-- Choose foods containing Vitamin A: This vitamin may help protect against cancers of the esophagus, larynx and lung. Fresh foods with beta-carotene such as carrots, peaches, apricots, squash and broccoli are the best sources.
-- Add Vitamin C to the diet: This vitamin may help protect from cancers of the esophagus and stomach. It occurs naturally in grapefruit, cantaloupe, oranges, strawberries, sweet red and green peppers, broccoli and tomatoes.
-- Control your weight: Obesity is linked to cancers of the uterus, gallbladder, breast and colon. Exercise and lower calorie intake help avoid gaining a lot of weight. Walking is ideal.
The connection between diet and cancer is a major focus of the American Cancer Society's research, said Dr. Robert J. Schweitzer, president of the organization. But most consumers believe eating healthier foods is a "chore."
Through the Great American Food Fight Against Cancer, he hopes consumers will learn the benefits of foods rich in vitamins A and C and low in fat and high in fiber--particularly the cruciferous variety--and that adding these foods to the diet can be easy, beneficial and fun.
"Although there's no magic potion you can take to prevent cancer, evidence does suggest that you can fight cancer through making simple changes in your diet," Schweitzer said.
"Studies indicate that as much as 80% of all cancers may be related to the environment and to the things we eat, drink and smoke. Changing the diet to eat healthier foods doesn't have to be a chore. People may be surprised at how easy the changes can be."
Here are two recipes from popular restaurants participating in the ACS Food Fight that demonstrate how food that is good for you can taste good too.
CITY RESTAURANT'S THAI MELON SALAD
3 cloves garlic, pureed
2 tablespoons palm sugar or brown sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup lime juice
10 serrano chiles
1/3 cup dried shrimp
1 tablespoon chopped Kaffir lime leaves
3/4 cup roasted salted peanuts
6 cups chilled desired melon cubes, cut into 1/2-inch squares
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
Combine garlic, sugar, fish sauce and lime juice in bowl. Chop stems from chiles and cut into thin crosswise slices. Add to garlic mixture. Rinse shrimp and pat dry. Chop shrimp, lime leaves and peanuts and add to dressing. Set aside 30 minutes.
Arrange melons in alternating rows in shallow dish or platter. Pour dressing over melons. Garnish with cilantro. Serve as appetizer or side dish. Makes 10 servings.