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Spring Forward with Five Green Foods to Boost your Health

St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone, but you don’t need the luck of the Irish to ward off cancer and disease this month. These green gems will bring you much more vitality than a pot of chocolate gold coins.

Contributor: Rachel Swanson

Green tea

Stomach cancer. Colorectal cancer. Ovarian Cancer. Breast Cancer. Pancreatic Cancer... what do all these cancer types have in common? Consuming green tea reduces your risk of ALL of them. Not yet impressed? What if I told you that green tea doesn’t just fight cancer: this single beverage reduces risk for all causes of mortality.i

All you need is at least one cup daily. To take these benefits to the next level, squeeze a slice of lemon into your tea – the combination with citrus enhances the effect of the polyphenols.



Grab a shot glass, everyone. Consuming an ounce of nuts per day (that’s a shot glass-full) decreases all-cause mortality by 20%.ii Next time you’re consuming this anti-cancer dose, incorporate some pistachios; and no, not just to provide some festive color. Losing weight never tasted so good! Studies on pistachios have shown significant reductions in waist circumference compared to those who didn’t consume them.iii Who knew that there’s an inverse relationship between consumption of tree nuts and obesity?iv Consume fat to lose fat? We can get on board with that.

Dark Leafy Greens

You knew this food group was coming... but for a very good reason.

The proof is in the numbers; a study of nearly 500,000 people confirms that consuming dark leafy greens substantially contributes to your longevity. This study, abbreviated as EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) includes an epic amount of people, and has some epic findings, too.

Researchers found a variety of greens (such as lettuces, chard, chicory, beet leaves, watercress, and even seaweed) conferred a risk reduction across the entire sub-population for lung cancer.

Even if eating leafy greens “hidden,” in your other dishes is the only way you can start making these healthful changes- aim to incorporate at least one cup raw or ½ cup cooked dark leafy greens into your daily eating habits to achieve the benefits noted in the studies.


Are you in the mood for Mexican food? Say “hola,” to the famous guacamole and salsa pairing: the lipids in the guacamole enhance the carotenoid absorption from the salsa,v,vi which means you just increased the cancer fighting components in your food. This delicious duo defines the meaning of food synergy.

Burger fanatic? Here’s a reason to make avocado the topping on your next hamburger: a recent study noted the effects of plain hamburger consumption versus hamburger consumption with added avocado. Those who ate their patty with avocado did not have increased inflammation or vasoconstriction compared to those who ate theirs plain.vii

Take away message: forget about bringing the famous potato salad at your next cookout... bring the avocados.


What an appetizing way to prevent both breastviii and colorectal cancer!ix For those of you who think you can’t go one day without eating meat as your protein source: edamame provides you about 17 grams of protein per cup.x Make sure to tell your friends and family, “you’re welcome,” next time you share this popular appetizer with them.

Take-Away (to the kitchen)!

How about reaping all the benefits I described in one day?
Consider it DONE for you with this meal plan:

Breakfast: Blended green smoothie (Yes, this means greens for breakfast) (find similar recipe here)
Lunch: Kale salad with avocado dressing and crushed pistachios (The avocado enhances the carotenoids in dark leafy greens, too) (find similar recipe here)
Beverage: Green tea with lemon (Read more here)
Snack: Cooked edamame or edamame hummus (find similar recipe here)
Dinner: Salmon with pistachio pesto on a bed of mixed greens and quinoa (find recipe here)

Who knew green would taste so good? :)


i. Li WQ, Kuriyama S, et al. Citrus consumption and cancer incidence: the Ohsaki cohort study. Int J Cancer. 2010 Oct 15;127(8).

ii. Bao Y, Han J, et al. Association of Nut Consumption with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality. N Engl J Med. 2013

iii. Gulati S, Misra A, et al. Effects of pistachio nuts on body composition, metabolic, inflammatory and oxidative stress parameters in Asian Indians with metabolic syndrome: A 24-wk, randomized control trial. Nutr Jrnl. 2014: 192-197

iv. Jaceldo-Siegl K, Haddad E, et al. Tree Nuts Are Inversely Associated with Metabolic Syndrom and Obesity: The Adventist Health Study-2. Plos One. 2014: 9(1).

v. Dreher M, Davenport A. Hass Avocado Composition and Potential Health Effects. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2013. May 2: 53(7); 738-750

vi. Unlu N, Bohn T, et al. Carotenoid Absorption from Salad and Salsa by Humans Is Enhances by the Addition of Avocado or Avocado Oil. J. Nutr. 2005. Mar 1: 135(3): 431-436

vii. Li Z, Wong A, et al. Hass avocado modulates postprandial vascular reactivity and postprandial inflammatory responses to a hamburger meal in healthy volunteers. Food Funct. 2013. Feb 26;4(3):384-9

viii. Lee SA, Shu XO, et al. Adolescent and adult soy food intake and breast cancer risk: results from the Shanghai Women's Health Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009; 89(6)

ix. Michels KB, Giovannucci E, et al. Fruit and vegetable consumption and colorectal adenomas in the Nurses' Health Study. Cancer Res. 2006;66(7).

x. United States Department of Agriculture. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 26.

posted on April 1, 2014


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