"Love Laura! I was diagnosed with LCIS a year ago and Laura’s podcasts have give me so much hope and so many tools to navigate the changes I have encountered."
Cancer survivors are a prime audience for food manufacturers and supplement companies to target with the newest and most promising "superfood" powders, supplements and bars. But, are these products really that special?
Are they the answer to living a long and healthy life, or could you save a lot money and get the same benefits in the produce aisle at your local grocery store?
In this episode we'll talk about what a superfood actually is, where you can get them without spending an arm and a leg and I'll give you 4 tips to easily incorporate this health promoting foods into your lifestyle.
You can even download my cheatsheet to help you remember all the benefits of these bright and tasty foods.
Read Full Transcript Below:
Hello and welcome I am Laura Lummer and you are listening to The Breast Cancer Recovery Coach.
I am so happy to have you here today and I want to start off with a shout out because as I said so many times before it means so much to me when you take the time to leave a review for the show in iTunes not only because it makes the show easier for other people who also might benefit from the information here to find it, but each time I read a review it touches my heart and makes everything that needs to happen to bring this podcast to you worth while and then some.
I am in the middle of Breast Cancer treatment and find this podcast to be helpful and calming. Laura’s voice is nice and she is smart with great info but with compassion and empathy. I am done with chemo, dbl mastectomy last month and about to begin radiation treatment. I’m ready to live my best life.
I am so happy to hear your awesome outlook! My sister, attitude is everything. I’ll be sending good thoughts your way as you go through radiation and I want you to know that no matter how tired and crappy your body is feeling right now, you can keep your spirit strong and that will carry you through to the life you want and the healing that you need. Thanks for taking the time in between everything you’re going through to leave that review. I appreciate it more than you know.
If you are a listener of the breast cancer recover coach I’d love to hear your thoughts and give you a shout out too. So, please take the time to subscribe and drop a note into itunes after this episode.
OK let’s get into today’s main topic superfoods.
I was recently reading a blog post on BreastCancer.org that referred to a 2012 study in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.
The study found that overall, 3 million cancer survivors in the united states have a below-average physical quality of life, and 1 million have a below-average mental quality of life.
That literally makes my heart hurt and gets me even more fired up to change these statistics.
The blog went on to say that near, “83 percent of people with cancer use at least one complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) modality. However, most patients, (are) confused or overwhelmed by the nearly 13 million resources for alternative cancer therapy available... “
Not only is cancer a terrifying word for us as survivors but it's arguably the biggest fear of disease for anyone.
This is why, advertisers and marketing companies use the anti cancer angle whenever they can...if it might prevent cancer...we want it! Especially if we’ve already lived through one bout with cancer.
This brings me to one of the biggest buzz words in the healthy food arena today...superfoods.
Is there really some new discovery, some exotic category of foods that when consumed is the fountain of youth and the key to living a long disease free life? Or are superfoods simply the fruits and veggies that your mom always told you to eat with a swanky new name and an angle that creates billions of dollars in revenue for food manufacturers and supplement companies?
The Merriam webster dictionary defines superfoods as
: a food (such as salmon, broccoli, or blueberries) that is rich in compounds (such as antioxidants, fiber, or fatty acids) considered beneficial to a person's health
That sounds like a good description and certainly not something that is a mind blowing, never before heard of discovery from deep in the jungles of the amazon. Right?
In episode 23 I talked about health halos and how these are foods that marketing companies promote as healthy when they're really just junk food with packaging to create the belief that the food is actually a healthy choice.
Now, I don’t mean to imply that superfoods aren’t healthy choices because they are. My pet peeve comes in when companies rebrand a food, let’s say a goji berry, call it a superfood, put it in a powder or a pill and then sell it for outrageous prices because they make you think it will cure all your ills.
For example, there is a large direct marketing company that sells a product in pill form and makes the claim that just two capsules a day was the same nutrient value as eating 30 different fruits and vegetables.
Now I’m not mathematician so I turned to google to see if it was really possible to turn 30 pieces of fruits and vegetables into two gel caps.
I assigned an average weight of ¼ lb to each piece of produce and then...This is a little morbid but I entered that weight into a cremation calculator to see how much ash would result and how much that ash would weigh..I know that’s weird but I love data...what can I say.
It turns out the weight from that volume of produce would be 2.5 ounces. But when I weighed my two gel caps on my food scale, they were too light to even register….so I’m thinking something was missing from my 30 pieces of produce.
Now, I do not want to imply that this supplement couldn’t help someone or support their healing because if you are ill or if you have a really crappy diet that contains no fresh food on a daily basis, getting any phytonutrients or plant chemicals, in you is probably going to help you feel better because you really need them!
Years ago I read a book on raw food eating, written by a famous supermodel at the time. She talked about how changing her diet to all raw food changed everything from her energy levels to her hair and then she described her nutrition plan prior to making this dietary change.
It consisted of alcohol multiple times a day, even in her morning coffee, fluctuating between starving herself and binging on ice cream sundays and chocolate chip cookies and then partying and using drugs on a regular basis.
Well, of course she was going to feel better. You don’t have to be as extreme as turning to eating all raw from such a horrible lifestyle to feel better. Just cutting out the kahlua in her morning joe would have helped to some extent!
But here’s my point, I would rather help you learn how to incorporate 30 pieces of whole foods into your diet than have you continue to eat poorly but feel better about it because you take a superfood supplement; and that is where I think the danger in the whole superfood marketing movement lies.
It is far more important to get your diet right first and create the habit of eating real food on a regular basis. After you accomplish that, if you find you still have deficiencies that require supplementation, or if supplementing helps you to feel good enough to focus to cleaning up your diet then you are on point.
But if you think eating fake food and supplementing with superfood capsules and powders is going to heal your body...you’re off target and you need to reevaluate your plan.
I live in southern california where acai smoothie bowls are a big thing. And I mean big, there are shops everywhere that sell these bowls which if you’ve never heard of this, acai is a berry touted to be a super food because of its antioxidant properties and the bowl is like a sorbet base layered with anything from fruit to granola, honey, chocolate chips, coconut flakes and so on.
On the blog, Eating Made Easy, where mom and nutritionist Amelia winslow, debunks nutrition myths, she posted the facts from three very popular juice shops that sell acai bowls and the nutrition facts ranged from 370-560 calories and 43 to 92 grams of sugar per bowl! The recommended sugar intake for women is 25 grams or or less per day.
I think we have to go back to the superfood definition here and acknowledge that the benefits may be outweighed in many situations where companies use the antioxidant banner to get us to buy their products.
So, what are we to do? How do we get the magical benefits of superfoods without getting conned?
There's a very simple answer and I love the way that Michael Pollan, author of the Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, puts it so I’ll quote him here, “Eat real food, not too much, mostly plants.”
This is all you need to know about the right way to eat because, real food is what we now call superfood because we’ve become so accustomed to picking up our food where we fill up our gas tank and eating it on the way to our next destination.
The term superfood is most often used when talking about plants foods wither in both their whole form or in the form of herbs and spices.
But I want to point out that many animal foods also have health benefits.
For instance, eggs are the gold standard for a complete protein, red meat contains heme iron which is a type of iron easily absorbed and used by the human body and can be a tremendous benefit to people who are anemic or suffering from many disorders that affect that iron levels in their bodies, and we all know, hopefully, that fish is an excellent source of health promoting fatty acids.
That being said let's look at why we refer to real food as superfoods
The first reason is that these foods, fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices and some animal foods have properties that support our health and protect our bodies from disease. I mean that’s a no brainer right?
Remember these are just regular foods that you can get at any grocery store.
For instance, cranberries have a naturally occurring substance in them called proanthocyanidins, as a side note I really wish the science guys would assign words that are easier to pronounce and remember so learning about good nutrition doesn’t feel so intimidating, anyway the beautiful thing about proanthocyanidins, is that it can stop some bacteria from sticking to the walls in your urinary tract which is why people tell you to drink cranberry juice when you feel a uti coming on. There are also studies suggesting that cranberries may help prevent h.pylori, the bacteria responsible for causing ulcers, from sticking to cell walls as well.
Now, an important side note, do not drink cranberry juice cocktail which is mixed with other, sweeter fruit juices to make it tastier, or cranberry juice with added sugar. Because guess what bacteria love to feed on ...sugar...so you're defeating the purpose if you’re drinking added sugar with your cranberry juice. Either dilute the very tart, real cranberry juice with plain water or you can take it in capsule form.
Tomatoes, one of my favorites, contain lycopene. They are rich in potassium, vitamin C, and some studies show that lycopene may work to prevent certain cancers, support eye health and healthy blood pressure. Now these studies find the most benefits when they study eating the whole tomato and not just using a lycopene supplement. That’s one of the important things to remember about whole foods.
There are so many parts to a whole food that we don't even understand. We know about phytonutrients, plant based chemicals but even though science shows the benefits of these they’re not sure why the benefits occur. It could be the synergy in the whole plant food, like the combination of vitamin C, potassium and lycopene in a tomato that results in supporting your health.
Another great source of lycopene is Watermelon and that’s something you can even get your kids and grandkids to eat.
When you hear the words Phytonutrient or phytochemicals know that all these other ridiculously difficult to pronounce and remember, alien sounding names like lycopene, flavonoids, proanthocyanidins all are different classes of phytochemicals. So I’m just going to use the word phytochemicals so this episode doesn't turn into a science show.
However I have created a cheatsheet for you that lists some of the different phytonutrients and their benefits which you can download from the shownotes page of this episode by going to Lauralummer.com/41
So I could go color by color on the benefits of each of the different color of foods because it is the phytochemicals that give these foods their different colors and their antioxidant and healing properties.
The different chemicals have different protective effects for both the plant and for us. So it is important to eat lots of colors of food including the skins.
But before I wrap up the show I want to hit on one color category that gets a bad wrap because of the carbophobia and Type 2 diabetes epidemic in our country and quickly expanding through the world...at least the parts of the world who adopt a “western type “ diet.
That category is white foods. That’s right the dreaded white food. Since I know this will freak people out, I used the Diabetes self Management website as my resource.
This is an organization that publishes a magazine and and website with tons of information on managing diabetes. In their blog post White Foods are Nutrition Superstars, they have some great information on the value of including foods like cauliflower, white beans, mushrooms and yes, even white potatoes in your diet.
Some off the nutrient benefits of white foods include tons of vitamin C and antioxidants that protect against inflammation which we know is the root of so many diseases including cancer and heart disease.
Potatoes are also rich in potassium, b6 and iron. Mushrooms, the only veggie that supplies vitamin D and we know how important vitamin D is to cancer prevention, are also a source of beta glucans which support healthy blood sugar levels.
Other white foods include, cauliflower which can replace or be added to mashed potatoes… a healthy hybrid, parsnips, turnips, white asparagus, hearts of palm which are so super delicious i eat them like snack sticks all the time. So please don’t discount white fleshed fruits and veggies along with white rice, white bread, sugar and the other crappy white foods.
Give them a chance and add in some healthy fats and proteins with your potatoes if you’re concerned about blood sugar spikes.
So, if you are not in the habit of eating lots of fruits and veggies, aka superfoods, how do start to increase your intake?
This can be a challenge for a lot of people because if you’re used to eating a diet with lots of fast food, restaurant or packaged foods, then you’re probably used to higher levels of added salt and sugar. This will often cause whole foods to taste bland to you but never fear. There's always a starting point and some little hacks:
I knew a trainer once who made all of her clients eat an apple 15 minutes before any other meal or snack. This lead to more success with their weight management goals because a. It takes time to eat an apple, and this satisfies our need to chew something, apples are delicious and refreshing so they help get our mind thinking we just did something good for ourselves which makes us more conscious of the next thing that goes into our mouth, and apples are high in fiber so they make you feel full and support eating healthy portion sizes. Smart trick right?
So, try something new, you might be surprised at how much you like it.
I hope these tips help you to get more superfoods (aka fruits and vegetables) into your diet, spend less money on hyped up superfood products and supplements because you know you can find most superfoods in the produce department at any grocery store and maybe inspire a little curiosity for you to learn a little more about serving up some delicious veggie dishes next to your chicken thighs.
Don’t forget to download your supper food cheat sheet at lauralummer.com/41 and when you get to my new website don’t get too frustrated that the free download isn’t working yet at the time of this recording. It should all be ready by May 10th and when it is I will have some special treats for you.
Thanks again for your support of the breast cancer recovery coach podcast and if you try some of these tips, or you have great tips to share, find me on Facebook as Laura Lummer and post your comments. I would love to hear from you. I’ll talk with again soon and until then,
Let your lifestyle be your medicine.