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3 Ways to Avoid Added Hormones in Meat

In my last post, I discussed the protective nature of peaches and plums in preventing breast cancer. Another preventative measure is to avoid hormone-laden meat.

An estimated two-thirds of the cattle raised in the U.S. are given hormones, including testosterone and estrogen, to help boost growth and production. Make minimizing your consumption of meats that have added growth hormones a priority: hormone residues in food may increase the risk of breast cancer and other reproductive system cancers among women, and may promote development of prostate cancer in men.

Considering the following when shopping:

  1. Know which animals are likely to contain these unwanted hormones. Currently cattle and sheep are the only animals allowed to have growth hormones added.  The USDA does not permit the use of hormones in hogs, chickens, turkeys and other fowl, or venison.

  2. Read labels carefully. Look for the words "no hormones administered" on packaging, which indicates these chemicals were not used in raising the animals.

  3. Use meat alternatives if hormone free animal products are cost-prohibitive. You can substitute vegetable protein for meats (beans, legumes and mushrooms are hearty vegetarian options that work well as meat substitutes); or use faux meat, such as products made from whole soy that duplicate the texture and appearance of meats.

More on this topic.


Breast Cancer Protection from Peaches, Plums

The antioxidant compounds in two of summer's most colorful fruits appear to damage breast cancer cells but don't target normal cells. Researchers in Texas performing lab tests used extracts from "Rich Lady" peaches and "Black Splendor" plums and found that they destroyed even the most aggressive breast cancer cells. The investigators at Texas A&M AgriLife said certain phenols in the fruits were responsible for the effects they observed,and that the extracts used had five times the toxicity on cancer cells as on normal cells. In follow up tests, they also found that the compounds prevented cancer from growing in animals. The research team said that the phytonutrients in plums matched or exceeded those provided by blueberries, which had been considered to have the most potent antioxidants among fruits. The study was published last year in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.

My take? We know that antioxidants including anthocyanins in blueberries and other blue and purple fruits protect against carcinogens, and that the beta carotenes in yellow fruits, such as peaches, boost the immune system. These new laboratory findings are very interesting, and I look forward to hearing about future studies of these extracts. We need cancer treatments that are less toxic than our present chemotherapy agents. If these findings are confirmed, the fruit extracts might turn out to be a promising alternative. 

Why not try this vibrant Peach and Blueberry Cobbler, and get both types of antioxidants!


Turkish Spinach Salad

This garlicky salad is a nice way to eat spinach and a great way to get a nutritional boost. Use the best extra-virgin olive oil you can afford. Serve it with our lentil soup for a simple, delicious supper.


1 pound fresh spinach, washed, stems removed
2 fresh tomatoes, sliced
6 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
5 tablespoons plain nonfat yogurt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and black pepper to taste


1. Dry the spinach, tear it into large pieces, and combine it with the tomatoes and scallions in a bowl. 

2. Combine the yogurt, olive oil, minced garlic and thyme, adding salt and pepper to taste. 

3. Add the yogurt mixture to the vegetables and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Prefer kale to spinach? Try the Tuscan Kale Salad, a favorite from my restaurant, True Food Kitchen.


Natural Summer Medicine Chest

When enjoying the outdoors this season, be prepared to protect yourself against common summer ailments. I have found the following to be naturally effective in preventing and treating a variety of summer culprits:

  1. Ginger: This may prevent motion sickness or other nausea.
  2. Stinging Nettles: By far the best remedy I know for hay fever.
  3. Arnica: The tincture of this plant can help relieve the pain and tenderness of sprains and sore muscles.
  4. Bromelain: Promotes the healing of soft-tissue injuries, such as sprains and bruises.
  5. Geraniol: Products made with this oil are an effective way to protect yourself from mosquitoes.
  6. Tecnu: Helps prevent rashes from poison oak, ivy, and sumac.
  7. Aloe Vera: For sunburn, thermal burns and any areas of skin irritation or inflammation.

Learn more about aloe and arnica.


If You're Pregnant, Eat Chocolate

It could lower your risk of preeclampsia, pregnancy-induced high blood pressure that can threaten the lives of both mother and child. Researchers at Yale asked nearly 1,700 women about their eating habits during pregnancy, including how much chocolate they ate. Those that ate the most chocolate turned out to have the lowest rates of preeclampsia. Eating more than five servings of chocolate a week reduced the risk of preeclampsia by up to 40 percent or more. The researchers credited the chocolate by-product theobromine, (which was seen in the cord blood of more than 1,300 of the women) for the effect. In fact, the higher a woman's theobromine levels, the lower her risk of preeclampsia. In addition, flavonoids - antioxidants in chocolate previously associated with cardiovascular benefits - may have played a role, the investigators said. For the study, they didn't distinguish between the types of chocolate the mothers-to-be consumed, but noted that dark chocolate provides the most theobromine. The researchers cautioned women not to go overboard with chocolate - too much can lead to excess weight gain and all the health problems associated with obesity.

Dark chocolate tops my Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid for these and other reasons.


Healthy Eating May Prevent Cataracts

This news comes from a study involving more than 1,800 postmenopausal women. Results showed that the women whose diets were healthiest were 37 percent less likely to develop cataracts than others in the study. In addition to poor diet, smoking and obesity were identified as factors that put women at higher risk.

 However, the researchers, from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, reported that diet was the strongest risk factor linked to the incidence of cataracts and suggested that a healthy diet, as well as not smoking and avoiding obesity could lower the need for cataract surgery among postmenopausal women. Earlier studies zeroed in on the carotenoids lutein (found in mangoes, corn, sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, tomatoes, and dark, leafy greens such as kale, collards and bok choy) and zeaxanthin (found in orange bell peppers, oranges, corn and honeydew melon) and the use of multivitamins as the factors consistently related to a lower risk of cataracts.

More about the carotenoid lutein's power to protect against age-related eye disorders.


Are You Addicted to the Internet?

 That's a good question. Some research does suggest that internet addiction is real and occurs particularly among adolescents. Unfortunately, if this is a genuine addiction, it is tricky to treat - computers are now part of our daily lives. You can't avoid them as readily as you can alcohol, drugs or gambling. If your time spent online is interfering with other aspects of your life, and if most - if not all - of your leisure time is devoted to computer usage, you certainly could have a problem. Recognizing it is the first step toward overcoming it.

Here's how I set limits on personal technology use.


Eggplant Dip

This Eggplant Dip has a great texture with a tangy, vinegary, seasoned taste that is mellowed with the pita. You also can smear the dip inside warm crepes for a different kind of presentation.


1 eggplant (1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 medium onion, grated or finely chopped
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano 
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar 
4 pitas
1 tomato, peeled


1. Preheat oven to 375° F.

2. Set the eggplant on a baking pan or dish and pierce it a few times with a knife. Bake it until it becomes soft, about 30 minutes; it should pierce easily with a fork. Remove it from the oven and let cool. When completely cooled, peel the skin off and put the flesh into a blender or food processor. Add the onions, capers, and lemon juice. Turn on the machine, then gradually add the olive oil. Continue to blend until the eggplant is smooth and creamy. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the oregano, salt, pepper, and vinegar.

3. Warm the pitas briefly on a baking sheet, then cut each of them into 8 wedges. Arrange them on a plate or platter. Just before serving, stir the tomato and parsley into the dip.

Food as Medicine: Rich color in vegetables usually indicates abundant heart-healthy antioxidants, and deep-purple eggplant is no exception. Eggplant is a particularly good source of an antioxidant called chlorogenic acid, which is among the most potent plant-based free-radical scavengers ever discovered.