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   Cooking for Cancer Prevention
veggies in bowl

Maximizing cancer protection in the kitchen

It's mealtime and you're ready to start cooking. Great! Now what?

For cancer protection, it's your overall diet that makes a difference, and that includes what you eat, as well as how you cook and prepare your foods. 

These cooking tips can help you get the most out of your healthy meals.

marinara

Bring out the inner lycopene with heat

Tomatoes, along with guava, pink and red grapefruit and some other red-colored fruits and vegetables, are rich in the healthy cancer-fighting antioxidant lycopene.

Cooking tomatoes for a few minutes releases a form of lycopene that is more easily absorbed by our cells than the lycopene found in raw tomatoes.

Adding a little bit of olive oil to your cooked tomatoes can increase the amount of lycopene absorbed even more.

crushedgarlic

Garlic: Chop and rest

Chopping garlic enhances its health-promoting phytochemical, allicin, which is responsible for garlic's distinct pungency and taste. When garlic is whole, alliin, the compound from which allicin is formed, is separated from the enzyme alliinase that helps create it.

Cutting garlic allows them to mingle and form allicin. You can chop, slice, mince or press.

Heat destroys alliinase so in order to get the most allicin, let crushed garlic stand for about 10-15 minutes before adding it to a hot pan.

avocado

A bit of fat for fat-soluble vitamins

Our bodies absorb fat-soluble vitamins with a touch of fat.

Cooking and preparing green, red, orange and yellow vegetables with olive oil or other healthy fats found in avocado and nuts helps to increase the absorption of beta-carotene and fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, E, and K.

Most meals will already contain some fat. But next time you make a salad, sprinkle a little olive oil and a small portion of your favorite nuts for more flavor and healthy added crunch.

skewers

For meat, avoid high temperatures

Grilling, broiling or cooking meat at high temperatures produces carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. These compounds can damage our DNA and may increase the risk for cancer. 

For cancer prevention, the best way to prepare meat is to cook at lower temperatures. Next time you cook meat, try roasting in the oven or making a flavorful stew.

Add zest to up iron

Green leafy vegetables, beans and other plant foods contain relatively large amounts of a form of iron called non-heme iron, in contrast to the heme iron found in meats. But non-heme iron is not as easily absorbed as heme.

Adding lemon or other foods high in vitamin C to vegetables can help increase the amount of iron absorbed.

Drinking orange juice after eating a vegetable-filled meal can also help increase iron absorption.

herbs

Marinate your meats

Some evidence suggests that marinating meat with herbs and spices before grilling may cut down on possible carcinogens.

Not only do herbs and spices add flavor to your foods, emerging research suggests they may also play a role in cancer prevention.

For example, rosemary contains a phytochemical called carnosol that may inhibit tumor growth.

Cook with your skin on 

The skin of fruits and vegetables are packed with cancer-fighting phytochemicals.

Although you still will get plenty of nutrients and phytochemicals if you peel your vegetables and fruits, the colorful skins are often densely packed with protective compounds, some often only found in the skin.

For example, zucchini skin is loaded with lutein, an antioxidant. And if you eat an apple with its skin you'll get about 75% more quercetin, a major cancer-fighting flavonoid, than a peeled apple.

Don't waterlog your veggies

Water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins C, folate and niacin are just that – they easily dissolve in water. Boiling vegetables for a long time causes these vitamins (as well as some cancer-fighting phytochemicals) to leach into the water, which you will probably pour down the drain.

To maximize nutrients, try steaming, oven roasting, or stir-frying. If you want to boil, add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan and boil for a few minutes only until your veggies are soft and the water evaporates.

More on Cooking for Cancer Prevention:

For more information on preparing and finding cancer-protective foods, visit:

Foods that Fight Cancer

Health-e-Recipes

Health Tips for Dining Out

 

Published on March 8, 2013

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