Cancer-fighting foods for the holiday season

Holidays bring together fun, family, and especially the food. The average American consumes around 4,000 calories during a holiday feast. But smart eating does not have to take the backseat to savory classics. Dr. David Heber, an endocrinologist at UCLA’s Center for Human Nutrition, says people can use food to fight cancer.

"For cancer, in particular, nutrition probably accounts for about 30 percent of all cancers,” he said.

In fact, Dr. Heber says many of those holiday favorites can be cancer-fighters, like the “orange foods”— carrots, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins. These tend to be rich in beta-carotene, which may prevent skin cancer.

Dietitian Susan Bowerman says less is more when preparing these classics. Just add a little balsamic vinegar and roast your sweet potatoes.

"When you roast sweet potatoes, it brings out that natural sweetness. They caramelize,” said Bowerman, who also works at UCLA’s Center for Human Nutrition.

Red foods are also known to combat cancer. Tomatoes have lycopene, which may prevent prostate and breast cancer, but Bowerman advises against storing them in the fridge.

“When tomatoes sit out at room temperature, they actually make more lycopene,” she said.

Broccoli contains a compound that boosts the body's protective enzymes and flushes out cancer-causing chemicals. Garlic has allyl sulfides, which help kill cancer cells naturally. But Dr. Heber says you have to prepare garlic in a special way to preserve its anti-cancer properties.

“You have to crush the garlic first before you cook it because if you cook it first, you kill the ability of this substance to be helpful,” said Dr. Heber.

He also recommends serving turkey, a low-fat alternative to chicken breast.

While holidays are a time to dish out seasonal classics, they also present an opportunity to
lower your risk of cancer.

REPORT #2056

HOLIDAY FOOD: The holidays are the time of year to relax with family and friends and celebrate with big feasts! The problem with holiday festivities is weight gain. Most Americans eat with their eyes rather than their stomachs, which leads to over-eating during the holidays. The average weight gain between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day is about five pounds. (Source:
CRANBERRIES: Cranberries can provide a lot of antioxidants, which enhance overall health. Cranberries also contain proanthocyanidins that prevent the development of bacteria, such as E. coli, and urinary tract infections. They can also prevent bacteria from causing stomach ulcers and gum disease. Cranberries offer vitamin C and fiber, and they are a low-calorie snack beneficial to your health. (Source: and
ORANGE AND LEMON ZEST: It has become a habit for most people to dispose of their citrus peels once they have stripped the fruit, but you may want to reconsider throwing them away next time they are in your hands. Orange peels help lower cholesterol, they help with digestion, they aid in heartburn relief, and they can avert respiratory problems. These peels are not only good for your health, but they are useful around the house too. Orange peels can be used as air fresheners, cleaning products, and bug repellents. Lemon peels are also very resourceful. They can improve bone health, and help relieve stress. Lemon peels are also useful cleaning aids and they leave a fresh clean smell. (Source: and
For More Information, Contact:

Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD
Registered Dietitian - Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics
Assistant Director, UCLA Center for Human Nutrition

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