Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Green Kale Blog Shout-out!

All things green are being celebrated in recipes for upcoming St. Patrick's Day, including a "shout-out" for my kale blog in The Washington Post's Lean & Fit Newsletter. You do have to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the newsletter, and then read all the way to the right, but there it is under "Tips for the Week - Being Well - Fighting Cancer with Kale", with a link directly to this blog.

How much fun is that?! A lot. :-)

Many thanks to The Washington Post for stumbling onto my blog and giving it "two green thumbs up"!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate, especially on St. Patrick's Day!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Food, not pills

A study is finally underway that will study a whole diet of just healthy food, with no additional dietary supplements of any kind, on the progression of prostate cancer in those men diagnosed with an early "watchful waiting" stage of prostate cancer.

A new clinical trial at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center will evaluate whether or not a change in diet, reinforced with telephone counseling and exercise, can stop or delay the progression of prostate cancer.

“Ours is the first study to focus on changing the entire lifestyle rather than just giving the participants a supplement pill,” said J. Kellogg Parsons, MD, MHS, urologic oncologist at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center.  “We focus on more vegetables, less meat, and comprehensive counseling which encourages a more active lifestyle.”

Participants in the Men’s Eating and Living (MEAL) Study will eat at least seven servings of colorful, strong-flavored produce per day, with an emphasis on cruciferous vegetables and tomato products, as well as whole grains, beans or other legumes, and fruit.  “Evidence in previous studies suggests that a diet high in vegetable intake and low in meat and fat intake may decrease the risk of prostate cancer progressing or even beginning,” said Parsons.

Eligible participants are males up to 80 years old, who have been diagnosed with non-aggressive prostate cancer within the last two years, are in the early stages, and have not yet received treatment of any kind.

For more information on the MEAL study, please call 858-822-2895.

Thankfully, these study participants are not simply being told by their oncologist to "eat right and exercise", whatever that might mean, as I was back in 1995, when there was much less awareness and information, let alone research, about how diet may optimize the odds for long-term cancer survivorship.Thankfully, research dollars are finally being used to do the studies needed to help the 12 million (and growing) cancer survivors in the US alone have helpful information to live longer, healthier, and productive lives after their cancer treatments are completed.

If you are not in the San Diego area and/or (hopefully) aren't even eligible for this study, why wait to "sign up" for a healthy diet that includes more healthy whole foods like kale and the full list of other Brassica vegetables that are delicious and also provide health-promoting compounds?

General good advice is still 5 or more servings of fruit and vegetables per day.
Serving sizes are the following amounts:
raw = ~1 cup,
cooked = ~1/2 cup,
juice = ~1/2 cup,
dried = ~1/4 cup

In addition, while this blog focuses on and encourages consumption of kale and other Brassica vegetables, variety, variety, variety is important in order to consume as many as possible of the thousands of health-promoting molecules in plant foods on a daily basis. I do not encourage eating a "gigantic bowl" of raw kale every day as a staple of your diet or counting that unusually large amount as 5 servings (or whatever) of your total daily fruit and vegetable intake.

Science understands only the tip of the iceberg in regards to how all of these thousands of plant molecules interact together (i.e. synergistically, meaning 1+1=3) in our body to promote good health. Don't cut yourself short by only focusing on a few of the great ones. In addition, they all add interest and flavor to our diet, which should be the main reason we eat, to enjoy our delicious food, not only to think of our food as "medicine".

Three cheers for kale and all its relatives. I'll bet all the men in this study are going to want a recipe for kale chips, a food that is interesting, flavorful, delicious, and also healthy.  Who could ask for anything more? To be honest, I'll bet all these men are signing up with hopes of full arrest, even reversal, of their early stage prostate cancer, too. I could not agree more and hope for the same right along with them. In the meantime, I hope they enjoy expanding their food boundaries to include more Brassica vegetables on a regular basis. They can rely on this blog for delicious recipes!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Saturday, March 5, 2011

"Thickets of cruciferous vegetables"

........ is such a lovely image and my favorite line from the following article The Billionaire who is Planning his 125th Birthday in The New York Times Magazine this weekend. I believe a description of what is planted in his greenhouse for personal consumption, which includes that great cruciferous thicket image, is on page 4 of the on-line edition.

It is always enlightening to read comments written by readers of articles in the New York Times. There is no perfectly written article (I saw something about vitamin D that I would have worded differently), and people always have widely varying opinions (and quibble) about foods, diets, aging, and rich people, all expressed in the comments I took the time to skim through. However, this most unusual man is choosing to spend a good deal of his money for research that will lead the future understanding of how foods (better studies would be evaluating whole diets, not just individual foods or molecules) affect the aging process and health promotion.

In a very small way dollar-wise, the endowment I have established at The American Institute for Cancer Research is doing the same thing by using proceeds I have donated from the sale of my book A Dietitian's Cancer Story to fund research focused on nutritional strategies that improve the odds for long-term cancer survivorship and/or increased quality of life for cancer survivors. I don't have the lofty goals of hoping that I or other cancer survivors reach the page of 125 through research funded by my endowment, but I do confess that I have humbly asked the universe to kindly consider giving me 40 more years since my husband and I have at least 40 years of projects we want to do on our new farm.

To tell you more, the first time I made this request (last year after purchasing our farm and getting a better handle of how much work was needed to turn this sadly neglected land (and home) into the productive organic farm we could envision), I asked the universe for 30 years, feeling that I was being too greedy to ask for 40 more years, and of course, by all conventional thinking, even asking for an additional 30 years of health good enough to keep working our farm would likely be considered a pretty outrageous request. After all, my husband and I had just turned 60 and you can do the math, 60 + 30 = 90 (outrageous) versus 60 + 40 = 100 (more outrageous!).

However, last summer I read where one of the vendors at Michigan's only all organic farmers' market had just turned 100. You can read about Jeannette Keiser here! Aha! I knew I was being too timid asking for only 30 years instead of the 40 years I really hoped for. And here was my inspiration to update my humble request to 40 years instead of only 30.Thanks, Jeannette. I hope to meet you someday.

I am very disappointed that the writer of this article did not probe to ask the billionaire's thoughts about the importance of organically raised foods to his overall plan of living to be 125. I have some speculation, but no info, so I won't make any comment.

However, our family plan is to continue to enjoy eating (please note that word 'enjoy'!) meals made with foods that are locally grown and organically grown (both as much as possible) while we wind our way along the pathway of our "encore careers" as organic farmers. I cannot begin to say we'll be given even one year, let alone 40 or more! However, we are committed to doing our little part in our local community for as long as we're able to connect the dots for everyone between healthy soil and healthy communities. Thus our 'tag line' for The Dyer Family Organic Farm is the following: "Shaping our future from the ground up", with the word "our" being very large to encompass all aspects of our community, not just our personal health or economic futures.

I'd like to end with a section of a poem by Wendell Berry that I recently read and copied. I think it is appropriate expression (and better than my own words) of what my husband and I are doing as we rebuild this land into our organic farm.

In Leavings: Poems by Wendell Berry 2010
from 2007, II, page 84

……….. With the land
again make common cause.
In loving it, be free.
Diminished as it is,
grant it your grief and care,
whole in heart, in mind
free, though you die or live.
So late, begin again.

Wendell Berry received the National Humanities Medal this week at The White House from President Obama, being given this high honor as a poet, novelist, Kentucky farmer, activist, conservationist, and author of more than 40 books, always exploring our relationship with the land and community. 

So yes, my husband and I are late starting our farm, but no matter, I am taking heart from the final line of this poem by Berry "So late, begin again." Nothing makes me happier, more 'whole in heart', no matter when I do die. :-)

"Where kale is more than decoration on my plate. It may even be in a thicket!"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD 

PS - These thoughts were very difficult to "tag" on my kale blog. Thus I will cross-post these thoughts on my dianadyer blog too, where I found myself tagging every other category.  So, apologies to those of you who regularly read both blogs.