For the Love of Red Food

I am not an expert on anything but myself and even there I am still learning. Who and what I am, is simple. I am a person striving to educate myself and share the lessons I am learning. I am a person who has experienced a few battles and came out on the other side a survivor. Because of some of those battles, I spend time working on being healthier. It is an ongoing battle as this aging body enjoys being sedentary. Yet, the fact that I am still in a time of my life where I need to be and can be more active means dragging myself up and getting busy.
Some exercise can be done sitting down. Exercising the brain and seeking information as I have done here….

Every time I hear about someone I know having cancer, it hurts. I cannot possibly know their pain and struggles, but I remember mine. No matter the fight, no matter how early the cancer may have been caught, or how far it has spread, it is a battle. A battle against an enemy invader in your own body. A battle to maintain what good health you have as you try to rid yourself of this disease and then return to a healthier state. We all have cancer cells within our body, different things will set the cells to multiplying.
If you are, or were a smoker.
If you do not get enough physical exercise.
If you are under a great deal of stress.
If you do not eat the right types and amounts of food, or if you eat too much of the wrong type foods, think sugar.
Of course the above is only a partial list, as the causes of cancer are many and continue to be discovered.

As a cancer survivor whose cancer was caught early I try to eat healthy. When I was undergoing my own cancer treatments certain types of foods increased the problems that the treatments caused. Radiation treatments destroyed all of my energy levels. If I consumed processed sugars it made it worse. If I drank more than one cup of coffee, it made it worse. I did not get the rush of energy and then the crash, I suffered only the crash. It was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other at times.
I’ve said it many times. I’m not bragging, I’m actually trying to say that if I can do it…anyone can do it. I am a serious junk food addict, which is an ongoing battle for me. Now, with my improved diet,  I do tend to get teased at work. I just smile, but all the while, I’m thinking that my cantaloupe, banana, strawberries, etc… along with my salads are going to do a lot more for me than that corn dog or what ever that other thing was you just purchased from the machine. While due to time constraints I tend to be a purest and merely slice the fruit I’m taking to work, there are many healthy ways and recipes to eat fruit. Raw, as I usually do, blended into smoothies, baked, such as apples,or added to other recipes. One can add fruit to some main courses and add to the flavor of any meal.
Its the same with vegetables. Eaten raw when possible is great, but steamed, baked, or combined with other recipes as long as there are no added sugars or fats.
As an example, I make my own spaghetti sauce. I start with about a pound of lean ground beef, brown and drain. Add to that a can of diced, low salt tomatoes (fresh when in season) and a can of diced seasoned tomatoes. Then add a dash of cinnamon, a medium cut up onion, a small can of tomato paste, a small can of mushroom pieces- drained. There is a multitude of various spice blends available and I add one that has basil, garlic, parsley among other seasonings one usually finds in Italian dishes.Then once it has simmered for a while I add chopped bell pepper of various colors. Allow this to continue to simmer as the spaghetti cooks.
For a salad I begin with various greens, (iceberg lettuce is mostly water and has very little nutritional value so I add Romaine and purple cabbage) add to that carrots, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, red, yellow, orange and green bell peppers, cauliflower and broccoli along with mushrooms. Making  enough salad to last, I leave this in a large bowl with a lid in the fridge to get a serving from every morning to take for lunch. I can add to this as the belly hungers. Adding tuna, egg, cheese, olives or cottage cheese, just to name a very few. Some not quite as healthy as others but the amount added is low. As far as salad dressing goes, I only add maybe a tablespoon. I want to taste the vegetables not the dressing. Its colorful and its good.
Its obvious that fruits and vegetables are colorful, we can see that without anyone telling us. Each color has its own benefits. The colors each a representative of various nutrients, which are good for us.  While some are more nutritious when eaten raw, others are better when cooked as heat releases the nutrients locked inside.
Red is one of my favorite colors, but why should my diet include red items? What punch does the red carry that offers healthy benefits? Many red (as well as blue and purple fruits and vegetables) contain things such as ellagic acid, a phytochemical, or plant chemical that is antiproliferative and is an antioxidant. it has the ability to inhibit the DNA binding of certain carcinogens, and slow the growth of certain tumors. It has been known to cause cell death in laboratories, and said to reduce heart disease, liver problems and more. Ellagic acid is in blackberries, cranberries, strawberries, raspberries, walnuts, pecans, pomegranates and more.
Quercetin belongs to a group of plant pigments that gives plants their color. It is an antioxidant that acts as an antihistamine and an anti-inflammatory. While more testing is needed, it has shown signs of protecting against heart disease and cancer. It may prevent damage caused by bad cholesterol and reduce high blood pressure. Quercetin is found in apples, onions, teas, red wines and cranberries to name a few.
Hesperidin is a plant chemical. Classified as a bioflavornoid it is found in citrus fruits. Studies have shown it may reduce inflammation, most often used for blood vessel conditions and to treat lymphedeme which involves fluid retention a possible complication of breast cancer surgery.
Lycopene, a powerful anti oxidant. A powerful fighter of free radicals, those molecules that roam around inside the body disrupting cells and promoting disease. While tomatoes contain the most, lycopene is also found in apricots, guave, watermelon, papaya, pink grapefruit red bell peppers and red carrots among others. Lycopene may lower the risk of heart disease, macular degenerations and may help prevent some cancers such as lung, prostrate, stomach, bladder, cervix and skin cancer.

One of the pieces of information that I ran across was that lycopene is better absorbed by the body when it is heated. One of my favorite ways of heating tomatoes, is in chili. Brown one pound of lean ground sirloin and one pound of venison, drain excess fat then add one can of seasoned beans, one can of light red kindey beans (drained and rinsed) dried pintos that have been cooked preferred but canned will work, a can of diced no salt tomatoes- fresh when in season, diced fire roasted tomatoes, mushrooms, chopped onion, your favorite seasoning to bring out the fire. Or if you prefer your favorite peppers.  Lycopene is reportedly better absorbed when paired in a meal with a low amount of fat.
As I progress with my quest for better health and hoped for prevention of cancer’s return, I plan on sharing in the hopes of helping others, and better cementing the information within my own mind. Better health, in mind and body, a not impossible mission.

About rebecca s revels

A writer, a photographer, a cancer survivor. An adventurer of the mild kind, a lover of the simple pleasures such as long walks and chocolate. A Christian unashamed of my faith and a friend who is dependable and will encourage readily. Author of three self published books with more waiting to find their way to paper. An advocate of good things, a fighter against wrongs.
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