Canc­er-Fightin­g Holiday Foods

The holidays are about family, fun and food, but most of us get carried away when it comes to enjoying a holiday meal. In fact, the average American stuffs down as much as 45-hundred calories on Thanksgiving Day! What if you could make your holiday meals healthier, without sacrificing your favorite foods?

When it comes to the holidays, most Americans aren’t thinking about healthy foods. However, Dr. David Heber says maybe they should.

“For cancer, in particular, nutrition probably accounts for about 30 percent of all cancers,” David Heber, MD, PhD, Endocrinologist, UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, told Ivanhoe.

Many of those holiday favorites can be cancer-fighters.

“The holidays are a wonderful time to get healthy,” Dr. Heber said.

First, the orange foods, like carrots, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins, contain 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,” Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD), UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, told Ivanhoe.

Next up, red foods—tomatoes have lycopene, which may prevent prostate and breast cancer. However, don’t store them in the fridge.

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

“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,” Dr. Heber explained.

Also, don’t forget the turkey.

“Turkey breast is actually lower in fat than chicken breast,” Dr. Heber said.

So, this holiday, load up on what’s good to lower your risk of cancer.

Experts say you should try to fill two-thirds of your plate with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans. On the remaining third, choose a lean animal or plant protein. Also, men should aim for meals with no more than 500 calories. For women, it’s no more than 400 calories.



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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