Christmas food fest and cancer?

Macmillan produced a report recently stating that many cancers once considered common in old age are now being seen increasingly in the middle aged.  According to Cancer Research 61,000 people in Britain aged between 40 and 59 are diagnosed with cancer every year.  All in all, 4 out of 10 of us in the UK will get cancer and some point in our lives.  The one in three figure of a decade ago was scary enough but this is heading for one in every two. 

So far, so depressing….

But one way to help yourself be the right side of this statistical roulette wheel is very do-able.  It is simply to change your diet.  Now you might say that my timing is really dodgy.  Blogging about a healthy diet with the food-fest of the year coming up on December 25th?  Is she mad?

But hang on…there are ways to have a healthier Christmas dinner and still not miss out too much.  For example, Dr. Servan-Schreiber, author of Anticancer, A New Way of Life, suggests the following in his “food rules”.  (There are many rules, but I have picked out the ones that most relate to our annual jamboree.)  His words appear in green.



1. “Mix and match your vegetables: Vary the vegetables you eat from one meal to the next, or mix them together – broccoli is an effective anticancer food, and is even more effective when combined with tomato sauce, onions or garlic. Get in the habit of adding onions, garlic or leeks to all your dishes as you cook.”  We can do that!!!  The beloved sprout is a brilliant anti-cancer vegetable and de rigueur on the Christmas plate.

2. “Go organic: Choose organic foods whenever possible, but remember it’s always better to eat broccoli that’s been exposed to pesticide than to not eat broccoli at all (the same applies to any other anticancer vegetable)”.  Tick for Christmas! (And of course, you can get an organic turkey too).

3. “Spice it up: Add turmeric (with black pepper) when cooking (delicious in salad dressings!). This yellow spice is the most powerful natural anti-inflammatory agent. Remember to add Mediterranean herbs to your food: thyme, oregano, basil, rosemary, marjoram, mint, etc. They don’t just add flavor, they can also help reduce the growth of cancer cells.”  (I’m not the best cook, but I reckon you could chuck some of this stuff around the turkey? Good cooks please feel free to respond). 

5.  “Skip the potato: Potatoes raise blood sugar, which can feed inflammation and cancer growth. They also contain high levels of pesticide residue (to the point that most potato farmers I know don’t eat their own grown potatoes)”.  OK, this is where I would have to deviate from Mr Servan-Schreiber’s good advice.  Christmas dinner without roast spuds – sorry, I just don’t want to do that.  I’ll get back to restricting carbs on Boxing Day.

(Oh, and remember there are health benefits to single glass of good red wine.  As for the demon sugar – after a massive first course my family always used to serve fruit salad for pud, which never felt like deprivation. In fact it was quite a relief to have something light).

There’s more rules I could quote, but these are the ones I picked out for Christmas.  However, I did want to keep in his Number 12: “Make room for exceptions. What matters is what you do on a daily basis, not the occasional treat.” 


Have a Happy Christmas.

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