“I can’t believe that is has been nearly 12 years,” I thought, as I wrote her my mother-in-law’s name on a sticker which read, “I am running in honor of _____” a few minutes before the start of a 5K run to raise money for local breast cancer research. Twelve years means that she has missed most of my son’s life, because he was only 9 months old when she died. Twelve years means that she missed my 9 year old daughter completely. And they have missed her, and now their aunt is fighting for her life in a similar battle. I am sure that you can relate to our story of loss, as cancer seems to be touching every family in one way or another. While many people have an idea that diseases like heart disease and diabetes can be positively or negatively impacted by food and lifestyle choices, most feel helpless, and maybe even hopeless, when it comes to their power against cancer. We tend to underestimate the hugely significant impact that our immune system plays in either promoting cancer growth or shutting it down. While I have discussed several strategies for cancer prevention in the past, I want to focus on something extremely powerful that you can start implementing today, in fact, at your very next meal…
Include mushrooms. Really?! Yes, really! Mushrooms harness amazing anti-cancer power, as they prevent DNA damage (which is where cancer begins), slow cancer cell growth, support programmed cancer cell death and prevent tumors from setting up a blood supply. The important phytonutrients in mushrooms can specifically reduce breast cancer risk and breast cancer progression, by lowering estrogen levels, preventing estrogen from stimulating breast tissue, and targeting the enzyme aromatase (fuels cancer growth). In a recent study, women who consumed 10 gram of mushrooms per day (~1 small mushroom), had a 64% decreased risk of breast cancer!
With flu season upon us, it is also important to realize that mushrooms have unusual disease fighting compounds, able to quickly support your immune system when you are exposed to a virus or bacteria, as they help our natural killer T cells find, attack and remove infected and/or harmful cells. “If green veggies are the king of Super Immunity, mushrooms are the queen!” (Dr. Joel Fuhrman). Mushrooms also have such a significant anti-inflammatory effect, that they are even recommended for auto-immune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. The benefits don’t end there, since consuming mushrooms can also reduce your risk of heart disease, by protecting the lining of the aorta (the “main” blood vessel that takes blood from your heart to the rest of your body), reducing blood flow problems and can lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. In addition to being full of potent phytonutrients, mushrooms are an excellent source of many important vitamins and minerals, including selenium, riboflavin, copper, niacin, potassium and vitamin D (if exposed to UV light). With all of those phenomenal benefits, there is no need to wait to put mushrooms on your plate!
Shop Smart: You don’t even need to buy exotic mushroom, as some of the most “active” mushrooms, when it comes to health promotion and disease prevention, are the white button mushrooms and cremini mushrooms, available at every grocery store! Look for mushrooms that are firm, plump and relatively clean, without wrinkled areas or slimy spots. Bigger is better when it comes to health benefits, so look for packages with the largest mushrooms. Fresh mushrooms are very temperature sensitive, so that means they go right into the fridge when you get home from the grocery store! When color and texture change during storage, the phytonutrient content is diminished, so remember, 38°F is ideal (back of the fridge). You can also use dried mushrooms, as they keep for up to a year in the fridge or freezer.
Cook Smart: The best way to keep mushrooms fresh is to remove them from their packaging and put them in a single layer in a paper bag with a paper towel on top, a second layer can be added if needed. Although you can rinse them under running water, they tend to absorb water quickly, so, depending on the recipe, it can be a good idea to clean them with a damp paper towel or “mushroom brush”. At our house, we combine mushrooms with another potent, and beloved cancer-fighter, garlic!
Timaree’s Garlic Mushrooms
Now, you can make a batch of my garlic mushrooms to enjoy all week, adding them to pasta sauce, lasagna, pizza, soup, salads, seasoned rice or quinoa, and more! You can also come into my kitchen and watch me make this recipe on a segment of California Bountiful TV!
24 oz of mushrooms, cleaned and sliced fairly thick
10+ cloves of garlic, crushed or minced*
¼ cup – ½ cup vegetable broth
fresh parsley or Italian seasoning
Brown mushrooms in a dry pan, over medium high heat, in several batches, so that you don’t crowd them, or they will end up steaming instead of browning. Another trick – don’t disturb them until they have browned, then flip them and brown the other side. Transfer browned mushrooms to a glass storage container and continue cooking the next batch. Once all mushrooms have been browned, add the broth, garlic and herbs to the hot pan. Let the garlic cook for ~2 minutes, then add the mushrooms back into the pan, stir to coat with garlic broth and cook for ~5 minutes. Transfer back to the glass storage container and enjoy grabbing these from the fridge throughout the week!
The Nutrition Professor’s Prep Smart Tip:
After crushing or pressing the garlic, let it sit for a 5-10 minutes before adding to the broth to maximize the cancer-fighting/preventing nutrients available to your body!
Timaree Hagenburger, is a registered dietitian and certified exercise physiologist with a master’s degree in public health. She is a nutrition professor at Cosumnes River College, conducts corporate wellness work, and has a regular segment on California Bountiful TV. To learn ways to include Timaree’s Garlic Mushrooms, any many more wonderful recipes, in all types of delicious meals, get a copy of her cookbook – The Foodie BarTM Way: One meal. Lots of options. Everyone’s happy. at www.FoodieBars.com If you missed any of her newspaper columns or TV appearances, you can find them at http://www.