Cancer Care

Recognizing the Blessings on Your Holiday Plate

Published: Dec. 7, 2020

While the people surrounding our holiday table are very different, our plates can still reflect the comfort of traditional foods served this time of year. Those traditional foods provide many blessings in the form of cancer-fighting nutrients. 

Fresh, tart cranberries offer a number of health benefits and a variety of recipe opportunities. Cranberries contain carotenoids – or antioxidants – which support cellular and immune health. Once digested, carotenoids can undergo a metabolic process in which they’re converted into vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin that’s essential in stages of the cell cycle and promotes positive outcomes. In fact, many traditional holiday foods – such as pumpkin, sweet potatoes and leafy greens – contain carotenoids.

Cranberries, sweet potatoes and pumpkin all contain fiber. There’s strong evidence suggesting that adequate fiber intake reduces the risk of colorectal cancer. The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) recommends 30 grams of dietary fiber daily. Additional resources for dietary fiber recommendations come from the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, which recommend 22-28 grams daily for women and 28-34 grams daily for men. 

Fiber works synergistically with nutritive and nonnutritive compounds found in whole grain foods to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Try making a stuffing side using 100% whole grain bread crumbs instead of white options like sourdough. 

Utilize fresh or dried herbs and spices to season foods in place of salt. If possible, try to limit sodium in this holiday’s meal by making foods at home from more wholesome ingredients instead of picking up from a restaurant or buying packaged in a box. 

I encourage you to dive wholeheartedly into your holiday meals this year. Use the extra time from not traveling or hosting to try a new recipe from scratch or make modifications to a traditional recipe to make it cancer-preventive. Recognize that food provides us with more than palate enjoyment – it is nutrition to sustain ourselves. We can’t always physically see the blessings in our lives, but we can certainly recognize their presence. Lastly, recognize the number of people in our local community who will spend their holidays at work caring for COVID-positive individuals, as well as all the support services that are required to safely support our health care facilities and teams.

Recipe Idea: Cranberry Flax Pumpkin Bread 

  • Canola oil spray
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup ground flaxseed
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup 100% apple juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Makes 12 one-slice servings. Per serving: 200 calories, 7 grams total fat (0.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat), 30 milligrams cholesterol, 32 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 3 grams dietary fiber, 220 milligrams sodium, 21 grams sugar, 12 grams added sugar.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat an 8-by-4-inch loaf pan with canola oil spray and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine whole wheat pastry flour, all-purpose flour, flaxseed, sugar, baking soda and salt, and set aside. In a medium bowl, lightly beat eggs. Whisk in pumpkin, canola oil, applesauce, apple juice, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Stir in dried cranberries. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, mixing until all dry ingredients are incorporated into batter. Do not beat or overmix. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until wooden toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove bread from pan and continue cooling on rack.

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About the Author

Gina Woodruff is a registered dietitian and licensed medical nutrition therapist who specializes in oncology nutrition. Whether working with patients before, during or after their cancer treatments, Woodruff strives to go above and beyond for them and their families.

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