The Cancer Project is a group of doctors, researchers, and nutritionists who have banded together to help educate the public on cancer prevention and also survival. They often host free cooking and educational classes all over the country and I was lucky enough to attend one a few weeks back. (Click here to see if there are any upcoming classes near you.)
What did I learn? Well first, I'll write about what I learned from a health stand point and at the end I will share the few cooking tidbits.
So we all know that one factor that contributes to the likelihood of developing cancer is tobacco use. Did you know that the National Cancer Institute says 80% of cancers are due to factors that can be controlled? Furthermore 35-50% of those factors are due to foods. (To read about the other factors and see them in table form, click here.) Suddenly, it easy to see that we have quite a bit of control over our future.
The Cancer Project advocates a diet free of animal products. Many studies have shown that people/societies who eat more animal products have higher rates of cancer. (Side note: They mentioned numerous studies on milk/dairy. The Dairy Council's study that shows milk aids in weight loss is rather questionable and has not been duplicated. Also it appears that the increase in cases of Juvenile Diabetes can be linked to milk consumption.)
They recommend lots of fruits, veggies, and grains. Societies where the fat intake is less than 10% of their total calories have significantly lower rates of cancer. (Fat increases estrogen production in both men and women. Estrogen helps cancer cells mutliply faster.)
Also 30-40 grams of fiber per day is very important. Why? Fiber is what helps your liver eliminate waste (potential cancer causing compounds) from your blood stream. If you don't have enough fiber, then the waste continues circling through your body. I am paraphrasing a bit here, but one of the doctors there actually compared your body to a walking trash receptacle when you are not getting enough fiber. What foods contain fiber? Fruits, vegetables and grains are all fiber rich. Meat, fish, dairy and egg products contain absolutely no fiber; however they do contain fat, cholesterol, hormones, chemicals, and various other troublesome compounds.
What about someone who already has cancer? I can't remember the exact statistic, but I believe if they consume/or switch to a vegan diet they are 40% more likely to survive.
One interesting health factoid for those us in more Northern parts of the world. In the winter it is very likely that our body can't produce enough vitamin D even if we spent all day in the sun. The doctor speaking at this workshop highly recommended a Vitamin D supplement.
Well, what did they cook? The chef prepared a few different recipes including delicious hummus with cumin in it, guacamole with peas to lower fat content (similar to the mockamole I made awhile back), two different veggie stir fries, a pasta dish using pasta that was 50% brown rice, and smoothies. They sell a cookbook on their site and also give it away to attendees of the four day cooking workshops. The first half of the book is nutritional/health information and the second half is recipes. It is also available free via download. The videos they show at the workshops are available via streaming media in the resources area of their site.
Cooking tips... I've only got a two for you unfortunately. How do you peel ginger? I've always cut it, almost making a square. The chef showed us how to scrape it almost like you would peel a carrot if you were using a knife instead of a peeler. It saves a whole lot of ginger.
The other thing the chef did that was pretty neat was water sauteing. He skipped oil with the veggies and added just enough water to keep them from sticking to the pan. It was necessary to add a bit more water at times. This even worked with onions, you could see them caramelizing. Often I use less oil than called for. On occasion in the past I have water sauteed spinach or asparagus (as it is almost like steaming). It had never occurred to me that I could skip the oil altogether on other veggies.
Anyway, I hope this post is helpful and I highly recommend checking out their site for more information. For me going vegetarian had most to do with political/economic and environmental issues. As I learned more about animal rights issues, I made the switch to vegan. Health benefits were just a plus. The information from The Cancer Project makes these benefits seem very important as well. Even going by the minimums in the NCI statement where diet can cut the cancer risk by 1/3, that is pretty significant. Next time someone asks why you are vegan, now you have more great reasons!
I'll try to respond to some of the questions and comments to my previous post tomorrow. I'm traveling and the Internet connections are spotty.