Spices Are Plant Foods!
In my past blogs I have emphasized the importance of phytochemicals (which come from plant foods) in reducing risk for cancer. Spices are another great source of phytochemicals. All different types of spices are beneficial: cinnamon, oregano, basil, curry, rosemary, ginger, etc.
There seem to be a lot of talk online and through word of mouth about how different spices can “kill cancer.” Specifically, turmeric gets named a lot and I have clients who will take turmeric capsules expecting some kind of magic to happen.
SPOILER ALERT, If you haven’t already figured it out… my typical response to anyone’s question about supplements is that your body prefers nutrients in the form and concentration as it’s grown, not in pill form!
The Science on Spices
Before believing claims about any health & wellness products, be sure to investigate the data.
Case in point… One of the researchers who promoted curcumin (a component of turmeric) was at a lab at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Aggarwal, a senior professor with an endowed chair and the author of Healing Spices: How to Use 50 Everyday and Exotic Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease. Aggarwal is also the inventor or coinventor on more than 33 patents and has been listed as one of the Institute for Scientific Information‘s most highly cited scientists since 2001.
Too bad that much of his data was actually retracted because of fraud. He’s #18 on the Retraction Watch Leaderboard of researchers with the most retracted papers. YIKES! I think his interest in selling his book and products might have caused a big conflict of interest in his research.
It’s not to say that all research on turmeric, or curcumin, or other spices, is totally invalid. But I am suggesting that before you believe anything (or spend your $$ on a product), you better get your hands on the data to evaluate it, or have someone you trust evaluate it. Many of the websites promoting turmeric probably still cite Aggarwal’s retracted research!
Also remember that research done on in laboratories, on animals or via diet recalls or simply relying on correlation, DOES NOT PROVE ANYTHING! For more on how to read nutrition headlines, check out my article here.
Here are two of my favorite places to get information on food/cancer and research:
- The American Institute for Cancer Research has great info on current data.
- Tthe Memorial Sloan Kettering herb and spices database is very helpful .
When to use caution with Turmeric:
Curcumin is known to interfere with cytochrome P450 enzymes, and may interact with chemotherapy drugs like cyclophosphamide and doxorubicin. As always, be sure to ask your doctor, nurse and/or pharmacist to find out if there are any interactions you need to be aware of when starting a new medication.
Typically with recommendations like these, you would be encouraged to avoid supplement, or concentrated version of the food. However, eating turmeric in your food is perfectly fine!
Common Sense Rules!!
Spices are plant foods and have concentrated levels of phytochemicals. That’s why you get a good benefit without having to use a large volume. Of course, you get the most benefit from combining cancer-fighting ingredients. Which is another great reason why we want you to eat all these great foods and not just take one component of the food in a pill. Because they are nutritious AND delicious at the same time!
In today’s article, I’m sharing my favorite procedure for making a curry dish. As a kid, my family would make this recipe as Tuna (yes, canned) Curry. We would eat it often and my mom says that the recipe came from my dad. I’ll have to say that I never actually saw him cook it!
The version below has my notes for altering it. I never make it the same way twice! It can be altered for whatever you have in your kitchen, for vegetarian or vegan eaters or for people who don’t like fish. It is actually quite accommodating and good for all!
When you make this dish, be sure to include a cruciferous vegetable (broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower). Combining them with curry will give you an extra advantage!
- 4 T Oil (I use as much as needed in the pan to sautée the vegetables).
- ⅔ cup onion, chopped (I cut an onion, it may be more than ⅔ cup)
- 1 cup carrot, chopped (I use anything from carrots, to broccoli to asparagus, to cabbage, to spinach... whatever is around and maybe more than 1 cup).
- 1 cup celery, chopped (or other chosen vegetable; I probably use more than 1 cup)
- 1 to 1.5 Tablespoons curry powder (depending on how much food is in the pan and how spicy it is).
- 2 T flour (all purpose flour, or i have started using garbonzo bean flour)
- 1 cup chicken broth (use veggie broth for vegetarian or vegan)
- 1.5 cups milk (use soy milk or coconut milk for vegan)
- 2 cans tuna (I sometimes substitute with a can of garbonzo beans, one or two packages of chopped tofu, or fresh white fish, or you could use canned chicken for the non-fish eaters).
- Sautée oil and vegetables for 5 minutes or so on high (until they are brightly colored)
- Reduce heat to medium high and stir in curry powder; cook 1 minute
- Sprinkle flour over all and stir in.
- Add broth and milk
- Bring to boil
- Add tuna (or beans, tofu, fish, or chicken)
- Reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
- Serve over Brown Rice or Quinoa
There you go! Enjoy some curry this weekend and let me know how it goes.
PS – I’m going to be trying out a new curry recipe in my Instant Pot tomorrow night. If it goes well, I’ll share with you next week!