A journal of my experiences with breast cancer to inform those who are interested and to help any one else who might have just been diagnosed.

“[She] will have no fear of bad news; [her] heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” Psalm 112:7

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Cancer Fighting Kitchen: Carrots and a recipe for Dairy-Free Carrot Ginger Soup

Wild little rabbit with carrot
Carrots are an outstanding source of the anti-oxident beta carotene. These compounds help protect against oxidative DNA damage, a key event in the cancer process.It has been shown that carrots are great for reducing the risk of all breast cancer types with just three servings per week. Beta carotene and Alpha carotene can also be found in mango, papaya, red peppers, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and oranges...orange fruits and vegetables.
A serving of carrots is 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw.

Dairy-Free Carrot Ginger Soup

1 Tbsp fresh garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp ginger, minced
9 medium carrots
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup plain soy milk
1 small white onion, diced
1 Tbsp agave or maple syrup
1 tsp black pepper
salt to taste
optional: 1 small sweet potato, peeled/diced

Heat oil, 2 Tbsp broth, onions, ginger and garlic in soup pan. Saute for a minute or two.
Add remaining broth, soy milk, pepper, honey, and carrots. (sweet potato optional)
Bring to a simmer. Heat until carrots are soft and will break with a fork.
If soup seems too thick, add more broth to adjust consistency.
Remove pan from heat. Wait a minute or two for soup to cool. Make sure your soup has cooled and that there is a small air vent at top when blending. In small batches, about 1 cup each, blend the soup to a thin puree. Blend longer for a creamier soup. Once all the soup is blended, re-pour into soup pan.Simmer the blended Carrot Ginger Soup until it is ready to be served. Re-heating the soup will lead to a thinner, less airy consistency. You may notice some ‘air bubbles’ in the soup right after the puree. To get rid of these air bubbles, just slowly simmer them away.

source: Babble

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Mesothelioma Awareness

I was recently contacted by Cameron Von St. James, the husband of Mesothelioma cancer survivor, Heather Von St. James asking me to help spread the word about this aggressive form of cancer that affects the membrane lining of the lungs and abdomen.
The primary cause and risk factor for mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos and you do not have to have direct contact with asbestos, as in Heather's case her father worked with it and she had just second-hand contact with asbestos.
Making a correct mesothelioma diagnosis is particularly difficult for doctors because the disease often presents with symptoms that mimic other common ailments. There is no known cure for mesothelioma, but treatments such as surgery and chemotherapy have helped to improve the typical mesothelioma prognosis.
About 60% of patients diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma experience lower back pain or side chest pain, and there are frequent reports of shortness of breath. Lower numbers of people may experience difficulty swallowing, or have a persistent cough, fever, weight loss or fatigue. Additional symptoms that some patients experience are muscle weakness, loss of sensory capability, coughing up blood, facial and arm swelling, and hoarseness.
Peritoneal mesothelioma originates in the abdomen and as a result, symptoms often include abdominal pain, weight loss, nausea, and vomiting. Fluid buildup may occur in the abdomen as well as a result of the cancer.
Asbestos exposure is considered the primary risk factor for the development of the cancer. Anyone previously exposed to asbestos displaying any of these symptoms should seek medical attention from their doctor first, only to be referred to a doctor who specializes in the treatment of mesothelioma and thoracic oncology after receiving a positive diagnosis.

Read another infomative post at Living and Learning with Our New Normal  and at Mesothelioma.com at: http://www.mesothelioma.com/mesothelioma/#ixzz38bPnNCcT

Wibbly Wobbly Weight Loss: Facts about Fiber

Table on soluble and insoluble fiber. - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark
Fiber is one of those things that we all know we need and yet may not know why since it isn't digested by the body. First of all, there are two types of fiber -soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water can can be found in oats, barley, beans and some fruits and vegetables. Insoluble fiber is found mostly in whole wheat and some fruits and vegetables. Both types are very good for you, but soluble fiber has even greater benefits.
Soluble fiber, when it mixes with water, forms a gum, which forms a barrier between the digestive enzymes in your stomach and the starch molecules in all the food you have eaten during the same meal with the soluble fiber. It then takes longer for your body to convert the whole meal into blood sugar. This is why it is good to replace some of the carbohydrates you normally use for some of these fiber-rich foods. For example, if you eat a 1/2 cup of rice and a 1/2 cup of beans instead of a full cup of rice, you are reducing the blood sugar reaction of the carbohydrate and are getting greater health benefits.
Oatmeal is famous for lowering cholesterol, but it may lower high levels of triglycerides and reduce blood pressure as well.
Nutrition experts say to aim for 20 grams of fiber, both insoluble and soluble. A good goal for soluble fiber is 10 grams.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Wibbly Wobbly Weight Loss, Living the Healthy Life: The Magic of Lemons and Vinegar

What do lemons and vinegar have in common? They both are sour due to the acetic acid in them, and they both keeps the effects of other foods eaten with them from affecting blood sugar levels...as much as 50%!
Scientists are not sure why this happens, but they do know that they interfere with the enzymes that break apart chemical bonds in starches and the kinds of sugars found in table sugar and milk. They, in fact, keep foods in general longer in the stomach so they aren't digested as quickly. Acetic acid may also speed up the rate at which glucose is moved out of the bloodstream and into the muscle cells for storage. 
I have written about many of the health benefits of lemons and limes before, but vinegar has similar effects. Just 3-4 teaspoons of vinegar can not only lower blood sugar, but it can make you feel more satisfied after a meal and it also fights bacteria and fungi.
So, have a pickle with your lunch, or squeeze some lemon into your tea or salad and enjoy the magic of lemons and vinegar!
Encouragement A little by little becomes A LOT #fitness  For more motivation, healthy recipes, weight loss tips, workouts, and more  http://www.fb.com/jenniferwoodfitness
Add caption
At my doctor's check-up today, she let me know that I had lost 20 pounds since my last visit, which makes a nearly 30 pound loss total.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Wibbly Wobbly Weight Loss, Living the Healthy Life: Is Fat the Bad Guy?

good fats

As with carbohydrates, I have learned that whether the fat is bad for you has to do with what kind or where the fat comes from. Like proteins, fat doesn't raise blood sugar so snacking on fat-rich foods like nuts is not so bad. Fat takes a while to digest and so slows the rate at which food leaves your stomach, blunting the blood sugar effect of the whole meal. Tossing your salad or drizzling your pasta with olive oil, adding nuts to your rice or using slices of avocado to your sandwich can help you lose weight because it helps make the meal more satisfying. Remember, real weight loss is long term and it has to be something you can live with.
So, fat is not necessarily the bad guy. It may be if it is in butter, high-fat lunch meat, marbled steak, full-fat cheeses and ice cream, but if you switch those out for lean cuts of meat, chicken and fish, low fat milk, cheeses and lunch meats (such as turkey and lean roast beef) and instead get your fats from those in avocados, nuts, seeds, olives (including olive oil, and canola oil as well), fish and seafood, you will not only keep your heart healthy, but also lose weight and feel satisfied. 
Seafood also contains omega-3 fatty acids which lower triglycerides, helping prevent blood clots, reducing inflammation and promoting a normal heart rhythm.
good vs bad fats

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Wibbly Wobbly Weight Loss, Living the Healthy Life: The Power of Protein

Protein Power Pack @ Wawa Food Market
I found out first hand the power of protein by accident one day. Steven and I had gone to one of my medical check-ups and it was late and we were both hungry. We stopped off at Wawa for gas, and so I went in and picked up what they call a Protein Pack, which included a hard-boiled egg, a mini whole wheat bagel, a cup of peanut butter, some salted almonds, some grapes and some apple slices. I could not believe how much better it made me feel.
Protein Power Pack
So, I had to do some research to find out why. Unlike carbohydrates, protein doesn't raise blood sugar. If you substitute calories from one of these foods for some of the carbohydrate calories, the whole meal will have less impact on your blood sugar because your body takes a while to break down the protein in the foods you eat, and this slows down the digestion of the whole meal including the carbohydrates it contains, making for a slower rise in blood sugar. 

Not All Proteins Are Created Equal

Of course, all proteins are not created equal so you have to be careful about your choices of protein-rich food. Saturated fats increase insulin resistance, which is bad for your blood sugar. Fish and shellfish are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for the heart. Beans, peas and lentils have the added plus of being rich in fiber.
Some of the compounds our bodies make from protein's amino acids help regulate blood sugar, so including protein in a meal means that your body will handle the carbs in that meal more efficiently, so it is a good idea to include a source of protein in each meal.
In diet studies, people on moderately high protein diets lost more body fat and less muscle. A moderately high protein diet might get as much as 30% of its calories from protein, which is a lot more than is in my usual diet. So, I began the idea of duplicating the protein packs for my snack at home. They have done a lot for making me feel better and less hungry, and they are so popular that now five out of the seven people in my family ask for them. They make me feel better and less hungry between meals. 
Incidentally, the nutrition information on the back of the packs states that they have 660 calories, 43 grams of fat, 52 grams of carbohydrates and 28 grams of protein, so I needed to figure out the best way of keeping the protein up but lowering the calories, fats and carbs. First, I reduced the amount of peanut butter.
I use little cups to measure my peanut butter in. I use anywhere from 1-2 Tab. of peanut butter and I use only half or a quarter of a whole wheat bagel, a hard-boiled egg (sometimes pickled with beets), about 10-14 nuts such as almonds, some fresh fruit such as apple or blueberries and a small square of dark chocolate, which of course is not part of the protein, but is a small treat that keeps me from wanting a bigger (and worse) dessert, and dark chocolate has its own health benefits (which I will go into in another post.)

  • 1-2 Tab. peanut butter: 94-188 calories, 8-16g fat, 3-6g carbs, 4-8g protein
  • 1/2 Thomas' Bagel Thins: 55 cal., .5g fat, 12g carbs, 3g protein
  • 1 hard-boiled egg: 78 cal., 5g fat, .5 carbs, 6g protein
  • 1 apple: 72 cal., .2g fat, 19g carbs, .3 protein or 1/2 cup blueberries: 42 cal., .5g fat, 21g carbs, 1g protein
  • 14 almonds: 85 cal., 8g fat, 2g carbs, 3g protein
  • 1 sqaure Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate: 66 cal., 6g fat, 6g carbs, .5g protein
So, my homemade packs are about 420-544 calories, 27-36g fat, 42-47 g carbs and 14-15g protein and serve as a combination of snack and dessert.

Improving the Protein Packs

The best proteins are found in beans and peas, with lentils being the best and lima beans being the least good of this category. The next best proteins are nuts and then diary and soy drinks. Peanuts are the best for blood sugar and cashews are the least good. Low-fat yogurt with fruit is a good source of protein, but be careful about the added sugar in commercial yogurts. I was thinking that perhaps I could do better with my protein packs by adding 8 oz. nonfat yogurt and only half the fruit I had been using to the yogurt, it would add about 40 calories, but reduce the carbohydrates 15g instead of 21g (or the Wawa Packs of 52g) and add 10 grams of protein, for a total of 25g of protein, nearly as much as in the Wawa Packs.

Portions control is also something that is to look at when you are making choices.

Perfect Portions

Beans, Lentils,Peas: 1/2 cup
Beef, Chicken, Turkey, Fish, Lamb, Pork, Shellfish: 3 oz. twice a day*
Eggs: 1-2
Milk, Yogurt: 3 8-oz.(1 cup) servings of low-fat milk or other dairy products
Nuts: 1 oz. (because they are so high in calories), which is about 20 almonds, 10 walnut halves or 45 pistachios
Peanut Butter: 1 Tab. (because it is 100 calories per Tablespoon)
Seeds: 1-2 Tab.
Soybeans: 1/2 cup
*That's only about the size of a deck of cards.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Wibbly Wobbly Weight Loss -Living The Healthy Life: All Carbohydrates Are Not The Same

Whole wheat pasta cooked al dente, prepared with olive oil and beans or vegetables with a side of side of greens is a healthy choice that doesn't raise blood sugar too quickly. 
I have been enjoying joining up in the discussions, Wibbly Wobbly Weight Loss – Living The Healthy Life! at Angelicscaliwags. She has started this discussion group at just the perfect time for me. I have been exploring a healthier lifestyle ever since I was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2012. My goal is not to lose weight, but to be healthier, however I think that a healthier lifestyle will probably result in weight loss, however slowly. I began my research with foods that help prevent (or prevent the re-occurrence) cancer and recipes that feature these foods. Then I began to realize the many reasons why we eat what we do. 
I grew up in a very dysfunctional family, and I didn't always get adequate nutrition. For years whenever the refrigerator became empty or my food supply low, I began to panic. Due to my husband's loving care, I have gotten over this, but I still get the same panic whenever I get really hungry. And yet, as my brother wisely put to me once, in order to lose weight, you have to leave the table before you are totally full. Thus, my struggle with portion control. 
I have also been reading a lot about the typical American diet and blood sugar. I have learned that the American diet is full of foods that send us for a wild ride on the blood sugar roller coaster in which we eat fast-acting carbohydrates in order to feel better fast, but they run out quickly, leaving us feel like we are starving. All of this roller-coaster eating can lead to all sorts of medical problems, including diabetes and cancer. 
To find out which carbohydrates are the best and worst took a lot of research on the part of scientists. Back in 1981, Dr Jenkins came up with something called the glycemic index. He had volunteers eat 50 grams of different foods and measured the volunteer's blood sugar over a two-hour period to see how high it went. As a control, he used pure glucose and assigned it the number 100. Using the information from this study, we found out that some foods such as potatoes and cornflakes ranked almost as high as pure glucose in terms of its ability to raise blood sugar.
The only problem with this study was that he measured the same amount, 50 grams, for each food tested. This means that 50 grams of carbohydrate in bread is about one slice and on the other hand, 50 grams of carrots is about seven or eight large ones. The 50 gram measurement did not coincide with how we ate the foods.
To solve this problem, scientists came up with a different measurement, called glycemic load, which took in account not only the type of carbohydrate in the food but also the amount of carbohydrate you would eat in a standard serving. By this method, carrots, strawberries and other low-calorie foods that are good to eat all have low GL values since the amount of carbohydrates they contain is low.
All of this means that some starchy foods like white rice are easy for the body to convert to sugars, therefore raising the blood sugar levels in the body quickly, while those in beans, for example,  take a lot more work for the body to break down, and so  blood sugar levels are more level.
There are four factors that determines which carbs are better than others.
  1. The type of starch. Starches are made of sugar molecules chained together. Some chains have straight edges, while others are branched. The straight-edged type, called amylose, are harder for your body to break down and turn into blood sugar. The branched type, called amylopectin, are much easier to break down because there are so many places for the enzymes that break down starches to get at it. For example, the firmer the rice, the higher the amylose and the harder it is for your body to turn it into blood sugar, making brown rice a better choice than white rice.
  2. The type of sugar.  The sugar in milk (lactose) and fruit (fructose) tend to be absorbed more slowly than other sugars since they need to be turned into glucose by the liver first.
  3. Heat...avoid overcooking starches. All starches are composed of crystals, which are broken down by heat, making them easier to digest. The more cooked the pasta is, for example, the faster it makes your blood sugar rise. One interesting thing, however, is that once the starch is cooled, it returns, in part to its crystal form, which is why hot potatoes have a high glycemic index, but potato salad's is slightly lower.
  4. Processing. Minimally processed whole wheat takes longer for the body to break down than white flour, making whole wheat pasta a much better choice than regular pasta, and wheatberries an even better choice.
I have been using these principals to change my diet and it has helped a lot to lower my cravings, made it easier to practice portion control and has given me more energy.