Anti-cancer foods; Mike’s “healthy” mac & cheese

It’s Sunday, 17 days after The News.

It’s been nice to have a relaxing weekend. The first weekend after The News was all about reading through the information PAMF had provided and trying to think through everything I needed to get done and put in place in the event that I was out of commission for weeks or months during treatment. Last weekend was about getting the car fixed and more planning with JT.

For the first time since The News I even spent a few hours fixing some odds and ends in my NextGen TV software stack.

Anti-cancer foods

This has been a lazy weekend to step back and once again enjoy life a bit, so I figured I’d write a little about “anti-cancer” foods. I’ll preface this by saying that while I’ve tried to vet what I’m writing here and none of the foods are exotic, they may or may not really have anti-cancer properties. And always talk to your doctor or a dietician if you have concerns (or are already on a special diet). In addition diet is no substitute for the treatment recommended by your doctor. Think of a diet with potential anti-cancer properties as maybe giving you an extra edge alongside your treatments.

With that out of the way, there are a number of common foods that appear to have anti-cancer properties. I first stumbled across this when YouTube started filling my queue with medical videos (I had previously subscribed to Dr. John Campbell’s channel which does an excellent job of covering COVID, MedCram with its assortment of high quality videos, and Dr. Mike Hansen’s channel. The occasional videos featuring his dog are great 🙂).

First up are onions, garlic, and shallots. They contain phytochemicals with strong antioxidant and antiproliferation effects. A Cornell study found that pungent yellow and Western Yellow onions have the greatest effect on colon cancer cells, while shallots and Western Yellow seem to hone in on liver cancer cells.

The catch here is that the phytochemicals are heat-sensitive. So eating onions, garlic, and shallots raw is best. And while I haven’t been able to confirm it, I suspect caramelized onions aren’t quite as beneficial (even if they’re awfully tasty!) One article suggests sautéing them on low to medium heat for five minutes or less, or baking onions at 350 F for up to 15 minutes.

Mushrooms also have anti-cancer properties. This article covers in general how mushrooms can inhibit cancer. It also appears that certain types of mushrooms may be more effective against certain types of cancer. For example reishi, maitake, and turkey tail are supposedly most effective against colon cancer. Regardless of their exact anti-cancer properties, mushrooms are also quite nutritious so it doesn’t hurt to add them to a meal. The same caution as with the onions, though: cook them at 160 F or lower.

Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and kale are yet another class of anti-cancer foods. They contain glucosinolates, which get broken down into indole-3-carbinol and isothiocyanates when chewed. Studies have shown that these can inhibit inflammatory processes, prevent the spread and growth of tumor cells, and protect healthy cells. Lightly cooking them can apparently increase their anti-cancer properties. (Naturally – the things you want to cook the most shouldn’t be, and the stuff going into salads should. Yet another one of the universe’s ironies.)

Mike’s “healthy” Mac & Cheese

I’ve been making this “healthier” version of mac & cheese for a while, long before I learned it may have anti-cancer properties. It was an attempt to feel less guilty about scarfing down mac & cheese for dinner. The only change I’ve made recently is to lightly sauté the onions rather than caramelizing them….though every so often they “accidentally” end up caramelized 🙄.

[ At some point in this journey I expect I’ll have a chance to talk to a dietician. I’ll broach the topic of “healthy” mac & cheese and update this post with any changes. ]

Ingredients

  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 large white mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup frozen cauliflower, thawed, riced
  • 1/2 cup frozen broccoli, thawed, riced
  • Mac & Cheese. I often get it at the Safeway deli (50% off when they’re clearing out the trays at the end of the day), but pick your favorite. A box of Kraft should do just as well. Actually any pasta with a good sauce should work.
  • Parmesan (optional)

In a wok or pan heat 2 tablespoons olive oil on medium heat. Add the minced garlic. After one minute reduce to medium-low and add the chopped onions and mushrooms. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, for five minutes. Stir in the riced cauliflower and broccoli. Stir in the mac & cheese. Optionally add some parmesan. Enjoy!

7 comments

    1. You mean across the street at the Safeway right? 😀 Thankfully I still have lots of li hing powder so yes I’ll eat lots of fruits!

  1. Michael, The healthy Mac & Cheese sounds great and I will share it with my granddaughter Dani who is crazy about Mac & Cheese. Your writing is great reading as well as being informed on your “journey” in getting healthy. Good luck, eat healthy and take care.

  2. I am glad we found a way to keep in touch with you…I miss not seeing you at family gatherings. I just retired and now looking into ways to stay healthy. I started drinking an iced combination of matcha tea powder mixed with water, ginger, mint leaves and honey. It has a lot of antioxidants and is great for cancer therapy. We also bake salmon topped with raw onions mixed with mayonnaise and lemon capers. Jonathan’s favorite is canned salmon with chopped raw onions and shoyu. This might not make you hungry, but just thought I share after reading your blog. Take care and by the look of all the emails sent to Lena concerning your situation, know that the Minakami cousins are here to support you!

    1. Thank you Charleen and Jonathan! I haven’t seen so many of you in so long (and it looks like I won’t be traveling outside the Bay Area anytime soon, both due to COVID and treatments.). But I appreciate hearing from everyone and all the support I’ve received. Lena of course has my direct email address and can share that with the cousins. I might try your matcha green tea mix. I found the Trader Joe’s matcha green tea way too bitter, but maybe with some ginger, mint and honey it’ll be a lot better!

  3. Hmmm…this may be a good excuse to go matsutake hunting this season. It’s not mentioned as being a medicinal mushroom, but it seems that any mushroom with a “dirty sock with hint of cinnamon” aroma which doesn’t kill you must be good for you. We’ve gone foraging for matsutake and chanterelles with a local Japanese American organization several times on the Oregon Coast and in Mount Hood. I’m a terrible mushroom hunter so maybe will send Matthew off to forage in the wet and cold while Miya and I hang out in the warm, dry house!

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