Monday, December 31, 2007

101 Foods That Could Save Your Life

Simplify your food shopping. This new book by David Grotto, RD, LDN cuts to the chase about which foods to purchase at your local grocery store and Farmers' Market along with providing recipes using each food that are beautiful, delicious, and (yes!) healthy, too. 101 Foods is well organized, easy to read and then read again. It is chock-full of information about each food, ranging from where it is grown to how it helps to keep our bodies healthy. The information is beneficial to people focused on optimizing cancer survivorship as well as those who are trying to reduce the risk of or manage other conditions like heart disease and diabetes with good food and good nutrition.

Pick out at least one new food each week and enjoy improving your health and eating well, too. I'll be working my way through it in 2008. Join me and let me know which foods and recipes you tried and which you enjoyed.

As 2007 ends and 2008 begins, many of you will be making New Year's resolutions to improve aspects of your life. I am making two; one, to always remember to offer thankfulness for the food I have to eat, and two, to tackle the boxes (and computer files) of unorganized family photos and finally get them into albums to enjoy. Both will involve small daily steps.

I'll share one of my favorite ways of saying grace. If you have other ways of saying thanks for your food, I'd love to hear them. I'll be including other words of grace before a meal in future blog entries.

This food comes from the Earth and the Sky
It is the gift of the entire universe
And the fruit of much hard work;
Let us vow to live a life
Which is worthy to receive it.

-- Grace of the Bodhisattva Buddhists

I wish you all a healthy and hopeful 2008, filled with the enjoyment of food that is good for both body and soul.

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

West African Style Harvest Soup

I first had this beautiful and smashingly delicious soup at a fundraiser for Growing Hope, an organization based in Washtenaw County, Michigan that is dedicated to helping people improve their lives and communities through gardening.

It was prepared and served by Chef Peter di Lorenzi using as many local ingredients as possible, many of which were grown by gardeners in the Growing Hope community. It was so delicious that I just knew I would be preparing this at home so was grateful that he shared his recipe.

Please don't be put off by the lengthy list of ingredients. Most of these are easy to obtain and after the chopping, the soup, stew, or chowder (whatever you wish to call it) is very easy to put together with cooking time being rather short.

I addition, this recipe is very flexible. In fact, Peter reminds us that ingredients and amounts are ALWAYS variable in sensible hearty cooking. (You'll see where I made substitutions as needed below.)


1. 1 Tbsp. olive or canola oil
2. 4-inch piece of fresh ginger, minced (I used 1 teaspoon powdered ginger)
3. 1 large onion, chopped
4. 2-3 cloves garlic, minced (I always use more, 5 this time)
5. 1 teaspoon dried thyme (I would cut that down to 1/2 teaspoon next time)
6. 1 teaspoon cumin powder
7. to taste - dried red pepper flakes (I used ~10, just enough for a little snap)
8. 1-1/2 cup chopped tomatoes - canned or fresh is ok (I doubled this amount)
9. 6-8 cups broth (chicken, veggie, or water)
10. 1 large sweet potato - peeled and chopped into ~1/2 pieces (I used 2)
11. 1-2 large butternut, acorn, or other squash - peel, seed, cut into chunks (I didn't have any on hand so I chopped most of a very large head of cauliflower this time)
12. 6-10 cups chopped raw dark greens, cut off or pick out the coarse stems (I used the full 10 cups and more would have been ok too. Frozen are ok to use here, too.)
13. 2 cups fresh corn cut off the cob (or use frozen)
14. 1-2 cups cooked dried beans (I used edamame, any other kind would be ok)
15. 1-2 cups peanut butter (yes, this is essential!! Crunchy is great, too!
16. as needed - tomato paste (I make my own and used ~4 ice cube size pieces)
17. to taste - salt and pepper (I did about 12 grinds from a pepper mill and added NO salt)

1. Heat oil in large soup pot
2. Sauté onion and garlic for a few minutes - be careful not to burn the garlic
3. Add ginger, thyme, cumin, black pepper, red pepper, and sauté a few minutes more
4. Put peanut butter into a small bowl, add a little broth to thin and then stir into pot
5. Add tomatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, cooked dried beans and enough broth to cover......bring to boil, stir, then simmer gently about 20-30 minutes until veggies are soft.
6. Add greens and corn and cook until all ingredients are done (do not overcook the greens - young tender greens will not need much cooking)
7. Add tomato paste, cook on low to reduce to desired thickness.
8. Correct seasoning if needed.
9. Serve with chopped cilantro, parsley, or green onions (I didn't bother but I would do this if I were serving this recipe for company or at a potluck dinner).

As I mentioned, I did not have any winter squash on hand, so instead I chopped about 3/4 of a huge head of cauliflower into small pieces and substituted that in the squash's place. It was delicious!!

The addition of peanut butter is common in many traditional dishes from West Africa, where peanuts are grow in abundance. It provides an excellent source of protein, along with the beans or edamame.

This recipe easily serves 8, so there is plenty to eat throughout the week or freeze for another time. This would be delicious served over some cooked brown rice or with some whole grain bread, making sure that you enjoy all the liquid of the soup. It's good enough to drink from your bowl. :-)

The tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, garlic, kale and veggie broth were all home-grown or home-made.

Thanks, Peter. I look forward to trying more of your delicious healthy fare.

Bon appetít!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, December 10, 2007

Weight Gain after Breast Cancer Reduces Survival Odds

This recent research presentation showed that each 11# gained after a breast cancer diagnosis increased the odds of dying from that diagnosis by 14%. (click on the title of this posting for the news release highlighting this information)

Interestingly, increased risk of death from breast cancer being associated with subsequent weight gained after the diagnosis is not brand new information. This report is just the most recent and the largest study to date to compile data showing that weight gain after a breast cancer diagnosis reduces the odds for long term survival from the disease.

When I spoke at the 2007 American Society of Breast Surgeons annual meeting earlier this year, I presented data from smaller studies already published in the oncology literature that showed increased death from breast cancer associated with weight gained after a breast cancer diagnosis.

My take home messages:

(1) Act on this information right now, no matter if your diagnosis was yesterday or 10 years ago. Don't wait for even more research to "put the nail in the coffin" (sorry to be so blunt). Take advantage of the "teachable moment" that often accompanies a cancer diagnosis.

(2) Don't wait until your breast cancer therapy is completed to actively seek out and engage in making lifestyle changes to minimize the weight gain that is commonly reported with this disease. Weight is harder to get off than keep off.

(3) Don't wait for your doctor(s) to refer you (let alone urge you) to seek the expertise of a Registered Dietitian (RD) to develop an individualized nutritional assessment and plan to guide you in appropriate changes to reduce this risk. (Some will, but don't wait for them to bring it up.)

(4) Don't wait for your cancer center to offer a lifestyle program focusing on diet, nutrition, weight management, exercise, and stress reduction that is integrated as a component of true comprehensive cancer care. (Some do already and some are developing such programs, but don't wait for your center to catch up.)

(5) Don't wait for your medical insurance company to pay for the professional expertise of an RD for cancer recovery or aspects of a more comprehensive recovery program. Be sure to inquire to see what they will pay for and explain the urgency and importance of your request, but don't wait until the Titanic (i.e., the medical insurance industry) gets turned around before you get started with an active plan for lifestyle change to optimize the odds for your full cancer recovery.

Yes, this means that you will need to take an active role to seek out the expertise you will need to get started on these lifestyle and life-saving changes. Make these changes new habits! I call this "Active Hope".

Yes, it means that you may likely need to pay out of pocket for some of these professional services. However, seek out local resources that are starting to provide the lifeboats that cancer survivors need (information and support) to get started. One example is the recent combined efforts of The Wellness Community and The Lance Armstrong Foundation where nutrition and exercise classes specifically for cancer survivors will be offered without charge at YMCA's in 10 cities during 2008 (more info can be found at

For those of you reading this who may have already gained weight after your diagnosis, please do not despair or be paralyzed into inaction. A few small studies have shown reduced recurrence rates for breast cancer survivors with weight loss. More research is underway, but please don't wait for that to be finished before taking responsibility for working in partnership with your oncology team in order to fully optimize your odds for cancer recovery. In addition, weight loss will also reduce your risk for (or even improve!) hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and osteoarthritis for starters, helping you to live a long and healthy life filled with all the meaningful activities that bring your spirit both joy and happiness. :-)

I hope you get started today!

In the spirit of "Active Hope",

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Yet another recipe with guess what??

Yup, you guessed it right, kale again. :-) Oh yummy, this was easy and a delicious one dish main meal. I did use one out of the ordinary ingredient, black mole sauce, that I happened to have because it was in a basket of food items from Zingerman's Deli ( that I won at a local silent auction. Zingerman's is currently sold out of the type I used, however, I am sure you can find something like it where you live. Here goes:

Kale Stew over Brown Rice

1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2-3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
1 medium zucchini - cut into quarters, length-wise, and then chop into 1/2 inch pieces
3 large handfuls kale (or more), washed, any stiff stems removed, then chopped
3 cups (or more) drained pinto beans
1 can (15 oz) chopped tomatoes (include juice)
2-3 teaspoons mole sauce (spiciness can vary, start small and then adjust to your own taste)

Heat olive oil, add onions and garlic and cook for ~1 minute or so (do not burn garlic), add zucchini and kale, stir until kale starts to wilt, add tomatoes, mole sauce, and beans. Stir. Cover and cook over a low temperature until all is heated through, kale is wilted completely but still green and the zucchini is still tender-crisp. Maybe 10 minutes max.

Garnishes: as with all chili, some people like to put little additions on top of a stew such as chopped green onions, grated cheese, etc etc. However, I don't think this recipe needs anything else.

Makes 4 generous servings. I served it in a bowl over cooked brown rice, which I started cooking in my rice cooker about an hour before we sat down to eat.

Serve with some whole grain bread to get all the delectable juice at the bottom of the bowl, some fresh fruit, a huge glass of water, and a small glass of red wine (we drank a 2006 Lindemann C-S on sale for $5.99/bottle) for a very satisfying simple meal.

The garlic, onions, tomatoes, and kale were all from our garden.

Hmmm, I wonder what I will use the rest of the kale for? Maybe I won't even get to freezing any. I still have a HUGE bag of it in my frig. Keep looking for more kale recipes to come!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, December 3, 2007

Cranberries and Kale for Lunch

Can you tell that I am a kale fan? :-) I was poking around the refrig wondering what to have for lunch. There is a ton of kale but what else? Finally I had a brainstorm when I looked at the small amount of the Cranberry-Rosemary Chutney that was still hanging around after Thanksgiving (the ultra-easy recipe is in an earlier posting).

Here's what I did:
Washed and coarsely chopped 5-6 cups of kale (no need to dry the leaves)
Chopped two green onions (white and green parts, in other words, the whole thing)
Diced ~2-3 ounces of tofu
Heated ~1 Tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan
Added the onions to cook for a minute or two
Added the tofu to onions, heated and shook a bit in the pan to keep all from sticking
Added the chopped kale, stirred with onions and tofu, stirred to keep all from sticking
Covered to steam for a minute or two (keep the kale bright green and just wilted a bit)
Remove cover, add ~1/4 cup of cranberry chutney to mixture, heat through and eat in a bowl to make sure you get all the delicious liquid, too.

Add a slice of whole grain bread to sop up any juices and some fresh fruit to your lunch for a complete hearty and delicious meal.

Yum, yum. I ate this all myself - it was lucious! I'll need to make some more of that cranberry chutney now so I can think of other ways to use it (I can already envision and taste the result of cooking it with acorn squash halves!).

How many servings of fruits and veggies was this? I'm not sure, 2, 3, 4 or more? In any case, I love the image of my body being flooded with the multiple cancer-fighting phytochemicals that are in the kale, onions, tofu, and cranberries. Don't forget that these phytochemicals also work to optimize overall health and fight the aging process, too. :-)

And speaking of images, this recipe is so beautiful in a bowl with its bright green kale leaves, little squares of white tofu and whole round bright red cranberries. It is a perfect December dish, actually reminding me of a Christmas tree strung with homemade strands of popcorn and cranberries.


Diana Dyer, MS, RD

City Chickens in Ann Arbor?

Will Ann Arbor finally join the growing list of other cities that permit backyard chickens? Hope, hope!!

An article was actually on the front page of the Sunday edition of the Ann Arbor News yesterday (click on the posting title to read the article).

I have written my letter of support and offer to help develop an ordinance that would allow Ann Arbor to join the dozens and dozens of other cities that already permit people to keep chickens to produce their own organic eggs. (look at that long list on

I'll keep you posted!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD