Hello friends! If you spend any amount of time on the internet, chances are you have heard or read the term “superfood”. Honestly, the term makes me think of acai berries in capes, ready to save the day and cure every illness.
Let me get one thing straight: FOOD IS NOT MEDICINE.
Alone, it cannot cure diseases. As your oncology dietitian, I get so frustrated with people saying that food can replace medicine when it comes to cancer treatment.
What food CAN do is help to provide you with amazing benefits that keep your body strong and help you REDUCE risk for different diseases! The truth is, you don’t have to go to an expensive health store and buy fancy organic powders to get your daily dose of “superfoods”. Many common foods, like blueberries, are actually super nutritious and more accessible than some other cure-all-promising ingredients.
These berries are packed with so many wonderful plant compounds that have been linked with a myriad of benefits, including a decreased risk for chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. This is great news for those blueberry fiends out there! Wahoo!
“So, what do we even get from blueberries?” you may ask. These tiny berries pack a huge nutrient punch! In just one cup of blueberries, you get:
- 80 Calories
- Fiber – 3.6 grams of fiber (13% of the Daily Value)
- Vitamin K – 28 mcg (24% of the Daily Value)
- Vitamin C – 14.4 mg (16% of the Daily Value)
- Manganese – 0.497 mg (22% of the Daily Value)
How Do Blueberries Reduce Cancer Risk?
Experts are intrigued by the different benefits blueberries have to offer and many studies are emerging to uncover how blueberries play an active role in reducing chronic diseases, including cancer!
Now it can be confusing to interpret long research articles with confusing vocabulary. That’s why you have me: your oncology dietitian BFF here to break down the nitty gritty into digestible info that actually makes sense.
Fiber, for example, acts like a scrubber brush to push stuff along your digestive tract and clean out those intestines. This helps your colon and reduces cancer risk by diluting carcinogens and shortening the length of time that harmful waste sits in the GI tract. Healthy gut = decreased cancer risk.
Vitamin C keeps your immune system functioning as it should and acts as an antioxidant to stop harmful free radicals in their tracks and prevent cellular damage.
Psst! Cellular damage makes cells more likely to turn into cancer cells and grow uncontrollably.
These are a type of plant chemical found in tea, leafy vegetables, onions, and blueberries. Many long-term studies have shown that the more flavan-3-ols in someone’s diet, the lower their overall risk was for cancer. These compounds are also suggested to specifically have a protective effect against rectal, oral, breast, and stomach cancer! Yay!
These complex chemical structures give certain foods their bitter, astringent taste- think of an underripe banana- and can be found in berries, teas, and other plants. They may not have the best taste, but the good news is that tannins act as antioxidants and possess anti-inflammatory characteristics to reduce cancer risk!
This a big fancy word for plant pigments that give blueberries their beautiful dark blue color! Diets high in anthocyanin-rich foods, like the Mediterranean Diet, have been associated with healthy aging and lower rates of chronic conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
Anthocyanins reduce cancer risk by playing different roles in the body!
- Antioxidants: prevent cell damage from free radicals and reduce gene mutations
- Anti-inflammatory Agents: reduce chronic inflammation which otherwise contributes to tumor growth
- Gene Regulators: prevent cancer cell growth by “turning on” anti-cancer genes and “turning off” oncogenes (genes that have the potential to turn into cancer)
Not a big blueberry fan? Do not worry! You can still get some of the wonderful benefits from these compounds and reduce cancer risk by choosing dark red, purple, and blue foods. Examples include elderberries, grapes, pomegranates, red cabbage, red onions, purple cauliflower, purple corn, and black beans.
*** Remember to focus on getting all of these wonderful plant compounds in their whole food form! DO NOT use the isolated forms of these compounds in the form of supplements to reduce cancer risk as supplements are NOT a regulated industry. ***
How to eat blueberries for cancer prevention:
- By the handful: keep it simple. These berries are great on their own!
- Blend up a smoothie: Milk of your choice + blueberries + chia seeds or nut-butter + a leafy green such as spinach or kale
- Fruit Salad: Blueberries make the perfect addition to your fruit salad and add a lovely pop of color. Make a fancy fruit salad by chopping up your favorite fruits and try using some lemon juice, honey, and fresh mint leaves for your dressing/garnish.
- Use blueberries as sweetener in your oatmeal or cereal
- Make a parfait: blueberries + low fat greek yogurt + 1-2 tablespoons of your favorite low sugar granola
- Top your toast! You can make berry jam by mashing some berries with flax meal or chia seeds as a thickener. Use your berry jam on toast, rice cakes, or even in your classic PB&J for some childhood nostalgia!
- Give your dairy dessert a boost! Top your fro-yo or vanilla ice cream with some blueberries! YUM!
- Give your salad some sweetness! Blueberries pair beautifully with a vinaigrette and fresh basil! Add some sunflower seeds for crunch and chicken for protein to have a simple salad that is sure to satisfy!
- Bake with blue! Make blueberry muffins, high protein blueberry cheesecake, blueberry pie, blueberry oat bars, blueberry banana bread, homemade granola bars with dried blueberries, and more!
Fresh blueberries get mushy and moldy easily, so make sure you rinse them right before eating with some running water. Ditch the fancy fruit washing soaps. These are not necessary!
Enjoy Blueberries All Year!
Although fresh blueberries are a wonderful treat, they can be expensive in the colder months. Don’t worry! There are still ways to get your cancer-protective blueberry fix!
Frozen blueberries that you buy at the store are picked at peak ripeness and then frozen quickly to retain the wonderful nutrients and phytochemicals for months! When not in season, save money and time by choosing frozen berries. You can also choose dried blueberries for the fiber and some nutrients!
Blueberry Recipes for Cancer Prevention
As your cancer dietitian, I love altering recipes to maximize the amount nutrients that help your body thrive! Remember that no foods are off limits, and you don’t have to have “the healthy version” of everything you eat. Sometimes you have a craving for good ol’ fashioned pancakes made from the box mix. That is OK! When it comes to food, it is all about balance baby!
Best Blueberry Protein Pancakes
You cannot beat the nostalgia and comfort that comes with a warm pancake breakfast. They are so easy to whip up, and there are so many different variations and toppings to keep things interesting. These pancakes come together with just 7 ingredients and, different from regular pancakes, they are higher in fiber and other cancer-fighting compounds from the whole wheat flour and the blueberries. Here’s how to make my protein pancakes:
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup protein powder
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 3 eggs
- ⅔ cup 1% cow milk (or milk of choice)
- 1/2 – 1 cup blueberries
- Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl – flour, protein powder, baking powder, cinnamon – and set aside.
- In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs and milk.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir together to form a smooth batter. Fold in the blueberries.
- Heat a griddle over medium-low. Once hot, scoop 1/4 cup of batter onto the pan and cook until bubbles begin to form on the surface, about 2 minutes. Flip and continue cooking for another minute or so. Repeat until you’ve used up all the batter!
- Add your toppings like nut-butter, drizzle of sweetener, sprinkle of chocolate chips, dollop of greek yogurt, or even more blueberries!
- Dig in and enjoy!
Chocolate-Covered Protein Berry Clusters
If you are anything like me, you gotta have your chocolate-fix. No shame in that! Why not get your fix along with a boost of cancer-fighting compounds from the blueberries? This dessert is oncology dietitian approved and has the perfect balance of tartness from the berries and richness from the chocolate. I hope you enjoy it!
- 10 oz bag dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 scoops Chocolate Protein Powder
- 2 cups raspberries
- 1 cup blueberries
- Pomegranate seeds
- Crushed almonds, pecans or walnuts
- Line a cookie sheet with wax paper and set it aside.
- Melt chocolate and oil in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Stir and microwave more if needed in 5-second increments.
- Rinse berries under water to wash, set berries (and nuts if desired) aside.
- Spoon a small dollop of chocolate mixture on the wax paper and top with 3-4 blueberries and 2 raspberries. Drizzle chocolate over berries.
- Freeze until set, 20 minutes.
- Serve and enjoy!
Although there is no such thing as one food to cause or prevent cancer, including variety in your diet by adding some blue and purple foods (blueberries) will help you to get a wide range of beneficial nutrients that keep your body strong. Remember to focus on choosing fruits and vegetables YOU LIKE to reduce your cancer risk. You’ve got this!
DM me over on IG what your current nutrition goals are, and let’s make a plan together so that you can feel your best!
Want more recipes from your oncology dietitian that focus on ADDING all the wonderful foods that keep your body strong before, during, and after treatment? Click here to check out my recipe books!
Whether you have just found out you have cancer, are in the middle of treatment, or have completed treatment, there is something for everyone inside the Cancer Simplified monthly membership. Members get access to BRAND NEW content every month and get the simple and straightforward facts when it comes to how to eat to reduce cancer recurrence. In this monthly training, I GUIDE and SHOW all cancer patients how to eat MORE food, without fear and become confident in a cancer prevention lifestyle! Are you looking for a dietitian to provide evidence-based information, and a method to NO MORE FOOD FEARS?
Click here to join Cancer Simplified private membership – it is a no brainer to finally feel free to eat and enjoy ALL FOODS after cancer – as you DESERVE!
- FoodData Central Search Results: Blueberries, Raw. FoodData Central. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171711/nutrients. Published April 2019. Accessed January 31, 2023.
- Lin B-W, Gong C-C, Song H-F, Cui Y-Y. Effects of anthocyanins on the prevention and treatment of cancer. Br J Pharmacol. 2016;174(11):1226-1243. doi:10.1111/bph.13627
- Blueberries: Increase antioxidant activity in the blood. American Institute for Cancer Research. https://www.aicr.org/cancer-prevention/food-facts/blueberries/. Published August 2, 2021. Accessed January 30, 2023.
- Gonçalves AC, Nunes AR, Falcão A, Alves G, Silva LR. Dietary effects of anthocyanins in human health: A comprehensive review. Pharmaceuticals. 2021;14(7):690. doi:10.3390/ph14070690
- Lei L, Yang Y, He H, et al. Flavan-3-ols consumption and cancer risk: A meta-analysis of Epidemiologic Studies. Oncotarget. 2016;7(45):73573-73592. doi:10.18632/oncotarget.12017
- Kimble R, Keane KM, Lodge JK, Howatson G. Dietary intake of anthocyanins and risk of cardiovascular disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2019;59(18):3032-3043. doi:10.1080/10408398.2018.1509835
This blog is not intended as medical nutrition therapy, medical advice, or diagnosis and should in no way replace consultation or recommendations from your medical professional.