I am a breast cancer survivor! Increasing survival rates and preventing recurrence of this devastating disease is a cause that is very close to my heart, and to the mission of Cook for Your Life.
When I started Cook For Your Life in 2007, I felt that a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables could be cancer-protective. Our programs and website reach all those touched by cancer, but starting in 2009, we created specific Cook for Your Life programs to focus on breast cancer survivors from across the social spectrum of New York City’s cancer community, including offering programs in Spanish. The common thread of these programs was to teach survivors and caregivers — free of charge — how to increase fruit and vegetable consumption while using healthier cooking techniques.
It turns out this was the right direction to take.
Large studies have now shown that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, specifically cruciferous vegetables of the brassica family (kale, broccoli, cabbage, etc.), may not only be breast cancer-protective, but helpful in preventing recurrence. Fruits and vegetables provide phytochemicals, nutrients, antioxidants and fiber that help to promote a healthy immune system and support our bodies in the fight against cancer progression and recurrence. .. And, last but not least, eating a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables can help us maintain a healthy weight – an increasingly important factor in helping prevent breast cancer recurrence and maintaining overall health.
Cook for Your Life has participated in research since 2010. We’ve developed several pilot programs generously funded by Aetna and by Susan G. Komen, and have collaborated with researchers at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health on National Institutes of Health-funded studies focusing on Latina breast cancer survivors to find out if our programs help patients increase their consumption of health-promoting fruits and vegetables.
Excitingly, the published results of our first study showed that they do! Through the changes the participants learned to make to their diets, they not only maintained a measurable increase in fruit and vegetable consumption over the control group, they experienced weight loss too.
Later this year we will finish a much larger five-year National Institutes of Health-funded study, again with our colleagues at Columbia, among a wider ranging demographic of breast cancer survivors that we hope will show how our work can be scalable. What is even more exciting is that Cook for Your LIFE is now part of the Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center and will be led by my good friend and colleague Dr. Heather Greenlee. With Heather at the helm, we will be able to widen the reach of our mission and develop our research work to explore wholly new and amazing ways that will help the breast cancer community to eat better and stay healthier.
But enough from me, it’s time to get into the kitchen! Try a few of our great recipes and enjoy the fabulous foods that can help protect you, help get you through treatment, and keep you healthy.
Fight breast cancer with your forks and Cook for Your Life!
Ann Ogden Gaffney
Founder & Healthy Cooking Advocate