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Valentine's Day is right around the corner, and what better way to say "I love you" than with a decadent, delicious — and healthy — meal.
"Sitting down to an intimate dinner made with foods that are packed with cancer-fighting nutrients is probably one of the nicest things to do for someone you care about," says Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN, a nutritionist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. She reminds people that there are a lot of Valentine's Day treats that don't have to be dipped and coated in sugar and fat. In fact, choosing a few bright and tasty foods from nature is probably what Cupid had in mind.
All the recipes for this sensational Valentine's menu are available on Dana-Farber's nutrition services web page. This delectable meal is sure to capture the heart of anyone's sweetie. Each course is its own love potion.
Rich with vitamin A, vitamin K and folate, the leafy endive has been shown to help protect against lung and oral cancers. The bright red color of the roasted peppers is loaded with carotenoids. Kennedy says carotenoids have been linked to helping prevent colon, prostate, breast, and lung cancer.
"Raspberries are high in vitamin C, manganese, and phytonutrients anthocyanins and quercetin. These nutrients may help slow cancer cell growth," explains Kennedy. They are also a tasty fruit that is lower in sugar, which is important for anyone with diabetes or high blood sugar.
Ruby-red pomegranate fruit is high in the antioxidant ellagic acid, which studies have shown is related to both cancer prevention and slowing the growth of cancer cells.
Chocolate already has a reputation as an aphrodisiac, and recent studies now show it may help fight cancer. The darker the chocolate, the higher the beneficial properties. Some reports say chocolate can also elevate mood, stimulate endorphins, and prevent signs of aging. "The key is balance," stresses Kennedy. "A small piece of dark chocolate as a treat is healthy when it's in the context of a diet rich with vegetables and fruits.
Make a smoothie with raspberries and spinach. The red pigment of the berries contains powerful antioxidants known as anthocyanins. They protect the plant and in turn can protect humans, especially lowering the risk of recurrence in breast cancer survivors. The spinach adds antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E – plus it's a good source of calcium and iron.
"What makes this even more enticing is the lower calorie count coupled with plenty of protein and fiber which can also help promote a healthy weight," points out Kennedy. Weight management is important for everyone, but especially for cancer survivors. "By maintaining the healthiest weight possible, survivors can both improve immune function and promote anti-cancer activity in the body." So reach for the blender, whip up a batch of smoothies and serve chilled in a martini glass. Cheers!
View a slideshow of cancer-fighting Valentine’s Day foods created by The Boston Channel.