Fall is finally here, the leaves changed color and pink is everywhere. Yes, pink! October is the official month for National Breast Cancer Awareness. We all know preventing and detecting breast cancer early can help save lives.
“One of the most important actions to prevent any cancer is eating a balanced, healthy diet,” says Christina Rollins, Clinical Dietitian III at Memorial Medical Center and spokesperson for the Illinois Dietetic Association. “And by healthy diet, I don’t mean the usual American fare that is high in processed foods and red meats and low in fruits and vegetables.”
Studies have shown that diets low in red meat and higher in fish, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats like olive and canola oil may help protect against a number of health conditions, including heart disease and cancer.
Secret Fall Food to Help Protect Against Breast Cancer
Beyond general healthy eating, there are specific foods that may offer protection against breast cancer. Winter squash is one of these foods is ready for the picking this season. The bright yellow and deep orange colors of winter squash make it evident that they contain a powerful combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds which have been shown to have clear potential in the area of cancer prevention and cancer treatment. Also, good news for winter squash… it’s a low fat vegetable and can help with weight control, which puts women at a lower risk for developing breast cancer.
Winter squash varieties include butternut, pumpkin, acorn and spaghetti, just to name a few. The seeds from squash, when lightly toasted, can make a great snack food too. For example, pumpkin seeds have high amounts of essential fatty acids that help in lowering cholesterol.
While it’s an excellent idea to add good foods and cut out the bad, the best way to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer is to make daily food choices that boost overall good health. Rollins adds, “While certain foods may be helpful, the key is really to commit to living a healthy lifestyle.”
Try the recipe below to start incorporating antioxidant rich butternut squash into your diet today.
- Squashed Mac’n’cheese
- Serves 8
- ½ box (8 oz) enhanced elbow macaroni (eg. Ronzoni Smart Taste) or whole wheat macaroni
- 2 cups butternut squash, diced
- 1 cup broth (chicken or vegetable)
- 1 cup skim milk
- **(alternate recipe: use 1 box V8 Butternut Squash Soup (2 cups) in place of squash, milk and broth)
- 1 cup reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1 cup 2% milk cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded (can substitute Swiss cheese)
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- ¼ cup Panko Japanese style breadcrumbs or plain breadcrumbs
- Cook pasta as directed on box.
- In a large cooking pot, bring squash, milk and broth o a low boil; simmer for 7 minutes or until tender. Reduce heat and puree mixture in pan with immersion blender. Or remove from heat and blend until smooth in blender and add back to pot (caution when blending while hot). **Alternate recipe: heat V8 Butternut squash soup in cooking pot until hot.
- Slowly incorporate shredded cheeses into hot puree (or soup) and add seasonings. Add the cooked pasta to the melted cheese mixture.
- Divide and portion 8 ways in ramekins, oven safe dishes or aluminum pie tins coated with cooking spray.
- Top with a light dusting of breadcrumbs and bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until browned and bubbly.
Nutrition per serving: 159 calories, 2.7 g fat, 225 mg sodium, 3 g fiber, 14 g protein, 22.8 g carbohydrates