How a healthy diet may help fight cancer

On December 30, 2012, Nicole Meron’s father died of brain cancer. He had battled the disease for a year and two months after his diagnosis. “Watching your hero lose his hair and his strength from intense chemotherapies and surgeries was the hardest part,” 19-year-old Meron said.

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Matt and Nicole Meron

This January, the Meron and her family got some more terrible news. Nicole’s mother, Faffi, was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. “Hearing the word cancer for the second time was very difficult for my siblings and I to go through,” Nicole said. Faffi began treatment immediately.

With those two diagnoses, the Merons started to get serious about improving their health any way they could. Along with the medical care Faffi was undergoing, she and her children decided to take a doctor’s advice to change their eating habits.

The family began to contact nutritionists and different doctors to receive insight on how to improve their mother’s health while fighting cancer. “‘Everything to keep healthy’ has become our motto,” Nicole said.

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Faffi using kale while juicing.

After receiving health advice from their nutritionist and doctors at Kaiser Permanante, the family decided to cut out conventionally grown foods and switch to organics. On a doctor’s advice, they also started juicing.

“Organic food and juicing is very important for Faffi’s health,” said Dr. Ricardo Wang, Faffi’s oncologist at Kaiser Permanente in Woodland Hills, Calif.

The research behind organic foods and juicing

Organic foods have been found to have a significantly lower cadmium chemical content conventionally grown foods, according to researchers who published their findings in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Cadmium may impair lung function and increase the risk of lung cancer, according to a study in the NCBI Journal.

“The heavy metal Cd (cadmium) is emerging as a major cause of vascular disorders, various common cancers, kidney disease, osteoporosis and other health disorders, even in populations that do not have occupational exposure to this toxin,” said authors of a the British Journal of Nutrition.

The Merons have also increased their kale consumption. Kale contains nutrients that may have improve blood glucose control in diabetics, lower the risk of cancer, lower blood pressure, and lower the risk of developing asthma, according to registered dietitian Megan Ware who published her findings on Medical News Today.

Fruits and vegetables contain large amounts of phenolic substances and fiber which may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer, claimed by researchers of a 2017 study published in Scientific Reports.

Studies also indicated eating lots of fruits and vegetables has been linked to a lower risk of mouth, throat and lung cancer.

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Faffi Meron accompanied by her two daughters while undergoing treatment.

The Merons have a long road ahead, but in May, they finally got some good news: there appears to be no sign of Faffi’s cancer.

Though they do not know if their new eating habits contributed, they still plan to continue doing everything in their power to maintain a healthful lifestyle.

Eating the right kinds of foods before, during, and after cancer treatment can help the patient feel better and stay stronger.  “We believe that the changes we have made to our eating habits has helped our mom fight the cancer,” said Nicole Meron.

Nicole Meron shares her families immigration journey from Israel in this video.

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The healthy and easy way to satisfy your sweet tooth

As a college student, I have become interested in finding simple, healthful, and delicious recipes that I can master with little preparation and clean up time. I have found smoothies to be easy to make, quick to eat, and even satisfies my sweet tooth.

Finding delicious and healthy ingredients to add to your smoothie can be difficult. However, a specific fruit that is not only pretty and tasty, but is also packed with antioxidants, is the exotic pitaya fruit, commonly known as the dragon fruit.

This tropical fruit contains a sweet and fresh taste that may override your dessert cravings.

The pitaya fruit is rich in micronutrients and contains many antioxidants, according to researchers who published a study in a Food Chemistry Journal.

In addition, this fruit may provide protection against certain oxidative stress-related disorders, as claimed by researchers who published their study in the Journal of Functional Foods.

In this video, I will show you how to make a simple and delicious pitaya smoothie bowl that also contains other beneficial nutrients: chia seeds, almond milk, pineapples, strawberries, and blueberries.

The pitaya fruit can be purchased at grocery stores and online. In fact, it even comes in smoothie packs, which makes the process extremely easy.

9 reasons to celebrate your coffee addiction

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Coffee gave Natalie Herder and her father a boost when they ran the San Luis Obispo half marathon. Photo courtesy of Natalie Herder.

Biology resource and agricultural engineering freshman Natalie Herder had trouble completing her workouts and runs without feeling physically and mentally exhausted.

However, once she began drinking coffee before physical activity, she saw great improvement in her stamina and her exhaustion.

“Drinking coffee before the half marathon allowed me to run the whole course without feeling drained,” said Herder.

Coffee is one of the most popular consumed drinks among individuals; however many people do not know the proven benefits that coffee has regarding ones health.

Recent studies have found nine health benefits of coffee consumption:

1. Adds a boost to your workout

The effects of caffeine consumption were examined before resistance exercise performance by researchers who published a study in 2016 in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. The results showed that coffee and decaffeinated coffee plus caffeine improve performance during resistance exercise.

2. Could help reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease 

Coffee may have the power to lessen neurological disorders, according to researchers who published a 2016 study in a food science journal.

In fact, Parkinson’s Disease was the most commonly reported disease to find improvement through coffee consumption.

3. May lessen the risk of Alzheimer’s disease

Coffee was found to have the ability to possibly reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, as claimed by researchers who published a 2016 study.  The antioxidants in coffee may decrease the oxygen species which could help reduce Alzheimer’s Disease.

4. Could improve your overall mood

Middle-aged men that drank three to four cups of coffee a day found their depression to be reduced, according to researchers who studied the effects of coffee in a recently published nutrition journal.

“Coffee appears to improve cognitive function and decreases the risk of depression,” said Dr. Marc Lavin, chief of staff at West Hills Hospital.

5. May reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes

Both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee were associated with a reduced diabetes risk, as stated by researchers who published their study.

In fact, the researchers found that consuming six cups of coffee per day lowered the risk of type 2 diabetes by 33 percent.

6. May lessen body fat

Researchers studied 84 healthy subjects and found a decrease in body fat. The subjects consumed two different coffee blends, yet both of the blends lessened the subjects body fat.

Moreover, coffee contains substances that influence the regulation of hunger and satiety hormones in addition to increasing energy expenditure, according to the researchers who published their study in the journal Food Research International.

7. Acts as an anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and anti-atherosclerotic

Coffee may have the ability to prevent inflammation, carcinogens, and atherosclerosis, said researchers of a recent study published in the journal Trends in Food Science and Technology. 

Researchers of this study also noted that coffee contains many antioxidants and polyphenols which promote overall health.

8. May reduce the risk of stroke

One to three cups of coffee were linked to a decreased risk of stroke, according to researchers who conducted seven studies which included 442,098 participants and 6,962 stroke events.

9. Is good for your liver

Coffee may have the power to protect alcohol induced liver damage and alcohol induced hepatic inflammation, stated by researchers who published their study in a food science journal.

“Studies have shown that coffee may protect against liver disease, including liver cancer,” said Dr. Lavin.

Looking for an emotional and physical boost? Try running.

Before he was diagnosed with cancer, Mark Conover had been a professional runner for years. As he recovered, running took on a completely new role in his life.

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Photo courtesy of Mark Conover

“It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with cancer and had to go through chemotherapy when I finally realized why I became a runner in the first place,” said the Cal Poly track and field and cross-country coach. “Running was my best friend.”

After his toughest days of chemotherapy, he would not allow himself to dwell on his situation. Instead he put his running shoes on.

“The endorphins and the feelings you get after completing a run or a work out certainly do aid to put you in a better frame of mind,” he said.

Conover is not alone. Running helps reduce stress-related psychiatric disorders, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

It also enhances learning, memory, and even ones lifespan, according to recent studies.

The proven benefits of running

Improvements in stress, depression, anxiety, learning and memory skills were found from the Behavioral Brain Research, which studied mice that ran on a treadmill for six weeks.

Runners have a 25 to 40 percent reduced risk of early death and live approximately three years longer than non-runners, according to a study published in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases in March.

“Running is protective against both cardiovascular disease and cancer, the two leading causes of death in most developed countries including the US.”

Individuals who run reduce their risk of cancer-related deaths to 30-50 percent.

Not only is running protective against cancer and cardiovascular disease, but running also protects conditions such as, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and respiratory infections.

How to start running

Having proper shoes is key for anyone wishing to begin running, Conover said. He also recommends setting a specific distance goal before you head out for a run.

“The main thing is to be gradual, look for some running partners and seek advice from running magazines.” — Mark Conover

Conover recommends running outside versus running on the treadmill because of the natural beauty that surrounds us.

“Raw inspiration from your environment will help soothe the mind,” he said.

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Photo courtesy of Natalie Drucker

Natalie Drucker found running to be the only way to reduce her stress, clear her mind and lessen her anxiety from the social and educational stresses of college.

If you’re new to running, Drucker has some advice: “A beginner should start slow and get a running buddy and slowly start running longer and faster if that’s what your goal is,” the first-year kinesiology major and Cal Poly track team member said. “Baby steps is best for running otherwise you’ll die out too fast.”

How running improved my life

Moving away to college was an adjustment for me. I found the quarter system to be extremely fast and the work load to be overwhelming. After a few weeks into the first quarter, I decided to start running because of the many stresses that were thrown my way.

After I introduced running into my routine, my anxiety, stress and learning skills improved. In fact, my grades skyrocketed.

I started off fall quarter with 12 units, increased the following quarter to 16 units, and am now enrolled in 20 units. I found myself to be less stressed with 20 units, simply because I run daily.

I started off slow and gradually increased the pace and time that I would run for. The run-walk method helped prepare me to run for 30 minutes straight.

My favorite time to go on a run and clear my mind is after studying for long amounts of time. Doing this gives my brain a break, strengthens my mood, and refocuses me so I can finish studying.

With midterms approaching, I will take full advantage of the benefits associated with running.

Açai bowls are taking over the food market

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Açai bowl from Bowl’d in San Luis Obispo features delicious and nutritious fruits. Photo by Jessica Sharpe.

Açai bowls seem to be the trend this year. I have found these berries to be the most talked about “healthy” dessert.

Originated from Central and South America, this superfood has become the new trend for breakfast, quick snacks, and a delicious lunch at the beach.

Açai tastes very similar to chocolate mixed with berries. It contains a relatively sweet taste with a bitter aftertaste.

Nutrients in Açai

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Photo taken by Eli Duke (Flickr, Creative Commons)

“The açai berry has been touted with anti-oxidant/ anti-inflammatory benefits; both are etiology for many diseases,” said Cal Poly nutrition professor Alison Dimond.

These fruits are not only made out of antioxidants but also contain fiber, protein and cardio-protective fats. They also have vitamin C, calcium, iron, vitamin A, aspartic acid, and glutamic acid.

In fact, açai is composed of phytochemicals. Phytochemicals, which are plant components, are very important to ones health because they have the power to block cancer development, according to Wardlaw’s Perspectives in Nutrition.

 Açai research: health benefits

A study by NCBI used mice to consume the isolated polysaccharides from the açai berry and found they were able to boost their immune system.

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Photo taken by Scott Zona (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Another NCBI tested 10 overweight people who consumed açai berries for 30 days and found that these individuals’ had lower glucose, cholesterol, and insulin levels.

Participants for another NCBI study consumed 120 milliliters of MonaVie Active fruit juice, mostly containing açai pulp and other fruit concentrates, daily for 12 weeks. This study concluded improvement of joint motion, pain perception, and inflammation.

Home Health Care Management & Practice noted that the açai berry contains anthocyanin, which is an antioxidant that has the power to relax blood vessels, improve circulation and prevent blood clots.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition conducted a study in overweight men who consumed açai and found improvements in vascular function, which may lower the risk of a cardiovascular event.

Açai research: potential harm

I have noticed many college students, including myself, consuming large amounts of açai bowls weekly and even daily.

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Photo courtesy of Madison Somerday.

“It is very hard finding food on campus that is both healthy and tastes good,” said agricultural communication freshman Madison Somerday. “The Sambazon açai bowls have become a part of my daily routine because of the lack of healthful variety at Cal Poly.”

Alison Dimond explained the potential harms due to overconsumption of foods.

“Eating the same item daily increases the exposure of a particular pesticide, which may be concentrated in a food, especially if imported from another country,” said Alison Dimond. “Eating the same food reduces the chance of exposure to thousands of phytochemicals and nutrients available in other foods.”

SUGAR, SUGAR, SUGAR…

Jamba Juice’s açai bowl contains 67 grams of sugar, which is more than double the amount of sugar the AHA recommends.

The American Heart Association recommends that men do not exceed a daily intake of 36 grams of sugar and women not to exceed 25 grams of sugar.

“The fewer the ingredients, the better the product, in general.”—Alison Dimond

Where you can find Açai bowls in San Luis Obispo

 San Luis Obispo has kept up with the demand for these sweet treats.

My personal favorites

I have explored most of San Luis Obispo’s açai places and have found that Bowl’d is my favorite.

Bowl’d allows you to chose your açai to be sweetened or unsweetened. By choosing unsweetened açai you are not putting additional sugar in your body.

Ubatuba is very unique because this açai place is the only place that serves açai in the purest content. Ubatuba does not mix their açai base with additional ingredients.

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