Over the last week I've seen the following headline a number of times: "Curry and Onions May Prevent Colon Cancer." While the caption is right to a certain extent--test subjects who were at higher risk for polyps than the general population did demonstrate a lower incidence of polyp occurrence--it's more complicated than simply loading up on onion rings and hitting the Indian buffet.
First it's "curcumin" (a chemical extract of turmeric--the main ingredient in curry) that was found to be the key cancer fighting agent; but since most people are more familiar with curry, it gets the press. As for the onions, it's the chemical substance "quercetin," a known antioxidant that produces the health benefits.
But here's the rub, participants in the study (published in the August issue of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology) consumed significantly higher amounts of curcumin than one would as part of a normal diet versus a more "regular" amount of quercetin; hence why it's really "curry" that should get top billing.
Second, it's important to know that the test subjects received the proclaimed cancer fighting substances via oral doses (20 milligrams of quercetin and 480 milligrams of curcumin). So unfortunately loading up on the onions and curry is very unlikely to reap the same benefits as seen in the study.
Of course even if you decide to follow the study and up your consumption of curcumin, don't even think about skipping a colonoscopy--recommended for all adults at age 50 and every 10 years thereafter; unless you are in a higher risk group: parent with colorectal cancer or adenomas diagnosed before age 60; or 2 first degree relatives with these conditions at any age. For those in the higher risk group, you're first intestinal adventure should occur at the earliest of either age 40 (or every five years thereafter) or 10 years prior to the age of incidence for your relative.
And despite all the bad "press" about the colonoscopy exam, it's really not that bad. I know-first hand.
So while eating onions and curry may not "prevent" colon cancer, they are still good for you! And eating any of the so-called "super foods" can't be a bad idea! Here are a few ways to incorporate these rather odiferous foods into your diet:
Turmeric: Consider putting powdered turmeric into a parmesan-cheese shaker and adding a few sprinkles to your food such as meats, chicken or eggs. The powdered form is fairly mild. It's the fresh stuff that has the real flavor.
1 I'm a big fan of Trader Joe's salmon burgers. They're an easy way to get Omega-3 fatty acids and high quality protein; however, they are a bit fishy. So to mask the fishiness, I heavily season the patties with curry, garlic and pepper. I then cook them up with a small amount of an Asian-flavored marinade. I then typically chop it up and throw over a big fat salad.
2 Tzatzaki: Adding curry to tzatzaki gives it a whole new flavor. Another trick, toss the tzatzaki with fresh broccoli and add your favorite specialty mustard; maybe a spoonful or two. This is a very healthy take on those broccoli salads you often encounter at restaurants or Souplantation; which are really bad for you! Trader Joe's has a fabulous low-fat tzatzaki.
Onions: Protein-Rich Spinach Frittata
This recipe is easy and loaded with the good stuff. Popeye would be proud.
1 16 oz package chopped frozen spinach (thawed and well drained)
2 2-4 Cups thinly sliced yellow or sweet onion
3 One dozen egg whites (or approx. 2 Cups egg substitute)
4 1 12 oz (or 16 oz) jar roasted red peppers
5 ½ cup cottage cheese
6 1 tsp salt
7 1 tsp pepper
8 ¼ to 1/2 cup feta cheese
Optional "Mix-Ins": chopped lean ham or Canadian Bacon, cheddar cheese, green onion, corn muffin mix (add ¼ to ½ cup)
1. Sautee onions until slightly browned (use a non-stick pan with a spray of olive oil)
2. In a big bowl, mix egg whites, spinach, cottage cheese, salt, pepper and any of the optional "mix-ins" Just mix with a spoon until well combined.
3. In a large glass pyrex pan (9x13 or so), spread the onions; to create a bottom layer.
4. Pour the egg mixture over the onions (the mixture should NOT be runny-but it won't be thick either.
5. Drain the red peppers and thinly slice all of them. Layer the peppers over the spinach mixture.
6. Bake at 350 for 30 or so minutes or until firm; ovens vary! Check it 15 minutes in. Once it's fairly firm, sprinkle the feta over the top and cook until firm and then broil for 5 minutes to really get the top layer done.
Finally, if you do in fact need a good place to enjoy Indian Food, our MVP Shawn Burke is an expert!