Preventing Cancer Through Diet

Last Updated on Tuesday, 1 November 2011 10:05 Written by Flax Monday, 31 October 2011 02:12

As October becomes November the Cancer Awareness society moves their focus from Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October) to Lung and Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month (November).   While the Breast Cancer Awareness society has brought home the  “one in nine”  the more correct statistic for Jewish Ashkenzi women is “one in eight”.  The high rate is attributed to the “Jewish gene” – three mutations in the genes BRACA1 and BRACA2 – which raise the likelihood of breast cancer by 60-80 percent.  4,000 Israeli women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, and 900 die of the disease.  Lung cancer however, is the most dangerous of all cancers and is responsible for 29% of all cancer related deaths.

The cancer society has acknowledged a link between unhealthy lifestyle choices and higher cancer risk.  Two significant ways to reduce the risk of cancer are through exercise and diet.  Healthy dietary choices include eating a plant based diet,  eating whole grains, reducing saturated fats (animal products), reducing trans fat omega-6 oils (hydrogenated vegetable oils) and instead, using oils that are high in omega-3.  The two foods that I consider to be the most beneficial to both preventing and curing cancer are flax seed and seaweed.

Flax, high in omega-3 is also one of the best sources of vegetable lignins, compounds that have anti-tumor, anti-estrogenic, and anti-oxidant properties.  While flax appears to have value in treating all cancers, it is of extra value in treating both colon and breast cancers as the cells of these cancers have estrogen receptors and can be inhibited by the anti-estrogenic compounds in lignins.

Seaweeds are vegetables that are  easily digested, contain ten to twenty times the amount of minerals as regular (land) vegetables and have an abundance of vitamins and minerals.  Seaweeds detoxify the body, remove residues of radiation, are beneficial to the thyroid, and improve liver function.  Seaweeds ability to help reduce growths and tumors is noted in ancient Chinese texts which claim “there is no swelling that is not relieved by seaweed”.

To mark the occasion of October and November Cancer awareness months, I offer a recipe which uses both flax-seed and seaweed.  Satisfyingly enough, no-one, other than yourself, will  know that they are eating seaweed, or flax-seed for that matter. I served this dish for Shabbat lunch (when we had company),  I didn’t get a single seaweed comment, and there were no left overs.

This recipe has two parts but it’s not complicated. If making the crust is overwhelming, then buy a frozen ready-made whole wheat crust and just enjoy the health benefits of the filling. I promise you though, the crust isn’t hard to make, and from beginning to end, it adds only 5 minutes of work and one mixing bowl. If you are up to it, it’s worth the effort because while my recipe calls for olive oil and flax-seed, you know that they what you are buying contains  margarine galore and not even a single, solitary, flax-seed.

Wishing everyone good health and happiness ad meah ve’esrim.



  • 1 cup whole flour (spelt or wheat)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp ground flax-seed
  • 1/2 tsp Atlantic grey sea salt
  • 3 tbsp hot water
  • 1/2 cup water (apx.)

Preheat oven to 180 c (350 f)

Allow the the flax-seed and the salt to soak  in the hot water for 5 minutes. Pour the dissolved salt flax mixture into a bowl and add the remaining ingredients.  knead the dough until it is smooth. Roll out the dough into a thin layer and place in either a pie dish or a baking pan (any size or shape will work). Prick with a fork and bake at 180c (350f) for 10 minutes, until it is partially baked. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Wakame Filling

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1/2″ (1 cm) ginger, grated
  • 1 bunch beet leaves (mangold or kale), coarsely chopped
  • 2 carrots, sliced into matchsticks
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp wakame
  • 1 tbsp ground flax-seed, soaked in 4 tbsp water for 5 minutes
  • 1 small kohlrabi, slice into thin roundels
  • 1 thinly sliced carrot roundel

Soak the wakame in cold water for ten minutes.  Squeeze out the excess water and set aside.

Preheat oven to 180 c (350 f).

Heat the olive oil in a deep frying pan.  Add the onion, garlic, ginger and spices and saute for 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add the beet leaves and the carrots and saute until the beet leaves are limp.   Remove from the flame and stir in the wakame and the the flax-seed. Spoon onto the half-baked pie crust.
Spread the kohlrabi roundels in a circle over the top of the pie to form a flower shape. Place the carrot roundel in the center of the circle. Carefully brush the kohlrabi flower with olive oil.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden.

Serve hot.

Serves 4-6 as a side dish.


Sima Herzfeld Navon has a clinic for holistic medicine and nutritional healing.  She also teaches healthy cooking.

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Rosh Hashanah Carrots

Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 September 2011 11:07 Written by Flax Wednesday, 14 September 2011 10:57

I find food anthropology fascinating, this is especially true on holidays where the differences in traditions are the most significant.  While the Sephardic Jews have for the most part retained the traditional Talmudic customs of the Rosh Hashanah Seder, the Ashkenzi Jews have retained only the basic idea.  Rather than a lack of faith on the part of the European Jew, I see this as a lack of availability of these foods in Medieval Europe.  Despite their limitations, we see a basic desire on their part to retain the Talmudic concept of eating foods which contain special meanings.  Hence, the introduction of the carrot and the apple.

The apple and the carrot are both sweet foods, reflecting upon our desire for a sweet year.  The apple is dipped in honey to add sweetness while the carrot is cooked with a combination of sweet flavors such as honey, sugar, and fruit. This dish, called zimmes, is a staple at the Ashkenazi Rosh Hashanah meal.  An interesting trend however developed around the carrots.  Carrots translated into Yiddish means mirrin,  mirrin also  means ‘more’ in Yiddish and thus the carrot was attributed a blessing similar to that of  the pomegranate.  Rabbi Avraham Danzig (Vilna, d. 1820) wrote in Hayye Adam (Klal 139:6) that we eat merrin on Rosh Hashanah and we say: “May God increase our merits”.  The carrot here is a brilliant example of how Jews were able to adapt to their enviornment, using the easily available carrot to replace the elucid pomegranate, while still maintaining the spirit of the ancient traditions.

Modern Israel has a large population of both Sephardi and Ashkenzi Jews, and for the first time since the Diaspora we see a merging of the two cultures.  Perhaps this is why we see a new development, something that I might refer to as the “Neuvou-Israeli Rosh Hashanah Seder”.  Israeli children, sometimes with the encouragement of their teachers, have turned the Seder into a game, seeing who can come up with the most symbolic food reference.  Of  late I have heard such “pearls” as a blessing over chicken and chickpeas, “she’yafu hachamas”  (the Hamas should disappear) and a blessing whichp lays on the french word for banana, banané, which sounds like “bonne année”,  French for a good year.  (Never say that Jews are not adaptable.)

An underlying theme in my Elul recipes has been Jewish fusion, or foods which reflect upon  kibbutz galuyot.  The recipe below maintains this theme as I offer a North African alternative to zimmis.  Polish zimmis is basically sweet, even overly sweet.  The carrots, sweet to begin with, are then cooked with sweet, and only sweet.   I chose instead a sweet carrot recipe with a greater variety of flavors.  The recipe below is a  traditional Algerian carrot salad.  This dish is intended as a first course, where it is served accompanied by other salads.  It has the same carrots and the sugar as zimmis but the wider variety of flavors and spices adds greater depth to the dish and turns the carrots into a delicacy. 

A word of caution:  I have never had any leftovers from this dish.  Whatever I put on the table is devoured!


  • 1 bag of carrots (1 kilo–2 lb.)
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp hot pepper (optional)
  • 2-3 tbsp sugar
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • corn oil or olive oil

Peel the carrots, remove the tips, and boil them in lightly salted water until they are slightly soft (about 30 minutes).  Be careful not to over-cook the carrots as they will crumble when stirred.

Slice the cooked carrots into 1/2 inch roundels. Coat the bottom of a large frying pan with olive/corn oil, add the garlic, sugar, and spices and mix on a low flame for 30 seconds. Add the carrots and saute while gently stirring for about ten minutes or until the carrots are completely cooked and coated in the spices. Remove from the flame and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Serve cold as a first course,  accompanied by bread and other salads.

Sima Herzfeld Navon has a clinic for holistic medicine.  She also teaches healthy cooking and nutritional healing.

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Celery Smoothie

Last Updated on Monday, 20 June 2011 10:51 Written by Flax Wednesday, 1 June 2011 08:48

In order to achieve optimal weight, a diet should be based around vegetables.  Unfortunately, most of us don’t eat nearly enough vegetables.  A great way to rectify this imbalance is to begin with a celery smoothie.   There are two steps in correcting a diet.   Increasing consumption of healthy foods while also decreasing consumption of un-healthy foods.  The celery  smoothie is ideal for this two pronged task.   Celery is the ideal diet food.  It helps to dry up dampness (phlegm/fat) caused by excess sugar consumption and it also helps us to curb our sugar cravings.  This  makes it easier to begin on our path towards healthier eating.

When I make a smoothie, I add a variety of other vegetables using a few different principles.  The  first thing that I am looking for is watery vegetables that will give it a more liquid texture.  Examples of these are cucumbers and sprouts.   The next thing I am looking for is a bit of sweetness, here I use a carrot.  After that I will add a bitter vegetable (like a radish) to help the celery clean out the dampness and toxins in the system.  On occasion, I will add a member of the onion family, I prefer scallions for their more gentle flavor.

The fact that it’s pureed helps for two reasons.  The smoothie is condensed and so a large amount of vegetables looks a lot smaller.  The second reason is because unfortunately, many of us have forgotten how to chew our food. (Each bite of food should be chewed between thirty to fifty times).   Starting a diet with a smoothie will help us to digest better, until we once again, relearn how to chew whole grains and firm vegetables.

I recommend making a batch of this in the morning, serve it on a bed of quinoa or brown rice and don’t eat anything else until it’s finished.  There should usually be enough for more than one meal.   Chances are, after finishing it all up,  you won’t be hungry for anything else.


  • 1 head celery, leaves attached
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 package mung bean sprouts
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 radish
  • 1 scallion
  • Olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Atlantic grey sea salt

Puree all the ingredients in a food processor and serve on a bed of quinoa or brown rice.


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