Review: Anti-Cancer Cookbook by Local Doctor

Book Reviews — By on April 5, 2009 at 6:17 am

aticancercookbookreviewSome UPMC colleagues attended a cooking/tasting class event where they got to try some recipes from Dr. Julia B. Greer’s brand-new “The Anti-Cancer Cookbook. “They later told her they were surprised…because the food was good.

The same thing happened at a party Dr. Greer’s Butler parents threw last month at the Duquesne Club, Downtown. For the 60-some guests Dr. Greer had the club prepare a half dozen recipes from the book:
Butternut Squash Soup, Orange-Raspberry Fennel Salad, Balsamic Chicken with Pear (plus tart cherries), Baked Sweet Potato Wedges, Basted Grilled Vegetables and, for dessert, Chocolate Creme Pots with berries.

“Everyone was, ‘I can’t believe this food is anti-cancer! It’s so good!’ ” the first-time author recounts with a laugh.

That you can eat food that’s good and good for you is the message of her cookbook, which is subtitled, “How to Cut Your Risk With the Most Powerful, Cancer-Fighting Foods.” And you don’t have to eat “weird” foods such as seitan and seaweed to do it, she adds in an interview, during which she reveals more of the fun personality that flashes in the book. (In the acknowledgments, she thanks “the friends who gave me those great kitchen gadgets as wedding presents. The marriage didn’t last, but the bakeware is holding up beautifully.”)

In the front of the book, Dr. Greer boils down the latest research in what specific foods contain what antioxidants and other substances that make them best for reducing the risks of getting which cancers.

The Mt. Lebanon epidemiologist — she works in UPMC’s Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition — says she read hundreds of papers and only included the best information. “It was all documented.”

Dr. Greer explains “How We Study Cancer.” She also talks about the best cooking methods — for example, reiterating warnings that have become more prominent in the past couple of years about eating too much grilled meat. That’s because of the way protein reacts under such high heat, so grilling fruits and vegetables doesn’t have the same risks.

A lot of the general advice in the book isn’t hard to grasp: As cancer groups agree, the best diets are those rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and healthy sources of proteins and fats. Studies may tweak the specifics, but those generalities aren’t likely to be contradicted, Dr. Greer says.

And the bulk of her book is recipes — some 225 of them, many of which she pulled from her own regular repertoire. One of her favorites is one of her own concoctions: Adzuki Bean-Citrus Salad, which, as the book notes, contains saponins (from the beans) and isoflavones (in the miso, or soy paste) that may help prevent pancreas and breast cancers. She provides that kind of information for each dish.

She’s long been a passionate cook. The idea for the book arose a few years ago after she saw how keenly interested people were in her talks on cancer and nutrition.

You can make big changes in little ways, Dr. Greer says. For example, work to eat more brightly colored food — orange peppers, red tomatoes. Make sure you’re including bright green greens in your salads. Add berries. Eat a wide variety of foods.

Control doesn’t mean you can’t loosen up. While Dr. Greer has made a habit of cooking and eating healthy fare, she will let her hair down for, say, the occasional restaurant garlic smashed potatoes even though she knows they contain lots of butter.

She provides tips for making healthy choices when eating out. But when she goes out, as she puts it, “I try not to make the waiters cry.”

The book can be ordered in advance at (or phone 1-800-895-4585) or at and Dr. Greer says she’s going to donate a portion of the profits to cancer research at UPMC.

Visit: The Anti-Cancer Cookbook to read the full article and to share your comments and opinions below with the community.

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