Did you know that more than a third of all cancers could be prevented by healthy lifestyle choices?
That means we have the power to save one in three lives.
As of last year, an estimated 13.7 million Americans were living with a history of cancer. Each Thursday, I walk with those cancer survivors through JamesCare for Life's Garden of Hope, a community garden available free of charge to cancer survivors and their primary caregivers. Featuring an herb garden and a wide variety of produce, the garden provides access to harvests three times per week during the growing season.
Have you ever seen broccoli grow? Me either.
JamesCare for Life, an extension of Ohio State University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, provides a variety of resources and services to assist cancer patients and their families with navigating their cancer journey. Among the JCFL offerings, nutrition programs educate survivors about the critical role of food and nutrition for cancer prevention and survivorship.
My graduate thesis revolves around this amazing garden. The purpose of the study is to determine if an urban gardening initiative improves perceptions of health and wellness in cancer survivors. The American Institute of Cancer Research's evidence-based guidelines for cancer prevention include adopting a plant-based diet, limiting processed meat, engaging in regular physical activity and maintaining a lean body weight in addition to other key recommendations. The impact of receiving and utilizing the produce harvested during one growing season at the garden will be evaluated to inform future interventions aimed at improving overall adherence to the AICR’s evidence-based guidelines for cancer prevention.
I cannot begin to describe how rewarding it is to see these survivors harvest each week. Many have completely transformed their diet. I only wish that more high risk patients could have such an experience. A growing body of evidence shows that urban gardening not only increases produce consumption, but it also improves mental health, socialization, physical functioning and a sense of health-related well-being. Gardening is a fantastic way to encourage adherence to cancer survivorship lifestyle behavior guidelines. Who wouldn't want to eat more beautiful, phytonutrient-packed plants when they're sitting right in front of you, free of charge?
This season featured romaine, kale, leaf lettuce, onions, beets, broccoli, zucchini, squash, peppers, tomatoes, okra, basil, mint, parsley, chives and sage. Sadly, yesterday was the last day of the harvest. I already cannot wait for next year's garden. I know it will continue to grow bigger and better each year.
I will truly miss explaining how to prepare kale and kohlrabi.
I will truly miss spending ten minutes trying to get a head of cabbage out of the ground.
I will truly miss being inspired by these brave cancer survivors to grow hope.
I thought I'd share a delicious recipe with you today featuring lots of fresh produce from the garden. Each week I would take home fresh mint and basil, tossing them into everything in sight for a bright flavor boost. This slaw is bursting with crunch, flavor and best of all, fresh herbs. Feel free to customize it based on what you have on hand.
Together, we can cultivate a cure.
Summer Slaw With Honey Tahini Dressing & Fresh Herbs
--adapted from this slaw
- 4 cups shredded cabbage (or coleslaw mix)
- ½ cucumber, grated
- ½ small onion, grated
- 1 apple, grated
- ⅓ cup dried cranberries
- ¼ cup sunflower seeds
- large handful of parsley, chopped
- small handful of mint, chopped
- For the dressing:
- 2 tbsp tahini
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp honey
- juice of a lemon
- ¼ tsp salt
- Add cabbage, cucumber, onion, apple, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds and herbs to a large bowl. Stir to combine.
- Whisk together dressing and pour over salad, stirring to combine. Season to salt with salt, pepper, and more herbs if desired.