It’s generally accepted that diet and lifestyle can help prevent cancer – and that is true of our canine companions too. So along with healthy overall nutrition, what additional foods can you add to the mix? Here’s a list of cancer-fighting foods that are good for both you and your dog!
The medicinal power of mushrooms
There are about 100,000 varieties of mushroom — approximately 700 are used for food, and 50 have medicinal properties. Even common varieties contain naturally-occurring antioxidants. It has been discovered that common white button mushrooms contain as much free radical-scavenging power as medicinal mushrooms.
- Shiitake mushrooms have been used medicinally for over 6,000 years. They are a rich source of protein, vitamins, enzymes and dietary fibre.
One of the amazing things about Shiitake mushrooms is that they’re a natural source of interferon, a protein that appears to induce an immune response against cancer and viral diseases. They also contain germanium, which supports cellular oxygenation and the immune response.
Beta-glucan, a form of natural sugar with powerful immune-boosting and anti-cancer properties, is also found in Shiitake mushrooms. Research going back to the 1940s has demonstrated that the beta-glucan in these mushrooms helps slow down tumour growth and decreases the side effects of traditional cancer treatments like chemotherapy.
- Reishi is used as a tonic to help increase energy, improve digestion, regulate the immune system, support the cardiovascular system, and help alleviate allergy symptoms. In traditional East Asian medicine, 1.5 to 9 grams of dried Reishi (1 level teaspoon is equal to approximately 2.75 grams), prepared as a tea, are recommended for humans each day. The daily amount is divided between the morning and evening. You can do the same for your dog. Small dogs can be given 1 gram of the fruiting body of Reishi, medium-sized dogs 2 grams, and large dogs 3 grams, divided between two meals.
- Maitake mushrooms have been used medicinally for 3,000 years in China and Japan. The Maitake is often referred to as the “King of Mushrooms”. It has an incredible range of healing powers; referred to as an anti-cancer agent, it also helps regulate blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol.
Fruits and vegetables – the brighter the better
Apples are a very rich source of vitamin C. They also contain potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, selenium, iron, manganese, copper, zinc, vitamin A, folate and vitamin E. Red Delicious, Northern Spy, and Ida Red apples contain more potent disease-fighting antioxidants than other red apples.
Blueberries and cranberries contain significant levels of resveratrol, a natural compound with anti-cancer properties. Blueberries are a very rich source of antioxidants that come from anthocyanins, the pigments that give the berries their deep blue colour. Try red raspberries and blackberries too.
Broccoli is a phytonutrient-dense member of the cruciferous family. It contains at least three cancer-protective biochemicals, including sulforaphane, which support the immune system. Broccoli contains lots of vitamin C and beta-carotene, as well as vitamins A and D. Other members of the cruciferous family include Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, rutabagas, kohlrabi, Bok Choy, kale, Swiss chard, collards and turnips. Cooking cruciferous vegetables releases indole, a cancer-fighting enzyme.
Carrots are a powerhouse of nutrients. They contain pro-vitamin A, also known as beta-carotene, vitamins B, C, D, E and K, as well as minerals. They support the immune system, aid digestion, and are also recognized as a glandular tonic.
Green beans are an excellent source of vitamin A because of their concentration of carotenoids, including beta-carotene.
Mangos are a good source of fibre and contain a small amount of protein as well as potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, selenium, copper, zinc and manganese. They are also rich in vitamins A, C, folate and B6.
Pomegranates are a rich source of ellagic acid and also contain the flavonoids anthocyanidin and proanthocyanidin, which have demonstrated reduced tumour angiogenesis in a variety of studies.
Sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamin E as well as beta-carotene, which may be a significant factor in reducing the risk of certain cancers.
Tomatoes have been shown to lower the risk of some kinds of cancer. The secret is lycopene, the chemical that gives tomatoes their bright red colour. Cooked tomatoes contain more lycopene, because cooking breaks down the cellular walls, allowing carotenoids to be more concentrated. To make tomatoes even more beneficial, add a little fat, like cold-pressed virgin olive oil. This allows the lycopene to be even better absorbed into the body.
Watermelon contains 40% more lycopene than tomatoes!
Seaweed is a super food
Seaweeds are among the world’s super foods, and have been part of the human diet for thousands of years. It is estimated that our oceans are home to more than 8,000 species of seaweed.
Kelp is the richest source of trace minerals. Pituitary, adrenal and thyroid glands benefit from these trace minerals. Kelp supports the immune system, helps regulate blood sugar levels, soothes the gastrointestinal tract, and helps alleviate joint pain.
Dried sea vegetables should be stored in dark glass jars or hung in dark dry rooms.
Consider Acadian sea kelp, dulse, kombu, nori, wakame, and Irish moss. Look for sustainably-harvested sundried OCIA* standard sea vegetables that have been tested for heavy metals, herbicides, pesticides, PCBs, fuel oil and bacteriological contaminants.
Supplementing with kelp — suggested dosages
Small dogs – 1/8 teaspoon per day
Medium dogs – 1/4 teaspoon per day
Large dogs – 1/2 teaspoon per day
When purchasing a kelp supplement, check for a current laboratory assay and know the iodine content.
Turmeric — a powerful antioxidant
Turmeric goes by many names, including Curcuma longa and Indian saffron, and it has many medicinal properties that arise from its deep yellow pigment. Turmeric contains a powerful active compound called curcumin, which has been found to be a more powerful antioxidant than vitamin E, providing essential disease-fighting compounds that protect the body by neutralizing free radicals.
An infusion of turmeric is an easy way to make a revitalizing tonic. Simply take 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder, and place it in a strainer in a cup. Fill the cup with freshly boiled filtered water. Cover the cup with a plate and leave it to infuse (steep) for five to ten minutes. One human dose is 500 ml. A quarter of this dose can be used for a small dog; 250 ml is recommended for medium to large dogs, and a full dose for giant breeds.
*Organic Crop Improvement Association, ocia.org – the Canadian regional office is in St. Paul, Alberta.
Shiitake mushroom tea
2 dried Shiitake mushrooms, broken into small pieces
1 cup filtered water
Place Shiitake pieces and filtered water in a small pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for 30 minutes. Strain mushroom bits and cool tea before serving to your dog. One cup of tea is equal to four doses, which can be added to food or drinking water. Shiitake pieces can also be added to your dog’s meals. Store unused tea in the refrigerator.
This is an adaptation of a recipe that comes from Nature’ s Children by Juliette de Bairacli Levy.
2 cups finely grated raw carrot (can also be made with sweet potatoes or yams, or a combination that includes red apples)
6 raw egg yolks
6 tablespoons filtered water
½ teaspoon sea salt or kelp flakes
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¾ cup of a whole grain or pseudo grain like quinoa, teff or chia can also be added to this recipe
Beat the egg yolks, water and salt. Combine the grated carrots with the egg mixture. Grease a casserole dish and pour in the mixture. Bake in a 350°F oven for 30 minutes. Cool, cut in strips and serve.