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Can Your Diet Prevent Cancer?

November 18, 2016 | By Lisa Schwenk
Published in: Cancer, Nutrition, Question Answer

Pumpkin Stew - courtesy of American Institute for Cancer Research

Mary Beth Landes, MS RD CSO
Mary Beth Landes MS RD CSO

Information provided by Mary Beth Landes, MS, RD, CSO—Oncology Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Navigator in the Augusta Health Cancer Center. To contact Mary Beth, please call (540) 332-5522 or email mlandes [at]

There is a plethora of information about food available these days. There are questions not only about which foods are "healthy" or "not so healthy" to consume, but also about how food is grown and prepared. This information may help you to reduce cancer risk reduction and to eat proactively to improve overall health.

With fall upon us, this recipe for Spiced Pumpkin Stew from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) includes multiple cancer-fighting foods and showcases how tasty they can be when combined for a delicious meal to eat on a chilly day.

There is no better time of the year to use pumpkin. With its fiber and carotenoid content in addition to antioxidant vitamins A and C; pumpkin is a powerhouse in providing food components to fend off cancer and heart disease as well as protect vision, skin, and the immune system. Fiber and antioxidants can also be found in the black beans and corn, with vision protecting phytochemicals lutein and zeaxanthin available in the corn.

Peppers are a good source of Vitamin C and fiber as well as phytochemicals that reduce cancer risk and promote vision health. Onions and garlic are from the allium family of vegetables that have been studied for their role in reducing the risk of stomach, prostate, bladder, and colon cancers.

Remember to add spices to enhance the flavor of your recipes. The cumin used in this recipe has historically been used to treat digestive upset, but is now also thought to contain agents that fight inflammation in the body that can lead to a variety of ailments, including cancer.

Requests are often made for a recommendation for the one best food to consume for overall health. In actuality, there is no one absolute best food. There are foods that are deemed "cancer fighters" that can be found on the AICR website, but at the end of the day, it is how all of the ingredients in foods act together synergistically that is the biggest weapon in our arsenal for improved health. The next time you are wondering what to have for dinner, look for recipes that contain a variety of whole food ingredients; spices; and bright, vibrant natural colors.

Eat for a healthier you!

Spiced Pumpkin Stew

Pumpkin is everywhere – in coffee, desserts, and even mac and cheese. And there are quite a few reasons to indulge in this fall staple. Pumpkins are rich in vitamin A, specifically beta-carotene, a potent antioxidant that gives the squash its bright orange hue. They're also rich in fiber and make an excellent base for hearty stews like this one.


  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin (curry powder may be substituted)
  • 1 (15 oz.) can pureed pumpkin (2 cups fresh may be substituted)
  • 1 (15 oz.) can black beans, no salt added, drained
  • 1 (15 oz.) can yellow corn kernels, no salt added, drained (1-1½ cups fresh or frozen may be substituted)
  • 1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, no salt added
  • 2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (vegetable may be substituted)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup plain, low-fat yogurt, optional


In large saucepan warm oil over medium heat. Stir in peppers, onion and garlic and sauté about 6 minutes until peppers and onion soften. Stir in cumin and continue to cook 1-2 minutes.

Pour in pumpkin, beans, corn, tomatoes and broth. Add 1 teaspoon cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to boil then reduce heat. Cover and simmer 25 minutes.

Divide stew among four bowls and garnish with cilantro and yogurt, if desired.

Nutrition Information

Makes 4 servings

Per 2 cup serving: 301 calories, 5 g total fat (1 g saturated fat), 57 g carbohydrate, 14 g protein, 14 g dietary fiber, 307 mg sodium.

Source: American Institute for Cancer Research