From colorful fruits and vegetables to mushrooms and seaweed, these amazing cancer-fighting foods are packed full of nutrients.
Cancer is an increasingly common health problem in dogs of all ages. The best way to help prevent cancer from affecting your own canine companion is to give him a healthy lifestyle that includes a nutritious whole foods diet. His diet can be further supplemented with a range of cancer-fighting foods such as mushrooms, colorful fruits and vegetables, fish, seaweed and turmeric.
The medicinal power of mushrooms
There are about 100,000 varieties of mushroom — approximately 700 are used for food, and 50 medicinal properties. Even common varieties contain naturally-occurring antioxidants, including L-ergoothioneine, along with all the B vitamins (except Vitamin B12), copper, phosphorus, potassium and selenium. It has been discovered that common white button mushrooms contain as much free radical-scavenging power as medicinal mushrooms; they support the lungs, spleen and intestines, and are used to treat diarrhea, mucous discharge and vomiting.
- Shiitake mushrooms have been used medicinally for over 6,000 years. They are a rich source of protein, and contain vitamins A, B6 and C, copper, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin, pantothenic acid, potassium, riboflavin, selenium, thiamine, zinc and dietary fiber. Shiitake mushrooms also contain more than 50 enzymes, including pepsin, which aids in digestion.
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 tumor growth and decreases the side effects of traditional cancer treatments like chemotherapy.
Lentian, also found in Shiitakes, is technically classified as a polysaccharide but is often referred to as a branched beta-glucan; it further supports the immune system, helping to fight infection and disease.
- Reishi, the “Grass of Heaven”, is used as a tonic to help increase energy, improve digestion, regulate the immune system, support the cardiovascular system, and help alleviate allergy symptoms. Reishi mushrooms are also rich in polysaccharides, polypeptides, and 16 types of amino acid, coumarin, organic acids and microelements.
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.
Making Reishi tea is simple. Bring filtered water and dried Reishi mushrooms or powder to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. The tea will be quite strong in 20 to 30 minutes, and you can recycle the “grounds” as long as there is color in the tea. Simply add some to your dog’s meals. The tea can be refrigerated for two days. Shake before using.
- 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.
The chemical structure of Maitake’s polysaccharide compound is slightly different from the beta-glucans found in other medicinal mushrooms. Maitake’s D-fraction, the most active form of beta-glucan, has demonstrated strong tumor-suppressant abilities in a number of clinical studies, and also boosts immunity to fight infections more effectively.
Making Maitake tea is just like making Reishi tea. For humans, 2 to 4 grams of dried mushrooms are recommended. Small dogs can have 1/2 gram of Maitake each day, while medium dogs can have 1 gram per day, and large dogs 2 grams per day.
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 color. 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, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, iron, magnesium, manganese, sulphur, copper and iodine. 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. They also contain vitamins C and K, calcium, copper, fibre, folic acid, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, protein, riboflavin, thiamine and Omega 3 fatty acids.
- Mangos are a good source of fiber 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. They also include an abundance of vitamins A, B6, and C, calcium, iron, folate, potassium, copper and thiamine. Sweet potatoes are a rich source of 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 color. 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!
Fish – but be sure to choose the right kind
Fish and shellfish contain high quality protein and offer a variety of other nutritional benefits, including Omega 3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), along with vitamins B2 and D, calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium and potassium. Adding fish to your dog’s diet can have all kinds of benefits, supporting heart health, brain function and eye health, and helping with inflammation.
A word of advice though – leave the raw fish to the experts, and instead serve it cooked or from a can. Some raw fish contain parasites; for example, raw salmon poisoning is caused by a rickettsia that uses a parasite fluke on the salmon as a host.
Try cooked fresh fish or canned wild salmon, sardines and mackerel, packed in water. Remember to choose wild-caught fish over farmed; wild fish tends to contain more Omega 3 essential fatty acids, and is less likely to be contaminated with harmful pollutants.
For fish safety, visit epa.gov/choose-fish-and-shellfish-wisely.
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.
Fresh sea vegetables should be gathered, washed and stored in the refrigerator, and cooked in ceramic pots, glassware or stainless steel. 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 (Organic Crop Improvement Association) standard sea vegetables that have been tested for heavy metals, herbicides, pesticides, PCBs, fuel oil and bacteriological contaminants.
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 provide a revitalizing tonic for your dog. 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.
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
Be very careful when purchasing a kelp supplement. Check for a current laboratory assay and know the iodine content.
Mushroom and meat stew
1 cup fresh Shiitake mushrooms (or other mushroom of your choice), finely chopped or sliced
1 clove garlic, finely minced (optional)
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil or rice bran oil
3 cups cooked whole brown rice or quinoa; Thai jasmine rice can also be used (cook 1 cup of rice with 3 cups of filtered water)
1 pound of protein such as turkey, chicken, beef, bison or lamb
Choose organic ingredients whenever possible. Heat oil in a large pan. Add mushrooms, meat and garlic, and gently cook until tender. Add rice and salt, and combine well.
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.
Turkey tail and turmeric immune booster
1 cup turkey tail mushrooms, finely chopped
3 cups filtered water
1 tablespoon organic turmeric
1½ teaspoons local or Manuka honey
Place chopped turkey tail mushrooms and filtered water in a medium-sized pot. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer for one hour. Remove from heat. Stir in turmeric and honey. Cool and serve.
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.
Fabulous fish cakes
2 pounds ground white fish or salmon
3 whole eggs
2 teaspoons sea salt (optional)
4 tablespoons oatmeal
1/4 cup cold-pressed oil (e.g. olive oil or camelina oil)
3/4 cup filtered water; you can use fish or vegetable stock to replace some or all of the filtered water
Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine all ingredients, except the fish, in a food processor or blender. Turn out into a large mixing bowl. Add fish and combine thoroughly.
Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or lightly grease them. You can make large patties for your canine companion by using an ice cream scoop. Lightly flatten the fish cakes with a fork, before popping them into the oven.
Bake for approximately one hour. Remove from oven and cool completely. Garnish with fresh parsley before serving. Store in the refrigerator or freezer.
This recipe can easily be cut in half, or frozen in small portions for future use.