October is known for fall weather, pumpkin picking, hay rides, and Halloween. Although the weather is slowly getting colder, the community is filled with vibrant moods like the changing leaves. Do you know what else gathers the community together almost as much as trick-or-treating?
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM), an annual campaign that raises awareness for the disease. Breast cancer is the leading form of cancer in women throughout the United States, with almost 200,000 new diagnoses each year (1). NBCAM was instated in 1985 by the American Cancer Society and Imperial Chemical Industries to promote screening of breast cancer through mammograms (2). This month reminds all women, young and old, that there are many strategies for the detection and prevention of breast cancer.
Have you noticed the little pink ribbon that’s associated with NBCAM? It was modeled after the red AIDS awareness ribbon in 1991 by the Susan G. Komen® Foundation. These ribbons were handed out during their New York City survivor races. In 1993, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation was established by Evelyn Lauder, the Senior VP of Estee Lauder, and the ribbon was chosen as the foundation’s symbol (2).
The rest is history!
The formation of cancer is complex, but the processes are quite simple. All of our body’s cells have specific instructions for maturing, multiplying, and expiring. Sometimes these messages get misinterpreted by cells through natural processes or stressors that cause uncontrollable cell reproduction, followed by the formation of tumors. There are certain dietary measures that individuals can take to decrease their risk for developing such issues.
Has mom always told you to eat your fruits and vegetables? She definitely knows what she’s talking about!
The structure of 1 – 2% of our body’s cells can change due to a process known as oxidation. During oxidation, some of our cells’ electrons get stolen by other compounds. The cells then become “unhappy” free radicals. Free radicals need to scavenge the body looking for other cells to replenish their electron supply. Free radicals cause huge frenzies during their search for electrons, and will therefore damage any cells in their paths. Antioxidants sequester free radicals by either lending electrons to free radicals or becoming oxidized themselves. This will satisfy the free radicals and stop any further destruction to the body’s cells.
And that, ladies and gentleman, is just one reason why you need to eat your fruits and vegetables!
Fun Fact: Dark, leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli are specifically important for breast cancer prevention. These vegetables contain a compound called glucobrassicin that gets digested into Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C). IC3 blocks the attachment of abnormal proteins that are associated with estrogen-dependent breast cancer (3).
Citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes, artichokes, apples, and carrots are just a handful of fruits and vegetables that contain antioxidants.
Olive oil also has some antioxidant properties as well, making it the perfect medium for my Think Pink Olive Oil Cupcakes. The main antioxidant in olive oil is known as oleuropein. This antioxidant has been studied for its anti-metastatic properties in breast and other cancers (4). This is one reason why the Mediterranean diet has become highly researched.
Unfortunately, finding good quality olive oil can be a challenge. Many olive oil products are processed with other forms of oil to keep up with supply and demand. It’s best to find a local store specializing in the sale of olive oil, or a trusted brand at your local supermarket.
Olive oils are actually graded by acidity levels. A higher grade means that the oil is less acidic. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the highest quality olive oil. It has no more than 0.8% acid, and made without chemicals or heat. The olives are mechanically pressed into a paste before the oil can be extracted. Extra Virgin Olive Oil therefore has the strongest flavor. The taste of extra virgin olive oil will vary by region. Virgin olive oil is processed in the same manner, but is allowed to have up to 2% acid. Olive Oil and Pure Olive Oil are blends of virgin olive oil with refined, or highly processed, olive oils. About 3/4 of olive oil sold in the US is actually from this class. Light olive oil is refined and lighter in color, but contains the same amount of calories as all olive oils. Refined olive oils are highly processed to remove impurities, and have the highest acidity and blandest taste (5).
Many chefs will tell you that they use refined olive oil in their baked goods since the taste cannot be detected. I wanted the olive oil to shine, so I used an extra virgin olive oil from Spain for these cupcakes.
I topped off the olive oil cupcakes with some pink champagne frosting. Breast cancer patients and survivors deserve a huge toast during this month!
For the cupcakes: 1 cup olive oil, 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar, ¼ cup honey, 1 tbsp vanilla extract, ½ cup sour cream (not fat-free), ½ cup 2% milk, 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, ½ tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder, ½ tsp sea salt, ½ tbsp ground cinnamon, 1 tbsp ground black pepper, 4 large eggs
Black pepper gives the cupcakes a punch of heat, and adds even more antioxidants from a component called piperine. Piperine gives black pepper its well-known pungency.
For the frosting: 2 tbsp butter, 4 tbsp coconut oil, 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tbsp vanilla extract, 5 tbsp pink or rose champagne
Cream together the olive oil, sugar, and honey in a large bowl using a whisk. Add 1 tbsp vanilla extract. Whisk in the sour cream and milk until a smooth texture is formed. Mix in the flour, half a cup at a time, followed by the baking soda, baking powder, sea salt, ground cinnamon, and ground black pepper. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, until they are fully incorporated in the batter.
Once the cupcakes are completed, place them on a cooling rack and set them aside.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and coconut oil together. Cream in the powdered sugar 1/4 cup at a time. Mix in the vanilla extract and champagne.
Frost the cupcakes once they are cooled, and add any other toppings as desired. I put some sprinkles on my cupcakes to give them an extra pop of pink.
Now that you’ve turned up the pink, take some time to enjoy these cupcakes with loved ones.
They act as a perfect reminder for breast cancer awareness and prevention.
1. Cox JT, Chapman-Novakofski K., Thomson CA. Nutrition and Women’s Health. Practice Paper of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2012:1-15.
2. The History of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Care Cycle Solutions. Available at http://www.carecyclesolutions.net/partners-press/history-breast-cancer-awareness-month. Accessed October 20, 2014.
3. Marconett CN, Singhal AK, Sundar SN, Firestone GL. Indole-3-Carbinol disrupts estrogen receptor-alpha dependent expression of insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor and insulin receptor substrate-1 and proliferation of human breast cancer cells. Mol Cell Endocrinol. Nov 5, 2012;363(0): 74-78. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3684449/. Accessed September 3, 2014.
4. Hassan et. al. Oleuropein induces anti-metastatic effects in breast cancer. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2012;13(9):4555-9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23167379. Accessed October 25, 2014.
5. Brown, AC. Understanding Food 4th Edition. Wadsworth Publishing; 2010. Print.