Monday, August 16, 2010

Avocados are the fruit from the Persea Americana, a tall evergreen tree that can grow up to 65 feet in height. There are dozens of varieties of avocadoes, which fall into three main categories-Mexican, Guatemalean, and West Indian-which differ in their size, appearance, quality and susceptibility to cold. The most popular type of avocado in the United States is the Hass variety, which has rugged, pebbly brown-black skin. Another common type of avocado is the Fuerte, which is larger than the Hass and has smooth, dark green skin and a more defined pear shape.

Avocados vary in weight from 8 ounces to 3 pounds depending upon the variety. The edible portion of the avocado is its yellow-green flesh, which has a luscious, buttery consistency and a subtle nutty flavor. The skin and pit are inedible.

Prostate Cancer Prevention
Avocados have been shown to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer.

Oral Cancer Defense
Research has shown that certain compounds in avocados are able to seek out pre-cancerous and cancerous oral cancer cells and destroy them without harming healthy cells.

Breast Cancer Protection
Avocado, like olive oil, is high in oleic acid, which has been shown to prevent breast cancer in numerous studies.

Eye Health
Avocados have more of the carotenoid lutein than any other commonly consumed fruit. Lutein protects against macular degeneration and cataracts, two disabling age-related eye diseases.

Lower Cholesterol
Avocados are high in beta-sitosterol, a compound that has been shown to lower cholesterol levels. In one study, 45 volunteers experienced an average drop in cholesterol of 17% after eating avocados for only one week.

Heart Health
One cup of avocado has 23% of the recommended daily value of folate. Studies show that people who eat diets rich in folate have a much lower incidence of heart disease than those who don't. The vitamin E, monounsaturated fats, and glutathione in avocado are also great for your heart.

Stroke Prevention
The high levels of folate in avocado are also protective against strokes. People who eat diets rich in folate have a much lower risk of stroke than those who don't.

Better Nutrient Absorption
Research has found that certain nutrients are absorbed better when eaten with avocado. In one study, when participants ate a salad containing avocados, they absorbed five times the amount of carotenoids (a group of nutrients that includes lycopene and beta carotene) than those who didn't include avocados.

Glutathione Source
Avocados are an excellent source of glutathione, an important antioxidant that researchers say is important in preventing aging, cancer, and heart disease.

Vitamin E Powerhouse
Avocados are the best fruit source of vitamin E, an essential vitamin that protects against many diseases and helps maintains overall health


The benefits of dietary fiber and its ability to reduce cholesterol. But how does fiber work? Does more fiber in your diet actually lower cholesterol levels?

What causes high cholesterol?

Cholesterol is unique in that your body produces it, yet you also consume it in your diet. As cholesterol is necessary to perform everyday bodily processes, your body instructs your liver to produce it. As a result, it is entirely possible that you could avoid consuming cholesterol, and still register as having high cholesterol. Some people's bodies are simply genetically predisposed to make a lot of cholesterol; it doesn't matter whether they eat a perfect diet or are a healthy weight. Other people get high cholesterol because of poor diet and lifestyle choices.

Fiber helps the body gather and eliminate cholesterol

Dietary fiber binds bile, fatty acids, and blood cholesterol together into a large package of waste. Because it makes stool bulkier, fiber promotes easier bowel movements, and helps transport cholesterol out of your body.

Fiber decreases cholesterol production levels in the liver

Your body does not actually digest dietary fiber. Instead, soluble fiber sits in your large intestine where it is fermented by bacteria. During fermentation, some free fatty acids are produced. The process is not entirely understood, but one of these fatty acids travels to your liver and tells it to produce less cholesterol, resulting in a reduction of total cholesterol levels.

Recommended dietary fiber intake

Regardless of the physiological process for reducing cholesterol; you should increase your dietary fiber intake if you have high cholesterol. Daily requirements for women and men are 25 grams and 38 grams, respectively. Excellent sources of fiber include fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads, dried peas, lentils, and beans.

Another important dietary approach for cholesterol management is to reduce your saturated fat intake. This means eating less junk food and animal fat, specifically those found in meats and full-fat dairy products.

Ensuring you eat enough fiber

An easy way to meet fiber requirements and lower cholesterol is to split your daily fiber intake evenly into 5 mini-meals. If you eat between 5 to 8 grams of fiber at each of your 3 small meals and 2 snacks, your fiber goals should be easily achievable.



        Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the United States. It is the only cancer that strikes men and women almost equally. In 2000, colorectal cancer will account for 10% of all new cancers and 10% of all cancer deaths in the United States (1). Worldwide there is a 20-fold variance in incidence rates of colorectal cancer. In general, the variance has been attributed to dietary and environmental differences. In a 1971 landmark study, Burkitt (2) concluded that the low incidence of colorectal cancer in Africa was due to high dietary fiber intake. Thus began an odyssey of epidemiological studies around the world to verify Burkitt’s findings. Several studies published in the last decade are reviewed here in an effort to determine whether the generally accepted theory that high fiber diets exert a protective effect against the development of adenomatous polyps and colorectal cancer is still valid.

Causes of Colon Cancer

Colorectal cancer is a slow developing cancer that may be asymptomatic and therefore remain undiagnosed for several years after initial development. The cancer can develop in any of the four sections of the colon or the rectum. Adenomatous polyps are thought to be precursors of cancer development and they may provide information on the initiation phase of malignant cell proliferation. Ninety-five percent of colorectal cancers are adenocarcinoma (3).

Dietary Fiber: Intake vs. Outcome

Several studies have investigated total dietary fiber intake, fiber intake from specific food sources, and the components of dietary fiber to uncover clearly defined relationships to colorectal adenomatous polyps and/or cancer (1, 4-14).

Total Dietary Fiber

Platz et al. (4) investigated dietary fiber and its relationship to colorectal adenoma in men. This prospective cohort study was based on data collected from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. The cohort was followed for 8 years and diet was assessed at baseline with a 131-item semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire (SFFQ). When comparing the highest quintile of intake (32.3 g/day) to the lowest (11.6 g/day), total dietary fiber had a significant inverse relationship to the risk of colorectal adenoma of the distal colon. Increasing intakes of total dietary fiber also had a significant inverse association with the development of incident polyps of the distal colon. Similarly, a case-control study conducted by Neugut et al. (5) found that intake of total dietary fiber, highest quartile (> 18.8 g/day) compared with the lowest quartile (<11.2 g/day), had a significant inverse relation to the risk of recurrent colorectal adenomatous polyps in women but not in men.

In addition, Giovanucci et al. (6), reporting results of an earlier evaluation of data from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, and Negri et al. (7), whose casecontrol study investigated cancer of the colon and rectum, both concluded that total dietary fiber exerted a protective effect against the development of adenomatous polyps and colorectal cancer. In contrast, Peters et al. (8) published results from a case-control study of men and women from Los Angeles County, California. The study subjects were age, sex, race and neighborhood matched. The diet of the subjects was assessed over the previous 15 years. They found no relationship between total dietary fiber intake and the risk of colon cancer.

Generally, most case-control studies assess diet from two to three years previous to diagnosis in order to get the most accurate recall possible. This is the case in the Neugut et al. (5) and Negri et al. (7) studies. The probability of recall bias in the Peters et al. (8) study, assessed over 15 years, seems quite likely. Overall, these studies suggest that total dietary fiber is protective against the development of colorectal adenomatous polyps and cancer.

In an effort to further delineate what specific food groups provide a protective effect, several studies (4, 6-12) investigated the food sources of dietary fiber. The main dietary contributors of fiber are fruits, vegetables, legumes and cereals/grains.

Fruit Fiber

Negri et al. (7) conducted a large retrospective case-control study in which cases and controls were compared from several teaching and general hospitals in Italy. The groups were unmatched but multivariate analysis of the data controlled for several potentially confounding variables. The study had 96% participation and diet was assessed during 2 years pre-diagnosis, using a 78-item interview administered food frequency questionnaire (FFQ). High fruit fiber intake (13.38 g/d) vs. low intake had a significant inverse relationship to cancer of the colon, rectum, and colon/rectum.

Sandler et al. (9) reported similar results in women. Researchers recruited cases and controls from patients who underwent a colonoscopy. Diet was assessed, during 1 year pre-diagnosis, via a 117-item quantitative FFQ. Fruit intake (high > 22.3 servings /week vs. low < 8.4 servings/week) had a significant inverse relationship to the risk of colorectal adenoma. In addition, the authors also reported a significant inverse trend with intake (high > 8.81 g/d vs. low < 3.99 g/d) of fiber from fruits and vegetables combined. In agreement with these findings, Platz et al. (4) reported significant findings in men with fruit fiber intake (8.4 g/d vs. 1.3 g/d) and adenomatous polyps of the distal colon.

The findings of Peters et al. (8) and Le Marchand et al. (10) do not support the findings of Negri et al. (7) and Sandler et al. (9). Both studies were case-control designs. Peters et al. (8) reported no protective effect of fruit against the development of colon cancer and Le Marchand et al. (10) had similar findings when looking at the relationship of non-starch polysaccharide (NSP) from fruit to colorectal cancer in men and in women.

It may be noted that there is a mixture of results in the literature, and that these studies show associations - not cause and effect. As discussed previously, the results from Peters et al. (8) may suffer from dietary recall bias. The other studies discussed are comparable. There does appear to be an association between increasing fruit intake and fruit fruit fiber in particular, and decreased incidence of adenomatous polyps and/or colorectal cancer. More research is necessary in this area to clarify if any particular constituent of fruit is more protective than another.

Vegetable Fiber

Le Marchand et al. (10) conducted a large case-control study using subjects from Hawaii. The researchers matched cases and controls for age, sex and ethnicity. The subjects’ diets were assessed using a 282-item FFQ and the study had a 66% participation rate. The reference period for the FFQ was 3 years prior to onset of symptoms for the cases and before the interview for controls. Dietary fiber from the various food sources was measured using enzymatic chemical methods and reported as non-starch polysaccharide (NSP) using these methods.

NSP from vegetables had a significant inverse relationship with the risk of developing colorectal cancer. Comparison between high (5.3 g/d) vs. low (2.7 g/d) intake for men and women showed a significant inverse trend. Le Marchand et al. (10) then analyzed NSP intake by subsite of cancer occurrence. In men, NSP from vegetables had a significant inverse trend in relation to cancer of the rectum and, in women, NSP from vegetables showed a significant inverse trend in relation to cancer of the right colon and left colon. In agreement with Le Marchand et al. (10), Caygill et al. (11) assessed data available through the Food and Agricultural Organization and reported an inverse trend in colorectal cancer with respect to intake in the current diet as compared to intake 20 years previous (slope -2.23). Thun et al. (12) reported on results from the Cancer Prevention II study. In this report the large cohort was used for a case-control analysis. Vegetable, citrus and high-fiber grains together had an inverse association to the risk for colon cancer.

The findings of Fuchs et al. (1) do not agree with the previously discussed findings on vegetable fiber. The authors analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study, a prospective cohort study, which compiled data from women over 16 years. Diet was analyzed three times, in 1980, 1984 and 1986. The SFFQs had 61, 121 and 136 items, respectively. Comparisons of vegetable fiber were made between high (10.0 g/d) and low (2.7 g/d) intake. Vegetable fiber was associated with a significant increase in the risk of colorectal cancer. Their results were based on analysis of the food intake information from the 1980 SFFQ that had only 61 items. The cohort studies and most of the case-control studies reviewed used questionnaires with over 100 food items. This may have resulted in an underrepresentation from a variety of vegetables sources, which in turn may have underestimated intake and increased the relationship to risk.

With the exception of the Nurses’ Health Study (1), the studies reviewed reported strong significant inverse trends, which strongly suggests that vegetable fiber is protective against colorectal adenomas and cancer.


As mentioned, Thun et al. (12) reported a decreased risk of colon cancer with a combination intake of vegetable, citrus and high fiber grains. Several studies (1, 4, 6- 8, 10,11) looked at cereal and grain independent of other food sources of fiber.

Giovanucci et al. (6) analyzed data compiled in the Health Professionals Followup Study. The study investigated dietary fiber and its relationship to colorectal adenoma in men. Diet was assessed at baseline with a 131 item SFFQ. Fiber from grains had a significant inverse relationship with the development of colorectal adenomas in men. The results were based on a comparison of high intake (> 10.6 g/ d) vs. low intake ( < 2.8 g/d). Platz et al. (4), reporting on the same cohort after data was collected for an additional 6 years, found no association between grain fiber intake and colorectal adenomas. There are several possible explanations for the different results. The earlier study assessed the data using a limited number of confounders. Also several additional risk factors have been identified in the years since Giovanucci et al. (6) reported their findings. Platz et al. (4) adjusted for these confounders in their assessment of the cohort’s diet recalls. The smaller number of cases reported at the 2 years follow-up vs. 8 years also may have contributed to inexact conclusions.

Caygill et al. (11) reported a significant inverse association between cereal intake and the risk of colorectal cancer in women. In addition to the null findings of Platz et al. (4), other studies (3, 8,10) also reported no association between intake of fiber from cereals and grains and the risk of colorectal adenomas and cancer.

In contrast, Negri et al. (7), analyzing data from a case-control study previously outlined, reported a significant positive relationship between grain fiber, high intake (6.54 g/d) compared to low intake (3.3 g/d), and cancer of the colon and colon/ rectum combined.

Given the substantial studies with null results and the remainder with varying positive and negative results there is little evidence that cereal fiber exerts a protective effect with respect to the development of colorectal adenomas and cancer.

Fiber Components

Fiber from food sources has been researched extensively. However the measurable components, i.e. soluble, insoluble, pectin, cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin, have not been as extensively covered in the literature. The components may hold a clue to further explain the relationship between plant foods, mainly fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and colorectal cancer. Four recently published studies (4,7,10,13) reported findings on the effect of fiber components and the risk of colorectal adenoma or cancer in men and women.

Soluble Fiber

Slattery et al. (13) published results of a population based case-control study conducted in the United States. Diet was assessed for two years prior to diagnosis for cases or date of selection for controls. Soluble fiber had a significant inverse relationship in men over 67 years old when comparing the highest quintile of intake (> 11.7g/d) with the lowest quintile of intake ( < 5.6 g/d). In addition, soluble fiber was inversely associated with cancer of the proximal colon in women.

In agreement with Slattery et al. (13), Platz et al. (4) found soluble fiber, high intake (9.4 g/d) versus low intake (3.4 g/ d), had a significant inverse relationship with adenomatous polyps of the distal colon. Two other case-control studies (7,10) also reported inverse relationships. Pectin. Only Slattery et al. (13) measured pectin intake and found pectin had a significant inverse trend in relation to the risk of colon cancer. Specifically, it was found protective in all male subjects, in males over 67 years old, and in men with cancer of the proximal colon.

Insoluble Fiber

Slattery et al. (13) reported that insoluble fiber exerted a 30% decreased risk of development of colon cancer for all female subjects and a 50% decreased risk for cancer of the proximal colon in woman. In addition, Negri et al. (7) also showed an inverse relationship in men and women for colorectal cancer. In contrast, Platz, et al. (4) found no inverse relationship. Cellulose. Platz et al. (4) found increased consumption of cellulose (8.6 g/d versus 3.0 g/d) was inversely related to the risk of development of adenomatous polyps in the distal colon. In agreement with Platz et al. (4), LeMarchand et al. (10) reported a significant inverse relationship of cellulose to colorectal cancer for men and women. Negri et al. (7) also found an inverse relationship with the development of colorectal cancer.

The remainder of the components, hemicellulose and lignin either were not measured or showed no significant trend in relation to colorectal adenoma or cancer. Given the small sampling of studies available for the components of fiber and their relationship to colorectal adenomas and cancer, it may be cautiously concluded that souble fiber, including pectin, as well as insoluble fiber, including cellulose, exerts a protective effect. However, further research must be conducted to clarify the relationships.


The key to developing an overall conclusion about the relationship between dietary fiber and colorectal adenomas and cancer is to look at the studies in aggregate. No single study can account for all the variation in human diets, accurately measure all variables and account for all confounders (14). Therefore, one must be cautious when interpreting the results of a highly publicized study such as Fuchs et al. (1).

Table 1 summarizes the findings of all the studies reviewed in this paper. The scope of this paper did not permit a comprehensive review, however, the studies selected were those felt to be best designed and those whose primary objective was to identify the relationship between dietary fiber and colon cancer. The table includes both significant and non-significant results. The inclusion of all studies is important because epidemiologic studies report results as trends. An inverse or positive non-significant result often lends support to significant findings or leads researchers to expand investigations based on trends. Therefore, they should be considered when assessing results from several studies.

This review of the current literature presented both case-control and cohort study designs in approximately equal proportions. Eight of the 15 studies presented were case-control and 6 of the 15 were cohort designs. The results may be viewed in aggregate because the information is reported across an equal variety of epidemiologic methodologies.

Total dietary fiber was inversely associated with colorectal adenomas and/or cancer in 73% of the studies, fruit fiber in 77% of the studies, and vegetable fiber in 66% of the studies (Table 1). Cereal/grain fiber was found protective in 36% of the studies but the null hypothesis or no effect was found for cereal fiber in 45% of the studies. Therefore, based on the aggregate review of these studies, intakes of fruit fiber, vegetable fiber and total dietary fiber are inversely related to the development of colorectal adenomas and cancer. The results for cereal fiber are not consistent, therefore no conclusion may be made.

Although the studies are few, it may also be cautiously concluded that soluble and insoluble components of fiber exert a protective effect against the development of colorectal adenomas and cancer (Table 2). An important point to make is that fruits, vegetables and cereal/grains are the main sources of these fiber components in the human diet.

In an early finding from the Nurses’ Health Study (17), intake of red meat was significantly associated with the risk of colon cancer. Although Fuchs et al. (1) did not find a relationship between fiber and colon cancer, women who reported higher fiber intake had fewer servings of beef, pork or lamb/week. Increasing fruit, vegetable and grain intake and decreasing red meat intake is still an appropriate recommendation.

As our knowledge of food composition continues to expand, we may find other components, e.g., antioxidants, isoflavones, carotenoids, in these foods to be anticarcinogenic (19). Although additional research is warranted to further delineate the specific components of each food that may impart a protective effect upon the endothelial lining of the colon and rectum, food pattern analyses are still useful in that they allow for interaction effects of multiple qualities in whole foods. Steinmetz and Potter (19) list the many possible anticarcinogenic mechanisms of substances in fruits and vegetables, including the alteration of bacterial flora, bile acid composition, pH, and fecal bulk. Fruit and vegetable fiber and cereal fiber likely complement each other in the prevention of cancer. Cereal fiber also binds bile acids reducing transit time and increasing stool bulk. Bile acids are then fermented to short-chain fatty acids which lowers colonic pH and inhibits the conversion of primary to secondary bile acids. The secondary bile acids are thought to promote carcinogenesis.

Implications for Practice

Based on the results reported in this paper, dietetics professionals should remain committed to the 5 a Day for Better Health program. Both vegetarians and non-vegetarians with adequate intake will benefit from fruit and vegetable fiber. Continued advocacy of a diet high in fiber, with a dietary goal of 20-35 grams per day, is recommended


        Concern over the possibility that soy consumption could actually stimulate breast tumor growth has led to much confusion among oncologists and other health professionals, and to frustration and even trepidation, among breast cancer patients. This is particularly ironic, because unarguably, it was excitement over the hypothesized anticancer effects of soy, an area first funded by the National Cancer Institute in 1991, which initially drew attention to the health effects of soyfoods (1).

This article attempts to briefly highlight those studies most pertinent to this controversy so that dietitians are better able to advise their clients about this issue.

The low breast cancer mortality rates in soyfood-consuming countries, particularly Japan, combined with the knowledge that weak estrogens, such as the soybean isoflavones, can exert antiestrogenic effects in some situations, logically led to speculation that soy might reduce breast cancer risk. Isoflavones, which are found in nutritionally relevant amounts only in soybeans, have a similar chemical structure to estrogen but have traditionally beenconsidered to be weak estrogens. Early support for the protective effects of soy against breast cancer came in the form of an animal study published in 1990, which reported that rats fed diets containing soy developed approximately 50% fewer chemically-induced mammary tumors than control rats (2). One year later, a case-control study conducted in Singapore reported that soy intake was associated with an approximate 50% reduction in premenopausal breast cancer risk (3).

The Case Against Soy

There is a clear consensus that greater lifelong exposure to estrogen increases breast cancer risk. The estrogen-like properties of soybean isoflavones therefore provide a basis for concern about soy consumption by breast cancer patients. In fact, although often overlooked, early on it was established that at low concentrations, genistein, the main isoflavone in soybeans, actually stimulates the growth of estrogen-receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer cells in vitro (4). The growth of ER+ breast cancer cells is stimulated by estrogen. Breast cancer patients can have a mix of estrogen receptor negative (ER-) and ER+ cells, but typically, one type of cell predominates and this determines treatment (5). ER+ breast cancer patients respond well to tamoxifen, an antiestrogen, which is the most widely prescribed breast cancer drug (6). Survival rates of ER+ breast cancer patients generally exceed those of ER- patients (7,8). Genistein does not stimulate the growth of ER-cells, and at high concentrations, the growth of both ER+ and ER- cells is inhibited by genistein (9). The proposed explanation for this biphasic effect is that at low concentrations the estrogenlike properties of genistein stimulate growth, whereas at higher concentrations, the ability of genistein to influence molecules that control cell growth, differentiation, and survival, results in growth inhibition. However, it is the lower concentrations that more closely reflect the serum genistein concentrations in people who eat soyfoods. The one animal study that markedly raised awareness of the potential detrimental effects of soy was published in 1998 by Helferich and colleagues, and found that in ovariectomized immune-compromised rats implanted with ER+ breast cancer cells, mammary tumor growth is stimulated when animals are fed diets to which genistein has been added (10). Although a pharmacological dose of genistein (750 ppm) was used in this study, serum genistein levels in these mice were comparable to those found in people eating soyfoods. However, for several reasons, the applicability of this particular experimental model to humans has been questioned. One element of the study design that brought criticism from nutrition scientists was that isolated genistein, rather than soy, or even a combination of isoflavones as found in soy, was added to the diet. However, this criticism has been directly addressed in a follow-up study. In recently published research, Helferich and colleagues found that soy protein isolate containing varying amounts of genistein stimulated tumor growth to the same extent as comparable amounts of isolated genistein (11).

Two human studies, one published in 1996, and the other in 1998, made it difficult to ignore concerns about soy, because both studies suggested soy exerts weak estrogenic effects on breast tissue. In the first study by Petrakis et al., breast nipple aspirate fluid secretion increased over a 5 month period during which time women had consumed 38 g of soy protein isolate per day (12). Furthermore, soy intake was associated with a higher percentage of hyperplastic cells in these women. Both results suggested a possible increased breast cancer risk based on previous epidemiologic observations. In the second study, after two weeks of consuming 60 g textured vegetable protein per day, McMicheal-Phillips found that breast cell proliferation (based on biopsies) increased markedly in premenopausal women (13). However, this initial report was a preliminary analysis and involved only 48 subjects. In the final analysis by Hargreaves et al., involving all 84 subjects, no effects on cell proliferation were noted nor were there changes in several other markers of estrogenicity (14). But levels of pS2, a protein upregulated by estrogen, did significantly increase. Consequently, the investigators concluded that soy exerted weak estrogenic effects on breast tissue but that the long-term implications of this effect were unclear.

The Case For Soy

Epidemiologic studies conducted in Asia generally do not show that the adult consumption of soy reduces postmenopausal breast cancer risk but the low rate of breast cancer mortality in Japan and the superior prognosis of Japanese breast cancer patients in comparison to patients of other ethnic groups are observations often cited as support for soy intake being beneficial, or at the very least, not being harmful, for breast cancer patients. However, these kinds of data do not specifically address the effect of soy. Arguably, breast cancer rates might be even lower, and prognosis even better, if soy was not part of the Japanese diet. Furthermore, women in Japan consume soy throughout their lives, which may have a very different effect than first consuming soy only after having been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Animal studies generally show that the addition of soy protein or isoflavones to a typical laboratory diet reduces chemically-induced mammary tumorigenesis, although the effects are somewhat inconsistent and often not particularly robust (15,16). No studies show increased mammary tumorigenesis when soy is fed to adult animals. However, with few exceptions, the animal studies address tumor development, not effects on existing tumors. Thus, their relevance to breast cancer patients is unclear. An important exception is a study by Shao et al. They found that when intact (with a uterus) immunecompromised mice were implanted with ER+ breast cancer cells, genistein injections actually decreased mammary tumor development (17). These findings are in contrast to those by Helferich and colleagues cited previously (10,11). Shao et al. did inject genistein, which raises questionsabout extrapolating the results to humans, but recent data by Zhou et al. show that in intact mice, dietary genistein also inhibits mammary tumor growth (18).

The primary difference between the two studies in which genistein was protective, and the studies by Helferich and colleagues in which genistein and soy protein isolate were tumorigenic (10,11), is that in the latter studies, mice were ovariectomized. This suggests that in a low-estrogen (ovariectomized mice) environment such as may exist in postmenopausal women, genistein has proliferative and possibly estrogenic effects, whereas in a high-estrogen environment, such as may exist in premenopausal women, it is antiproliferative and possibly antiestrogenic. Overall however, the antiestrogenic effects of soy have not been easy to demonstrate. Furthermore, Shao et al. found that genistein inhibited the growth of ER- cells in vivo, which suggests that the antiproliferative effects of genistein may not be due to antiestrogenic effects even in the case of ER+ cells (17). In any event, it is unlikely that the results of animal studies can resolve the complex issue of soy consumption by breast cancer survivors.

Recently, two studies looked at the effects of isoflavone supplements on breast tissue density. Breast tissue density is an excellent marker of breast cancer risk. Density is increased in response to stimuli that increase risk, such as hormone replacement therapy HRT), and is decreased in response to compounds that decrease breast cancer risk, such as tamoxifen and raloxifene (19). In one yearlong study, isoflavone (100 mg/day) supplements had no effect on breast tissue density in premenopausal women (20), and in the other yearlong study, isoflavone 40 mg/day) supplements actually decreased breast tissue density in women 56-65 years of age (21). Thus, these studies suggest soy does not increase, and may decrease, breast cancer risk. Of course, both studies were conducted in healthy women, not breast cancer patients.

Lessons from HRT

The relationship between HRT and breast cancer risk is unclear. Fortunately, the results from several recently conducted prospective studies have done much to clarify this relationship. These studies indicate that the combination hormones (some form of estrogen in combination with a progestin) markedly increase risk, as much as 2-3fold over the course of a women’s lifetime, whereas estrogen by itself, raises risk only slightly (22). This suggests that soy, which at most only possesses estrogen-like activity (23), and may even lower serum progesterone levels (24), is not likely to increase breast cancer risk in healthy women. But again, the question arises as to whether this conclusion is relevant to breast cancer patients. However, the HRT data may provide some answers to this question as well. Although many oncologists recommend against their patients using HRT, this position is not without controversy and recent studies have been unable to demonstrate that HRT decreases survival in breast cancer patients (25). Thus, since there are no convincing data that HRT has a detrimental effect on the survival of breast cancer patients, it seems highly unlikely that soy would.


Only intervention studies in which the effect of soy consumption on the survival of Western breast cancer patients is examined can definitely determine whether soyfoods are contraindicated for such women. Because this type of research is difficult and expensive to conduct, and may not be approved for ethical reasons, it is unlikely that such trials will be forthcoming. Furthermore, even if this research was undertaken, the results would not be known for many years. Alternatively, some insight may be gained by studying the effects of soy on markers of breast cancer risk in both healthy women and breast cancer survivors. Unfortunately, Asian epidemiologic studies focused on diet and the survival of breast cancer patients may not help to resolve this issue because these studies would involve subjects who have consumed soy throughout their life, not beginning as an adult after having been diagnosed with breast cancer. Until further data are available, in the opinion of this author, the evidence does not justify recommending that breast cancer patients who enjoy partaking of soyfoods stop doing so, nor do they justify recommending that breast cancer patients specifically begin soy consumption solely for the purpose of preventing recurrence and enhancing survival. Therefore soy intake recommendations for breast cancer patients are similar to those for healthy women. Overall the evidence suggests that the intake of approximately 15 g (range, 10 to 25 g) of soy protein and 50 mg (range, 30 to 100 mg) of isoflavones per day is safe and has the potential to exert health benefits. This amount of soy protein and isoflavones is provided by approximately two servings of traditional soy foods.

Is it a matter of dose and form of soy?

Often statements about breast cancer patients and soy emphasize that only large amounts of soy or pills are likely to be harmful. However, the evidence does not appear to be consistent with this perspective. In the study by Petrakis et al. cited previously in the case against soy, subjects consumed 38 g of soy protein isolate per day, which provided about 80 mg of isoflavones. This is certainly a significant amount of soy protein, far more than the approximately 8-10 g Japanese women typically consume (26). However, the more relevant issue is the 80 mg of isoflavones. This amount is found in only about 2-3 servings of soy, and is only a little more than twice the average daily intake in Japan. Thus, this would not be considered excessive isoflavone exposure. Furthermore, in the other human study that raised concerns by Hargreaves et al., subjects consumed 60 g of textured vegetable protein that contained only 45 mg (the amount found in about 5 ounces of tofu) of isoflavones per day, a rather modest amount (14). Also, as already mentioned, in vitro, higher genistein concentrations inhibit the growth of ER+ breast cells, whereas lower concentrations are stimulatory. Therefore, if soy is problematic, the problem is not specifically a result of excessive consumption. In regard to pills versus soyfoods, as noted above, the two human studies raising most concern used soy protein, not isolated isoflavones. Furthermore, in ovariectomized mice, soy protein was shown to stimulate tumor growth to a similar extent as isolated genistein (11). Conversely, isolated genistein (not soy protein or foods) inhibited tumor growth in intact mice (17,18), and isoflavone supplements (not soy protein or foods) had a favorable effect on breast tissue density in postmenopausal women (21). Although the use of pills can be debated on several grounds, the evidence suggests that in regard to breast cancer risk, equivalent amounts of isoflavones from pills and foods will produce similar effects.

Soy and Tamoxifen?

There is ample reason to speculate that soy might be contraindicated for women on tamoxifen. However, Gotoh et al. found that tamoxifen and a diet containing 10% miso synergistically inhibited the development of chemically induced mammary tumors in rats (15). Miso is a fermented soybean paste. Furthermore, in a follow up experiment, when treatment was delayed until tumors had been allowed to grow for several weeks, the combination treatment inhibited growth by approximately 50% whereas tamoxifen alone was ineffective (15). Recently, Constantinou found that a diet containing approximately 16% soy protein and tamoxifen additively inhibited the development of chemically induced mammary tumors (27). Clinical decisions shouldn’t be based on animal data, but these two studies suggest research examining the effect of soy on the efficacy of tamoxifen should be rigorously pursued. Isoflavones:

More than Phytoestrogens

Isoflavones are often referred to as phytoestrogens because they bind to estrogen receptors. It is clear however that not all ligands that bind to estrogen receptors have similar physiological effects. Receptor binding is only one small part of the story. The shape of the ligand-receptor complex and how this complex interacts with activation factors in the cell, and DNA, determines the overall effect on cells (28,29). Thus, it may be more appropriate to refer to the estrogen-like, rather than estrogenic effects, of isoflavones. Furthermore, two very important observations are that isoflavones bind with much greater affinity to estrogen receptor beta (ER-ß) than estrogen receptor alpha (ER-a), and stimulate transcriptional activity with much greater potency when bound to ER-ß than ER-a (29,30).

Until recently, the scientific community understood there to be only one type of estrogen receptor. But in 1996, Swedish researchers identified a second estrogen receptor, which they named ER-ß, to distinguish it from the original estrogen receptor, ER-a (31). These receptors have different tissue distributions, so for example, ER-ß predominates in injured coronary vessels whereas ER-a predominates in the uterus. This suggests that isoflavones are natural selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs). In contrast to estrogen, which exerts estrogenic effects on all tissues and as a result dramatically raises endometrial cancer risk, SERMs, such as the drugs tamoxifen and raloxifene, have estrogenic effects in some tissues, but either no effects or antiestrogenic effects in other tissues.

The ideal SERM would have antiestrogenic effects on the breast, estrogenic effects on the bone, and either no effects or antiestrogenic effects on the uterus. Isoflavones have estrogenic effects on coronary vessels (32) but not on the endometrium (33).Therefore, isoflavones do qualify as SERMs. But their effect on breast tissue is still unclear.

Bear in mind though that as noted previously, isoflavones also possess nonhormonal properties; for example, they exert antioxidant effects under some experimental conditions and influence the activity of enzymes involved in the metabolism of estrogen, and that regulate cell growth and differentiation (34,35). Thus, isoflavones are more than phytoestrogens and may exert biological effects that have little to do with binding to the estrogen receptor. Consequently, even referring to isoflavones as SERMs doesn’t fully describe their potential biological actions.


Many people enjoy going to the woods to pick their own mushrooms. However, identifying mushrooms can be a real challenge. The color, shape and size of the fruiting body can vary tremendously. It is important to properly identify the mushroom that is collected, so as to avoid a poisonous species.

The Pharaohs prized mushrooms as a delicacy, and the Greeks believed that mushrooms provided strength for warriors in battle. The Romans regarded mushrooms as a gift from God and served them only on festive occasions, while the Chinese treasured them as a health food.

Today, mushrooms are enjoyed for their flavor and texture. They can impart their own flavor to food or take on the flavor of other ingredients. Their flavor normally intensifies during cooking, and their texture holds up well to usual cooking methods, including stir-frying and sauteing.

It is popular to add mushrooms to soups, salads, and sandwiches, or to use them as an appetizer. They also add an appealing touch to vegetable-based casseroles and stews. In the US, mushroom extracts are increasingly being used in nutraceutical products and sports drinks.

Mushrooms contain about 80 to 90 percent water, and are very low in calories (only 100 cal/oz). They have very little sodium and fat, and 8 to 10 percent of the dry weight is fiber. Hence, they are an ideal food for persons following a weight management program or a diet for hypertensives.

Mushrooms are an excellent source of potassium, a mineral that helps lower elevated blood pressure and reduces the risk of stroke. One medium portabella mushroom has even more potassium than a banana or a glass of orange juice. One serving of mushrooms also provides about 20 to 40 percent of the daily value of copper, a mineral that has cardioprotective properties.

Mushrooms are a rich source of riboflavin, niacin, and selenium. Selenium is an antioxidant that works with vitamin E to protect cells from the damaging effects of free radicals. Male health professionals who consumed twice the recommended daily intake of selenium cut their risk of prostate cancer by 65 percent. In the Baltimore study on Aging, men with the lowest blood selenium levels were 4 to 5 times more likely to have prostate cancer compared to those with the highest selenium levels.

The most commonly consumed mushroom in the United States is Agaricus bisporus or the white button mushroom. A. bisporus has two other forms - Crimini or brown mushrooms with a more earthy flavor and firmer texture, and Portabella mushrooms with a large umbrella-shaped cap and meaty flavor.

All three mushrooms, but especially the fresh button mushrooms, possess substances that inhibit the activity of aromatase (an enzyme involved in estrogen production), and 5-alpha-reductase (an enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT). The latest findings show that white button mushrooms can reduce the risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer. An extract of white button mushrooms decreased cell proliferation and decreased tumor size in a dose-dependent manner. The chemoprotective effect can be seen with an intake of about 100 grams (3.5 ozs) of mushrooms per day.

Shiitake mushrooms have been used for centuries by the Chinese and Japanese to treat colds and flu. Lentinan, a beta-glucan isolated from the fruiting body of shiitake mushrooms, appears to stimulate the immune system, help fight infection, and demonstrates anti-tumor activity.

Reishi Mushroom Extract for Arthritis

by Dr. Markho Rafael

Reishi extract has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat arthritis and other forms of inflammation for over 2,000 years. Also commonly known by its Latin name as “Ganoderma,” or Chinese “Ling Zhi,” Reishi is by far the most searched medicinal mushroom on the Internet with over 200,000 searches per month. And although it may not be the panacea (”cure-all”) that some hold it to be, the fact that modern research confirms it as an inflammation modulator may help explain why it has long been heralded as such in the Orient.

In fact, Chinese medical practitioners have been prescribing Reishi extract for ages in cases of arthritis, bronchitis and other conditions involving any type of inflammation. Modern research in Asia as well as in America and Europe confirm the validity of these uses. Out of 19 papers used for this article, 17 reported positive results in the use or Reishi extract for arthritis. Only two were studies were inconclusive, both of which were conducted by the same research team.

Regarding anti-inflammatory properties in general, a study out of India (2003) demonstrated that Reishi decreased inflammation in cases of acute or chronicedema by 56% and 60% respectively. (3) An earlier American study (1993) had already shown that, water extracts of G. pentaphyllum and G. lucidum [Reishi] were found to possess significant anti-inflammatory activity. (4) In the references are seven additional papers listed which all conclude that Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) possesses potent anti-inflammatory qualities.

Other research has been conducted on Reishi extract that relate specifically to arthritis. In 2006, Kenneth Blum et al. published findings in support of both the effectiveness and safety of using Reishi extract for “joint health,” providing “clinical evidence” to back up their claim. (12) Also that same year, a Chinese study by Xi Bao et al. came to the conclusion that Reishi plus another medicinal herbal remedy commonly used in China seemed to have a “beneficial immunomodulatory effect” on arthritis. (13)

Just how Reishi accomplishes its beneficial influence on arthritis may have been stumbled upon by Ho et al. in 2007 (14) when they discovered that GL-PP [Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide peptide] helped to significantly reduce one of the causative agents of rheumatoid arthritis known as RASF, short for “Rheumatoid Arthritis Synovial Fibroblasts.”

Several additional papers have been published that summarize positive results in the use of Reishi against arthritis. (15,16,17) One even states that Reishi compares favorably to prednisone, albeit without side effects. (18) On the other hand, a separate study found that supplementing with Reishi helped balance the side effects of prednisolone* that were experienced by some patients, including protein in the urine and cell toxicity. (19) (Prednisolone is the active compound of prednisone, which gets broken down by the liver and converted to prednisolone.)

In conclusion, the body of research does seem to support the use of Reishi extract in cases of arthritis. Remember that it is important to always work with a licensed medical practitioner when using any herb for medicinal purposes.

Note on name confusion: The name “Reishi” is Japanese for the perennial tree mushroom that American naturalists refer to as “Varnished Conk.” In China, it is known as “Ling Zhi.” All these names usually refer to the species Ganoderma lucidum, which for the sake of distinction from other types of Reishi may sometimes be called “Common Reishi” or “Red Reishi.” Other related species that are often called “Reishi” include: “Hemlock Reishi” (Ganoderma tsugae),” which is common on hemlock trees in eastern U.S.; the Chinese species known as “Black Reishi” (Ganoderma sinense); another American species found on the west coast which is sometimes referred to as “Red Reishi” (Ganoderma resinaceum), although “Red Reishi” more often refers to G. lucidum in contrast to “Black Reishi,” G. sinense; and finally two Japanese species, one that is sometimes known as “Purple Reishi” Ganoderma japonicum, and one without any English name, Ganoderma neo-japonicum.

Rheumatroid Arthritis Treated with Reishi Mushroom

One of the key measures of a long and well lived life is adaptability. A person`s A robust immune system capable of adjusting to ever-changing situations is a key factor in preventing the manifestation of a cold or cancer, or anything in between. One important aspect of immune function is its ability to self-regulate downward when needed so that it doesn`t become hyperactive and attack your own tissues, as in the case with Rheumatoid arthritis. Fortunately, nature has delivered an amazingly versatile herb in the Reishi mushroom with the proven capacity to deliver relief and even assist in reversing this condition.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder that can be characterized by chronic inflammation of the tissues and organs, but it usually attacks the joints. This hyper-inflammatory response can lead to the destruction of cartilage and the loss of mobility. Symptoms of RA can include swollen and stiff joints, accompanied by considerable pain and loss of function. It is three times more common in women than men, with the first onset of symptoms usually occurring between the ages of 40 and 60. RA is usually treated by mainstream medicine with cortisone-like steroids that suppress the immune system. Even in low dosages, these drugs can cause osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, weight gain, or high blood sugar. Most importantly, this unnatural and dangerous approach to artificially suppressing the immune system can leave you susceptible to infections.

Reishi mushroom, also known as Ganoderma lucidum, is one of the oldest known herbal medicines in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). It is native to China, Japan, and North America, has been used for thousands of years, and is revered for its longevity-promoting capabilities. Reishi influences cells that regulate the immune system - namely, lymphatic cells and interferon alpha and interferon beta cells - and has the ability to "educate" these cells of immunity so that they better respond to the body`s needs. In other words, with the help of Reishi, if cells of the immune system are not responsive enough, they will be called to action, or if they are hyperactive such as in the case of an autoimmune disorder such as RA, they will back down.

In a 2007 study published by the University of Hong Kong, the polysaccharide peptides in Reishi were found to "significantly inhibit the proliferation of Rheumatoid Arthritis Synovial Fibroblasts (RASF)." Read more on the results of this study here:

Where steroid medications suppress the immune system, Reishi doesn`t stimulate or suppress but rather educates, helps modulate, and teaches the cells of the immune system how to self-regulate more effectively. When your white blood cells graduate from the School of Reishi, they are better equipped to manage your immune system.

Reishi capsules or a Reishi tea that you consume today may have been one hundred years or more in the making. First, a tree grows and lives for decades, absorbing energy and nutrients from the sun and the soil. Then, when the tree begins to die, mushrooms will attach to the tree, absorb the life force and further concentrate the nutritional content and medicinal qualities that the tree has acquired throughout its life. Once the mushrooms are harvested and encapsulated or made into powders or teas, this concentrated life force is transferred to its end user. This process represents unleashing the power of Mother Nature onto your immunity.


Scientists have long known that certain types of mushrooms have anti-tumor activity. But what about widely available, common white button mushrooms (WBMs)? Known by the botanical name Agaricus bisporus, they are a tasty addition to everything from salads to pizzas -- and, it turns out, they do have powerful health building properties. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) funded studies have shown white button mushrooms enhance the activity of critical cells in the body's immune system.

Although WBMs make up about 90 percent of the total mushrooms consumed in the United States, little research has been conducted into their nutritional value until the last few years. In groundbreaking animal and lab research conducted at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University, scientists have now documented how WBMs boost the immune system by increasing the production of proteins that fight disease-causing pathogens. The research team, which included HNRCA director Simin Meydani and his colleague, Dayong Wu, from the HNRCA Nutritional Immunology Laboratory, discovered the mushrooms have a positive impact on immune system cells classified as dendritic cells.

This is important because dendritic cells (DCs) can make white blood cells known as T cells that are crucial to a strong and healthy immune system. Dendritic cells recognize and then deactivate or destroy invading microbes such as bacteria and viruses or antigens (any substances that cause the immune system to respond). What's more, they may play a role in fighting cancer.

The HNRCA researchers found that the immune system boosting effect of white button mushrooms was related to dosage -- the more mushrooms, the more pronounced the immune response. "WBM promote DC maturation and enhance their antigen-presenting function," the scientists wrote in their research paper, which was published in The Journal of Nutrition. "This effect may have potential in enhancing both innate and T cell-mediated immunity leading to a more efficient surveillance and defense mechanism against microbial invasion and tumor development."

Another group of scientists at the City of Hope's Beckman Research Institute in Duarte, California, published a study in Cancer Research that suggests consuming 100 grams of WBMs per day could suppress breast tumor growth in women. The research team concluded: "White button mushrooms may be an important dietary constituent for reducing the incidence of hormone-dependent breast cancer in women. Prevention strategies involving mushrooms are readily available, affordable, and acceptable to the general public...The information gained from our study can aid in the design of more highly developed and effective breast cancer prevention strategies involving dietary constituents such as mushrooms."


Keep several bags on hand in the car or in your desk, for easy snacking. When snacking at home, mix toasted tree nuts with popcorn or trail mix to boost the nutrition content.


Top softened Brie or Camembert cheese with chopped pistachios for a simple, elegant treat. Add your favorite tree nuts to any cheese and cracker platter, or simply serve them straight up in a festive bowl!


Sprinkle chopped nuts on a bowl of soup for added fl avor and texture. For example, garnish potato soup with minced pecans or a hearty split pea with hazelnuts.


Restaurants often serve creative salads with various tree nuts and fruit. Do the same at home by adding whole, sliced or chopped tree nuts to your favorite salad recipes. For instance, toss pecans and/or walnuts with blue cheese or Gorgonzola to add zip to a spinach salad; or garnish chicken salad with slivered almonds.


Nutty vinaigrettes made with chopped hazelnuts or Brazils, add pizzazz to steamed vegetables…
even the pickiest of eaters may give them a try!


Pine nuts have always been the secret ingredient to a tasty pesto, but other tree nuts can also add protein and fl avor. Sprinkled on top or mixed in with a sauce, nuts give a special fl air to any pasta dish.
Fettuccini with toasted walnuts is always a hit.


Toss fi nely diced toasted almonds into a gingershrimp sauté or add toasted cashews to Chinese vegetable stir-fry dishes. Sprinkle chopped mixed tree nuts on your favorite casseroles.

Coat for Flavor…

Need a quick and easy coating to spruce up dinner? Mix equal parts prepared seasoned breadcrumbs and fi nely chopped, toasted, mixed nuts; add the herb or spice of your choice, such as basil, thyme, cayenne pepper or cumin. Dip meat, fi sh or poultry into crumb mixture, pressing to coat. Bake, broil or grill. Bon appétit!


Tree nuts are wonderful in baked goods such as cookies, cakes and brownies, but you can also sprinkle them on top of ice cream, frozen yogurt and parfaits. Toss chopped macadamias and other tree nuts with fresh fruit for a light and tasty dessert.

Tips for Toasting…

To bring out extra fl avor, spread whole, chopped or sliced tree nuts in a single layer in an ungreased baking pan. Place in 350° oven and bake 5 to 10 minutes or until nuts are slightly brown; stir once or twice until lightly toasted. Remove from pan to cool. Nuts will continue to brown slightly after removing from oven.

Tips for Buying and Storing…

• When buying whole, unshelled nuts, be sure to look for clean shells without cracks. The exception is pistachios, which are usually sold in a semi-open shell.
• Whole, raw shelled nuts should appear fairly uniform in color and size.
• To keep tree nuts as fresh as possible, store them in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to six months, or up to a year in the freezer.

The International Tree Nut Council (INC) Nutrition Research & Education, Foundation, a nonprofit organization, represents nine tree nuts: almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts. For more information on tree nuts and health, please visit website at


While the artichoke is known to gourmands as a tasty delicacy, people with digestion problems appreciate it as a helpful natural remedy. "The application of artichoke leaves to relieve gastrointestinal problems is scientifically recognized, particularly when the problems are caused by a disruption of the liver and gall bladder functions," said Johannes Gottfried Mayer, a member of a research group at the university of Wuerzburg in Germany.

The important bitter ingredient, however, is not found in the tasty hearts of the artichoke, but rather in the leaves where it reaches a proportion of up to 6 per cent.

"The bitters stimulate the flow of bile, which leads to better digestion of fat," said Mayer. They are lost, however, when artichokes are cooked. Tea made from artichoke leaves also has hardly any relevant therapeutic effect. Mayer says only pharmaceutical remedies provide sufficient doses of the necessary substances.

The important ingredient cynarin results from the processing of the vegetable. Mayer said some studies suggest that cynarin possibly has a liver-protecting effect. Artichoke leaves also appear to have a positive effect on loss of appetite, high cholesterol and vascular disease.

People who are allergic to artichokes and other composite plants should avoid remedies made with them. And people with gall bladder problems should consult their doctor before trying an artichoke remedy. According to Mayer, there are no known side effects.

The Californian Arthicoke


The heart of the artichoke industry is located in the United States, specifically in California near Castroville in Monterey County. Castroville proudly proclaims itself to be "The Artichoke Center of the World" on a huge banner that spans the main street. Smaller banners depicting artichokes decorate the light poles and a restaurant/fruit stand called the Giant Artichoke actually has a giant artichoke for photo ops. Surrounded by thousands of acres of silvery artichoke plants, the town pulls out all stops to celebrate its major crop in May with a 2-day festival.


A native of the Mediterranean, the artichoke can be grown as a perennial or annual crop. It is a member of the thistle tribe of the sunflower (Compositae) family. In full growth, the plant spreads to cover an area about six feet in diameter and reaches a height of three to four feet. Its long, arching, deeply serrated leaves give the plant a fern-like appearance. Historically, the Green Globe cultivar has accounted for most of the production but that has changed as new varieties have come into production and, as of 2007, annuals have overtaken perennial production.

The "vegetable" that we eat is actually the plant's flower bud. If allowed to flower, the blossoms measure up to seven inches in diameter and are a beautiful violet-blue color. The size of the bud depends upon where it is located on the plant. The largest are "terminal" buds produced at the end of the long central stems. These are the ones you are most likely to see from the car during a springtime drive throughout the area. Buds are smaller lower on the stem.


The main propagation method for planting Green Globe artichokes is with root sections attached to basal stem pieces. These cuttings, which are often referred to as "stumps," are obtained from established fields scheduled for replanting. The newer varieties, which are annuals, are grown from seeds that are nurtured in a greenhouse and transplanted as seedlings in the field. Today, annuals are the main propagation method for the artichoke industry in California.

Green Globe artichoke fields are maintained in perennial culture for five to ten years. Each cropping cycle is initiated by "cutting back" the tops of the plants level to the ground or several inches below the soil surface to stimulate development of new shoots.

While California artichokes are available throughout the year, peak season is March through May and again to a smaller degree in October. They are an extremely labor-intensive crop as the harvesting is done entirely by hand; and, because artichokes on the same plant mature at different times, the same field will be harvested every seven days during peak season. Labor represents 40 to 60 percent of the growing costs.


The Green Globe artichoke prefers temperate climates--never too hot or cold. The central coast of California, where winters are relatively frost-free and summers are cool and moist with fog, is an ideal growing area. Here, too, are deep, fertile, well-drained soils that promote maximum root development.

Most of the newer annual varieties do prefer a Mediterranean climate but are more tolerant of weather fluctuations and can be planted in other areas at differing times. This means that artichokes can be brought to market all year long to satisfy eager artichoke aficionados.


The artichoke makes no concessions to those who want a quick meal. So, in this age of "fast food" and "quick fixes," what keeps this commodity growing? Serious artichoke eaters will tell you that the reason for eating an artichoke is its unique, nutty flavor, their health benefits and they are just plain fun to eat.

Most people cook the whole artichoke, and slip each leaf petal, one by one, through their teeth until they reach the delectable heart. Children love them because the get to eat artichokes with their fingers!

The artichoke is fun to eat, and it's good for you. One medium sized artichoke is a good source of vitamin C, folate and potassium. It's low in sodium, fat-free and a dieter's delight at only 25 calories.

In addition to eating them "straight up," many consumers have discovered that artichokes also make excellent additions to stir-fry and pasta dishes.