As a new mom, Shauna Martin couldn't understand why she was diagnosed with cancer-- a disease that didn't run in her family, that is, until her younger sister was given the same diagnosis just two weeks later.
“My doctor said ‘The chances of you and your sister getting breast cancer were like one in a billion,’ but it happened,” Martin, 43, told FoxNews.com. “It kind of set me on this journey of trying to figure out why. And that actually led me to food.”
Although Martin and her sister grew up in a health-conscious home with parents that taught them to follow a vegetarian diet and exercise daily, Martin believed food and environmental factors may have caused her and her sister’s diagnoses.
“Was it pesticides on the fruit that we ate? Was it the TV dinners and leaving the plastic on when we microwaved it?” Martin said. “We come from a military family, so we lived on lots of crazy, different places-- was there radiation some place that we ran into when we were really young?”
While no single food can lead to cancer by itself, some studies suggest a diet filled with a variety of plant foods can help lower the risk of many cancers.
"Antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables are very powerful at fighting free radicals,” explained nutritionist Keri Glassman, founder of Nutritious Life. Glassman likened free radicals to “bad guys” in the body that turn into everything from wrinkles, inflammation and cancer.
After a year of chemotherapy treatment, a double mastectomy and multiple reconstruction surgeries, Martin was determined to survive and beat the odds of recurrence. Almost one in four women who develop breast cancer will see the disease return within 10 years, according to a study funded by Macmillan Cancer Support, a UK charity.
“The rate of reoccurrence was just too much, in my opinion. I had a one year old, I wanted to see him grow up,” Martin said. “I was basically willing to do anything that would make sure that I would survive.”
On Martin's quest to prevent recurrence, she started a diet of only raw vegan foods and green juices.
"I would go to the farmers’ market and just buy everything that I could find and see, and I would juice half, make salads with the other half,” she said. “And it was amazing how quickly I rebounded from the toxins from all the chemotherapy. My hair grew back quickly, my skin started to really glow— and then the energy, I’d never had that much energy in my entire life."
After years of juicing at home, Martin left her corporate job and launched Daily Greens, a national cold-pressed green juice company.
"I realized what I'm most passionate about in life is trying to make other people healthy, and for me that really starts with a green juice every day," Martin said.
Martin continued her mission to motivate others, and published her recipes and personal health plan in her book, "Daily Greens, 4-Day Cleanse.”
The cleanse is organized by season and breakfast starts with a cup of tea or lemon water and a green juice. In the afternoon, users have two more glasses of green juice and an optional piece of fruit. The day is finished with a vegetable appetizer and a big raw veggie dinner.
Even though some experts question the efficacy of cleanses, many nutritionists say they can jump-start healthy habits.
“Our kidneys, our GI track, our liver, all of these organs are actually working to cleanse ourselves on a regular basis. So our bodies work really hard to always be cleansing,” Glassman said. “However, there's times when we may not have been able to get in a lot of healthy foods, we may be eating a lot of junk food, traveling, or our bodies are just run down and that can be a time to sort of regroup, and use a cleanse as a time to reset your body.”
At the De Gustibus Cooking School in New York City, Martin shared a green juice recipe from her summer cleanse.
Zucchini pear green juice with cilantro
Big handful of spinach (2/3 bunch)
Handful of cilantro (coriander) leaves (from 3-4 stems)
Wash all ingredients well.
Cut and core the pear. Cut into pieces that will fit through your juicer.
Chop the zucchini into pieces that will fit through your juicer.
Run all ingredients through your juicer, scrape off foam, and enjoy.
It's always important to talk to your doctor before trying any new cleanses. For more information on Martin’s book go to drinkDailyGreens.com.