The most powerful weapons in your health arsenal just may be in your fridge and pantry. Growing evidence shows that what you eat (and don’t eat) can significantly affect your chances of getting many types of cancer — including breast cancer — as well as heart disease and diabetes. The experts at Shape and Dr. John La Puma have rounded up the best foods for reducing your cancer risk and the tastiest ways to prepare them.

Get your greens: According to the American Cancer Society, Asian women have a breast cancer rate one-fifth that of U.S. women. While soy often gets the credit, cruciferous vegetables are also proving to be preventative. One study showed that Chinese women with the highest levels of isothiocyanate — a compound found in broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, and other cruciferous vegetables — cut their rate of breast cancer by 50 percent.

Make every day d-day: Low vitamin D levels have recently been linked to an increased risk of everything from heart disease to depression. Now researchers have made a connection between the nutrient and breast cancer. A study found that premenopausal women with higher intakes of vitamin D had a roughly 30 percent lower breast cancer risk. Fish is your best dietary D source — try salmon, trout, and sardines.

Get on the “A” list: Carrots may not only help protect against eye disease, they also may slow the growth of cancer cells. Women who ate at least five servings a day of foods rich in vitamin A and carotenoids, such as carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, and apricots, reduced their risk of breast cancer by more than 20 percent. The effect was seen especially in premenopausal women with a family history of breast cancer.

Take a tea break: Instead of grabbing a latte as an afternoon pick-me-up, go green — tea, that is. A recent study from Japan, where tea is served at nearly every meal, found that women with cancer who drank at least three cups of green tea a day reduced their risk of recurrence by more than 30 percent. Some scientists believe the reason is that green tea is high in the antioxidant epigallocatechin-3-gallate, which may halt cancer cell growth.

Load up on lignans: Some breast tumors are triggered by the hormone estrogen. Lignans are plant estrogens that are much weaker than the estrogen your body produces yet may block estrogen’s effect. (Lignans can also help lower your bad cholesterol, or LDL.) Flax and sesame seeds have the highest amounts, but whole grains and whole-grain bread, cereal, pasta, pumpkin seeds, soybeans, broccoli, and tea are also good sources.

Marinate, marinate, marinate: Using high-temperature techniques, like grilling, to cook meat can create potentially cancer-causing compounds to develop. But who wants to give up barbecues? You don’t have to. Sticking with lean red meat, chicken, and fish and marinating them for just a few minutes before grilling helps avoid charring, adds flavor, and keeps these foods moist. But don’t overcook: Well-done meats contain carcinogens too.

WHOLE-GRAIN PENNE WITH BROCCOLI AND KALE
Serves: 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

By cooking the pasta in green tea, you get antioxidants — plus a flavor similar to spinach pasta.

6 green tea bags
2½ cups dry multigrain or whole-wheat penne
2 cups small broccoli florets
2 cups small inner flowering kale leaves (or coarsely chopped regular kale)
1 14½ -ounce can fire-roasted, diced tomatoes, undrained, preferably organic
¾ cup part-skim ricotta
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup julienned fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
½ teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring 6 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add tea bags; turn off heat and let steep for 5 minutes. Discard tea bags. Bring tea to a boil, add pasta, and cook according to package directions, adding broccoli and kale during the last 3 minutes of cooking.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine tomatoes, ricotta, oil, vinegar, and garlic; mix well. Drain pasta and cooked vegetables; add to bowl and toss well. Transfer to four plates and top with basil and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Nutrition score per serving:
(1½ cups): 385 calories, 11 g fat (27% of calories), 3 g saturated fat, 52 g carbs, 19 g protein, 7 g fiber, 260 mg calcium, 2 mg iron, 616 mg sodium

CURRIED SWEET POTATO SOUP
Serves: 4
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

Sweet potato is the thickener for this bright, flavorful soup. To shave off cooking time, the potato is microwaved instead of baked.

1 large sweet potato, scrubbed thoroughly
¾ cup canned light coconut milk
2 ¼ cups vegetable or chicken broth, preferably organic
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced into ½ inch pieces
1 ½ teaspoons curry powder, preferably Madras
1 15-ounce can no-salt-added adzuki beans, rinsed and drained
2 packed cups coarsely chopped curly endive or baby spinach leaves
¼ cup coarsely chopped mint or cilantro
½ teaspoon sea salt

Microwave sweet potato on high for 4 to 6 minutes or until very tender. Split potato in half with a knife. Use a pot holder to hold each half and scoop pulp into a medium saucepan; discard skin.

Add coconut milk and mash with a potato masher or fork until mixture is fairly smooth. Stir in broth, bell pepper, and curry powder. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.

Stir in beans and heat all the way through. Stir in endive or spinach; keep stirring until just wilted. Ladle into four shallow soup bowls and top with mint or cilantro and salt.

Nutrition score per serving:
(1 and 1/3 cups): 268 calories, 4 g fat (12% of calories), 3 g saturated fat, 48 g carbs, 10 g protein, 12 g fiber, 73 mg calcium, 3 mg iron, 598 mg sodium

GRILLED WILD TROUT WITH CRANBERRY-ORANGE COUSCOUS
Serves: 4
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

For a spicier dish, sprinkle fish with cayenne pepper and stir a pinch into the couscous mixture.

1 navel orange
4 5- to 6-ounce trout fillets, with skin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1¾ cups low-sodium chicken broth, preferably organic
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 cup whole-wheat couscous
¼ cup flax meal
3 packed cups baby spinach leaves
¾ teaspoon sea salt

Preheat gas grill or broiler. Slice 1 inch off top of orange. Squeeze enough juice from the orange to equal 2 tablespoons. Cut off peel from remaining fruit; coarsely chop pulp and set aside. Drizzle juice over trout, let marinate for several minutes, then sprinkle with paprika and cumin and set aside.

Combine broth and cranberries in a large saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in couscous and flax meal. Top with spinach and cover. Turn off heat; let stand 5 to 6 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and spinach is wilted.

Meanwhile, grill fish 5 to 6 minutes, skin side down, over medium heat on a covered grill. (You can also broil 5 to 6 minutes or until barely opaque in the center.)

Stir wilted spinach into couscous, then mix in the chopped orange. Transfer couscous mixture to four serving plates. Top each serving with a trout fillet and sprinkle with sea salt.

Nutrition score per serving:
(1 trout fillet and 1¼ cups couscous): 422 calories, 12 g fat (25% of calories), 3 g saturated fat, 40 g carbs, 41 g protein, 8 g fiber, 175 mg calcium, 3 mg iron, 534 mg sodium

Shape magazine just kicked off their third annual Pilates for Pink fund-raiser for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Shape presents a program to promote awareness of breast cancer among women by inviting Pilates studios across the country to host a special fundraising Pilates class during the month of October in support of The BCRF.

Shape launched the program centered around the popular Pilates fitness craze in 2006 with an initial 240 Pilates studios and in 2007, the number increased to 457 participating studios nationwide. This year, the magazine expects 500 studios to take part nationwide. Women everywhere are encouraged to take a 45-minute Pilates class at a Shape event or at a participating Pilates studio in their area, and make a nominal donation to The BCRF.

Visit www.pilatesforpink.com to find a local class at one of the studios nationwide.

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