Kentucky’s summertime greens have nutritional benefits

Siddhi Shroff

Siddhi Shroff

Written by Siddhi Shroff, a registered dietitian at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

While summer may not have officially started yet, the season has begun in many ways.

Many greens are in season by the start of June. Think spinach, mustard, collard, turnip, beet greens, along with Swiss chard. But greens are more than a tasty benefit of the season. They are also rich in Vitamin A, iron, folic acid, potassium and calcium, which are all great for your overall health.

  • Vitamin A is great for vision, aids in growth and health of skin, and also helps maintain healthy teeth and tissue (soft and skeletal). It is also known as retinol for its role in pigmenting the retina in eyes.
  • Iron is needed for many reasons in our bodies. Iron is a part of hemoglobin and is needed to help make it. It also helps to carry oxygen to our lungs and the rest of our bodies, helps muscles to use oxygen, and is needed to make some hormones and connective tissue. If your body has too little iron, it can cause anemia, which is when your blood does not carry enough oxygen to the rest of the body.
  • Folic acid is one of the B vitamins required by your body. While it is especially important for pregnant women to prevent major birth defects, it is still essential to help the body make new healthy cells.
  • Potassium is an essential mineral that serves to regulate blood pressure, and it also helps nerve and muscle cells function.
  • Calcium not only helps to build strong bones and teeth, but it helps with blood clotting, muscle function, releasing hormones and regulating your heart rate.

Try this recipe to incorporate more leafy greens into your diet!

Mixed Greens, from National Cancer Institutes’s Down Home Healthy Cooking


  • 2 bunches mustard greens or kale.
  • 2 bunches turnip greens.
  • Pepper to taste (optional).
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste.


  1. Rinse greens well, removing stems.
  2. In a large pot of boiling water, cook greens rapidly, covered, over medium heat for about 25 minutes or until tender.
  3. Serve with some of the pot liquor (liquid from the cooked greens).
  4. If desired, cut greens in pan with a sharp knife and kitchen fork before serving.

Nutrition Content:

Makes 8 servings. Calories: 18, Total fat: 0.1g, Saturated fat: 0g, Carbohydrates: 3g, Protein: 1g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 153mg, Dietary fiber: 2g.

Next Steps:

4 food safety rules for cancer patients

Siddhi Shroff

Siddhi Shroff

Written by Siddhi Shroff, a registered dietitian at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

During the cancer treatment process, treatments like radiation or chemotherapy can weaken the body’s immune system by affecting the blood cells that protect against disease and germs, a condition known as neutropenia. This means that your body will not be able to fight infections as well as a healthy individual’s body would.

Because of this weakened immune system, cancer patients are at a higher risk to develop foodborne illnesses, which can caused by foods that contain harmful bacteria, parasites or viruses, also known as pathogens.

Your doctor may recommend specific food-handling practices to avoid foodborne illnesses, but you should always remember to clean, separate, cook and chill. Read more below about the four steps to follow for food safety.

1. Clean

Wash hands and surfaces often. Cleanliness is an important step toward food safety. Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds after handling food, using the bathroom, changing diapers and handling pets. Cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counters should be washed with hot, soapy water after each use. We recommend using paper towels to clean these surfaces. If you do use cloth towels to clean, wash them frequently in the hot cycle. Wash your fruits and vegetables under running water, even those with skins that are not eaten. Don’t use soap, but consider using a clean produce brush for foods with firm skins. Do not wash meat, poultry or eggs, as doing so can spread bacteria and increase risk for cross-contamination of foods.

2. Separate

Separate raw meats from other foods. Use separate cutting boards and plates for produce and for meat, poultry and eggs. Whether they’re in the grocery or your fridge, be sure to keep meat, poultry and eggs separate from all other foods.

3. Cook

Cook foods to safe temperatures. Use a food thermometer to determine if your food has been cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria (This table indicates minimum cooking temperatures for a variety of food). Eggs must be cooked until the yolk and white are both firm. Foods can be microwaved, but they must be stirred in the middle of heating, then microwaved thoroughly to reach a minimum internal temperature of 165°F. Before you check the internal temperature, allow food to finish cooking by letting it sit for a few minutes after microwaving is complete. You can reheat sauces, soups and gravies by bringing them to a boil.

4. Chill

Refrigerate foods promptly. Keep your refrigerator temperature at or below 40°F and your freezer temperature at or below 0°F. Perishable foods should be refrigerated or frozen within two hours of cooking or buying. Never thaw food on the counter; instead do so in the fridge or microwave or in cold water. If your food is not thawed in a fridge, it must be cooked immediately. And be aware of when food should be thrown out this table lists safe refrigerator and freezer times for many common foods.

Make sure to ask your physician or healthcare provider to determine if you should be following these guidelines, if there are any other foods or products that you should avoid, and any other questions related to diet restrictions.

References: U.S. Department of Human Health Services, Food Safety For Cancer Patients; U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Safe Food Handling: What You Need to Know.

Next Steps:

Join us for our free cooking demonstration on May 8

Patients, families and the public are invited to a free cooking demonstration on May 8 presented by Siddhi Shroff, registered dietitian at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

Make bowls your way!

Whether it’s a burrito, broth, grain or smoothie bowl, come learn how to make it your way.

When: May 8, 3-5 p.m.

Where: Food Connection Kitchen located on the second floor of The 90 on the UK campus. 440 Hilltop Ave.

Parking is available in the visitor pay lot off of Hilltop Avenue. Vouchers for exit will be distributed at the event.

Please RSVP to Siddhi Shroff by calling 859-323-4769 or via email at

Next steps:

  • Siddhi Shroff spends her time helping patients understand their changing appetite and nutritional needs as they go through cancer treatment. Get to know Siddhi in our Q&A blog.
  • Check out the rest of the Markey Menu blog for more cancer-related nutritional tips, recipes, and health and wellness information.

For cancer patients struggling with nutrition, give eggs a try

Siddhi Shroff

Siddhi Shroff

Written by Siddhi Shroff, a registered dietitian at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

Cancer treatment can cause many patients to experience taste and appetite changes, which can affect their overall nutrition. For patients undergoing chemotherapy, radiation or other cancer treatment, it’s important to make sure that you’re getting calories and protein even when your appetite is affected.

One easy way to do that is by incorporating eggs into your diet. Eggs are a great source of nutrition that can be prepared to suit your taste preference.

Sure, eggs are typically breakfast food, but they are versatile enough to be eaten in different forms. Thanks to their softer texture, eggs are easy to chew and swallow when cooked. They can also be easier to eat when treatment causes changes to your mouth, tongue or throat that affect nutrition and appetite.

Next time you feel your appetite is lacking, try mixing it up with different kinds of egg dishes. In addition to adding variety to your diet, eggs are also rich in protein, choline, B vitamins and cholesterol.

  • Protein: Eggs contain six grams of protein, which is 12 percent of the daily value for most adults. Additional protein in the diet can help to heal tissues and fight infection, especially after surgery, chemotherapy or radiation treatments. Animal sources of protein like eggs provide all the amino acids you need.
  • Choline: Choline is vital to proper functioning of all cells, including metabolism, and is essential to the structure of cells. One egg has approximately 147 mg of choline, which is 20 percent of the daily value for this nutrient.
  • B vitamins: Eggs are an excellent source of B vitamins, which help your body convert food into energy and help your immune system stay healthy. In addition, eggs also have antioxidants that help keep your cells healthy.
  • Cholesterol: Even though cholesterol has developed a bad reputation in recent years, the cholesterol in eggs does not adversely affect blood cholesterol. Eating eggs can actually help elevate your HDL cholesterol, considered the “good” cholesterol, which can reduce your risk for a number of diseases.
  • Low sodium, low in saturated fat: Eggs are also low in sodium and saturated fat, so they are a good addition to help balance your daily diet.

You can incorporate eggs into foods throughout your day with foods like breakfast burritos, herbed Spanish omelets and egg and roasted red pepper wraps. The possibilities are endless, so don’t be afraid to get creative to help your appetite.

Next Steps:

Celebrate National Nutrition Month by starting new healthy habits

Siddhi Shroff

Siddhi Shroff

Written by Siddhi Shroff, a registered dietitian at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

March is known for St. Patrick’s Day and March Madness, but did you know it’s also National Nutrition Month? It’s the perfect time to highlight and celebrate the importance of a healthy diet. Maintaining a healthy diet can help reduce the risk for many cancers, as well as the risk for heart disease, hypertension and other conditions.

Here are some tips to help you find and maintain your healthy eating style.

Focus on fruit

Make whole, fresh fruits a priority. Fruits provide many nutrients important for health, including fiber and vitamins A and C. Try to enjoy them fresh, dried, frozen or canned in 100 percent juice. Be sure to check the nutrition label to make sure the fruit does not have added sugars.

Eat a variety of veggies

Vegetables also have an abundance of vitamins and minerals beneficial for health. Add a variety of vegetables to your plate by choosing vegetables of various colors like red, orange, purple, green and yellow. Besides fresh vegetables, frozen and canned vegetables are great ways to add veggies to meals and snacks. They can be just as nutritious as long as you avoid frozen ones with added sauces, gravies, butter, cream or cheese, all of which can add extra calories. And make sure to look for canned vegetables labeled as “low sodium” or “no salt added” to avoid excess sodium.

Make half your grains whole grains

Look for products that have a whole grain listed as one of the primary ingredients. Substituting whole grains in any recipe that calls for white or refined-grain foods can be an easy way to add more whole grains to your day. Whole-grain products such as whole-grain breads, pastas, tortillas, brown rice and quinoa are all great sources of fiber.

Start a protein routine

Incorporate different varieties of protein in your meals. Along with lean meats and poultry, try including other sources of protein such as fish, eggs, unsalted nuts and seeds, and beans and peas. These foods can be added to dishes such as salads, soups and casseroles. Instead of frying, prepare these foods with healthier cooking methods like baking, roasting, broiling, grilling, braising or stewing.

Limit sodium, saturated fat and added sugars

Use the nutrition label to help you limit foods and drinks that are high in sodium, saturated fat and added sugars. Instead of sugary drinks, drink water infused with fresh fruit. Use vegetable oil instead of butter in recipes like sauces and dips to cut saturated fat and sodium.

Move to low-fat or fat-free dairy

In recipes that call for sour cream, cream or regular cheese, opt for low-fat yogurt, low-fat milk or low-fat cheese along with fat-free options to limit saturated fat in your diet.

Information from ChooseMyPlate.

Next Steps

6 seasonal fruits and veggies to eat during winter

Just because it’s the middle of winter doesn’t mean there aren’t fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables to pick up from the grocery store. Here are six seasonal foods that are sure to add a nutritional boost to your cold-weather diet.

Important Note: Talk to your doctor about these foods before including them regularly to make sure it does not interfere with any medications or diet restrictions in your treatment plan.

  1. Winter squash. Winter squash is a great source of vitamin A, vitamin C and carotenoids. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps your immune system function properly and protects against cell damage. Vitamin A is not only important for vision and immune function, it also ensures that the heart, lungs and kidneys are working properly. Carotenoids are antioxidants that can reduce the risk of some cancers. There are many types of winter squash, including butternut, acorn, delicata, spaghetti squash, pumpkin and buttercup squash. Using a healthier preparation method like baking can bring out the natural sweetness of the squash, or you can use it as a main ingredient in your soup or stew.
  2. Leafy greens. Spinach, kale, chard, collard greens and mustard greens are all high in vitamins A, C and K. Vitamin K helps strengthen your bones, prevents heart disease and is important to the blood-clotting process. These greens can be incorporated into many meals and snacks, such as soups, stews, casseroles, smoothies, wraps and stir-fry.
  3. Root vegetables. Beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips, potatoes and sweet potatoes are great sources of potassium, fiber, and vitamins A, C and B. Potassium helps regulate blood pressure and allows nerves and muscles to function properly, while fiber helps food move throughout your body. Try baking or roasting these as a snack or as part of your meal.
  4. Cruciferous vegetables. Think broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. These are all good sources of vitamin K and are high in fiber. High-fiber foods can ease constipation, a common side effect during cancer treatment. Try mixing these foods in salads, stir-fries or roasting them on their own.
  5. Pomegranate. This fruit is popular around the holidays, but is available throughout the winter season. Pomegranates are a great source of vitamin C and vitamin K and are rich in antioxidants. You can incorporate this fruit into your day by adding it to your cereal, smoothie or oatmeal. You can also drink it as a juice. The antioxidants in pomegranate juice have been found to lower bad cholesterol, which is good for heart health. Be sure to read the nutrition label before buying the juice to be sure it is not diluted with other fruit juices and does not have any added sugars.
  6. Citrus. Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, clementine, mandarin oranges, lemons and limes thrive during winter. Most varieties are juiciest and in season this time of year. They are loaded with vitamin C, which can help heal wounds, maintain healthy bones and cartilage, and enhance the absorption of iron from foods like leafy greens. Try including citrus as part of a salad by making a dressing out of it, or include it as part of your main meal!

Next steps:

4 New Year’s nutrition resolutions for people battling cancer

Losing weight is a common New Year’s resolution, but for those undergoing cancer treatment, shedding pounds might not be the best idea.

Instead, patients with cancer should set a goal to eat foods that are rich in nutrients and minerals. While undergoing the cancer treatment process, eating well is necessary to help you feel better by keeping up your strength and energy. Developing good eating habits can also help you maintain weight and better tolerate side effects that you may experience throughout treatment. Eating a variety of foods can give your body the nutrients it needs to handle side effects during treatment.

Here are four goals you can set for eating well in the new year:

1. Eat more fruits and veggies.

Fruits and vegetables contain many essential nutrients like potassium, fiber, vitamin A and vitamin C. They are also naturally low in sodium and calories. Potassium helps regulate blood pressure, while fiber helps maintain a feeling of “fullness.” Vitamin A can help to protect against infections, while vitamin C helps to heal cuts and wounds.

Try to include more fruits and veggies in your day by topping your breakfast with some fruit, packing some in your lunch or having some as a snack.

You can include more veggies by adding them to a casserole or making them a side for one of your meals. And don’t forget, frozen vegetables are a convenient option that are just as nutritious as fresh vegetables as long as they are without added butter, cream or sauces.

2. Choose whole grains.

Whole grains are another great source of fiber, as well as B vitamins (thiamin, niacin, riboflavin and folate) and minerals (iron, magnesium, selenium). B vitamins aid in metabolism by helping the body use protein, carbohydrates and fat; the minerals help form blood cells and transport oxygen, build bones and are essential for a healthy immune system. Fiber will improve bowel function and can help ease constipation, which is a common side effect of cancer treatment.

You can start by enjoying whole grain breads, cereals, pastas, oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa and popcorn as part of a nutritious meal or snack.

3. Incorporate protein.

Protein is essential for growth, repairs body tissue and helps to keep your immune system healthy. Getting enough protein is essential throughout the cancer treatment process. Regardless of whether you’re your undergoing surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy, adequate protein is needed to help fight infection and heal tissues. If the body does not have enough, it breaks down existing muscle to obtain the energy it needs to function.

Include a protein source at every meal to make sure you are getting enough throughout the day. Good sources of protein include lean meats, poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, milk, yogurt and cheese.

4. Limit fatty and processed foods.

Foods that are highly processed or high in fat should be avoided, as they are loaded with excess sodium, preservatives and added sugars. However, it is important to include healthy fats in your meals and snacks. Healthy fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, can be helpful to insulate body tissues, and aid in the transport of some vitamins in the body through the blood. Some examples of foods that include these healthy fats are vegetable oils (canola, olive), fish and nuts. Unhealthy fats such as trans fats should be avoided as much as possible, as they can raise cholesterol. Make sure to read the nutrition label of your foods to make sure there is little to no trans fat.

Keep in mind that although these suggestions will help you eat well, certain side effects during treatment may change your nutrition needs. Talk to a dietitian or your physician about potential ways to manage your side effects through nutrition.

Next steps:

  • Looking for more easy tips for improving your health this year? Check out our suggestions for small lifestyle changes that add up to big progress over time.
  • Learn more about the UK Markey Cancer Center, Kentucky’s only NCI-designated cancer center.

5 tips to help cancer patients eat enough calories

Good nutrition is important, especially if you’re undergoing cancer treatment. Cancer treatment can cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, poor appetite and taste changes. Experiencing any or all of these side effects can make it a challenge to eat at a time when your body needs all the nutrition it can get and when weight maintenance is a priority.

It is important to be mindful of your food choices to make sure you’re consuming enough calories. Here are five ways to keep calories up and manage treatment side effects, even if you don’t feel much like eating.

1. Eat frequent meals.

If you are not able to eat full meals, try to eat five to six small meals and snacks instead of three main meals. Take advantage of times of the day when you feel the hungriest, and keep snacks nearby when you feel like eating. If you do not feel hungry often, eat when it is normally time to eat. To avoid going long periods of time without eating, schedule meal periods so that you do not skip meals by mistake.

2. Emphasize calories and protein.

Eat foods that you can tolerate best and avoid the foods that you cannot. Try to include a protein source every time you sit down to eat. Foods that are high in calories and protein include: eggs, nuts/nut butters, lean meats (chicken, turkey and fish), beans and seeds. Eating these foods even in small amounts can add some nutritional benefit.

3. Fortify foods.

Adding dry milk powder, cream, butter, cheese, sauces, salad dressings and gravies to foods can give an extra calorie and protein boost to your meals. Add these extras to foods like baked potatoes, baked/broiled meats and eggs.

4. Drink your calories.

When solid foods are not as tolerable, consider full-liquid foods like soups, smoothies and milkshakes. Often times, these can provide calories and protein without making you feel sick or overloaded. Other examples of liquid foods include oatmeal, grits, fruit juices, vegetable juice, gelatin, puddings and yogurt.

5. Consider nutrition supplement drinks.

Drinking a nutrition supplement drink can be another good way of drinking your meal as well as a means of getting extra calories and protein. Typical drinks include Ensure, Boost or Carnation Breakfast Essentials. These are all available at your local grocery store. These drinks can be blended with frozen fruit or peanut butter to pack more calories and nutrients. The “Plus” versions of these drinks offer an extra amount or protein and calories if needed. Before starting any nutrition supplement drinks, talk to your dietitian or physician for recommendations.

Next steps:

Don’t miss our free cooking demonstration on Oct. 31

Join us for a free cooking demonstration on Oct. 31!

Patients, families and the public are all welcome to attend. Please RSVP to Siddhi Shroff by calling 859-323-4769 or via email at

Italian-style risotto with Dr. John D’Orazio

Learn how to create an authentic Italian-style risotto with all-natural ingredients.

Who: Hosted by Markey Cancer Center’s Dr. John D’Orazio, a food-lover and avid cook of Italian cuisine.

When: Oct. 31, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Where: Food Connection Kitchen located on the second floor of The 90 on the UK campus. 440 Hilltop Ave.

Parking is available in the visitor pay lot off of Hilltop Avenue. Vouchers for exit will be distributed at the event.

Put your tomatoes to good use with these healthy recipes

Autumn may have just begun, but you still have time to take advantage of in-season summer vegetables like tomatoes.

Tomatoes are a great source of beta-carotene and lycopene, which are part of a group of antioxidants called carotenoids that can help prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer. They are found in many fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Lycopene is most present in tomatoes. Cooking tomatoes over heat makes the lycopene easier for the body to use. Beta-carotene is converted to Vitamin A in the body, which is beneficial for healthy vision, bone growth, reproduction, cell function and for the immune system. Also, tomatoes are great source of potassium.

Sound good? Try these tomato and basil recipes. Basil has a sweet yet savory taste that pairs well with tomatoes. For those experiencing taste changes, it has a mild flavor to complement foods, and it is more palatable than strong flavors like spices.

Curious when your favorite fruits and vegetables are in season? Find out here.

Tomato Basil Bruschetta, 12 servings


  • 8 tomatoes (ripe, Roma plum, chopped)
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • ½  red onion (chopped)
  • 6 basil leaves (fresh)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (extra-virgin)
  • Salt (optional, to taste)
  • Pepper (optional, to taste)
  • 2 mini French bread (or Italian, cut into ½-inch diagonal slices)


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Combine tomatoes, garlic, onion, basil and olive oil in a bowl. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (optional). Set aside.
  3. Arrange bread on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake about five to seven minutes until it begins to brown slightly.
  4. Remove bread from oven and transfer to a serving platter.
  5. Serve the tomato mixture in a bowl with a serving spoon, or place some on each slice of bread before serving. If adding the tomato mixture yourself, add it at the last minute or the bread may become soggy.

Source: What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl

Tomato Basil Soup


  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 3 (14.5-ounce) cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • Basil leaves (optional)


  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic, and stir constantly while cooking for 30 seconds.
  2. Stir in the broth, salt and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Stir in basil. Place half of the soup in a blender. Process until smooth.
  4. Pour pureed soup into a bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining soup.
  5. Garnish with basil leaves (optional).


Next steps: