From cherry spritzers to brown rice pudding, the offerings from the American Institute for Cancer Research focus on lowfat, high-fiber, mostly plant-based foods.
Launched about two months ago, the service is available year-round, not just during the holiday season, and already has about 10,000 subscribers, said Melanie Polk, director of nutrition education for the independent, nonprofit Washington-based group.
Not all the recipes have immediate curb appeal — subscriber Margie Arnold says she turned her nose up at first at sweet potato and peanut chili.
"But I made it and actually liked it" — and made it again, she said. "People think I'm weird, but I like it."
The recipes are aimed at anyone interested in healthful eating and subscribers include people with cancer and without.
Arnold, 57, a newsletter writer in Colorado Springs, Colo., says she got interested in improving her diet after a close friend was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Earlier this year, Arnold attended a talk about breast cancer and nutrition at a local hospital, where she learned about the cancer group, a charitable organization that funds diet-related cancer research.
Glen Weldon, spokesman for the cancer group — which believes certain foods help prevent cancer or may even help fight it — said it has no ties to the agriculture or produce industries.
Arnold said the email recipes have helped her out of a cooking rut.
"I have a lot of cookbooks at home but I normally try the same thing over and over again," she said.
With the e-mailed recipes, "I'm trying something new each week and I'm trying something that I normally wouldn't try," she said. "I'm trying to look at what I can do to make myself healthier and try to minimize some of my bad eating, too."
Dr. Meir Stampfer, a Harvard Medical School nutrition professor, said that while some claims about the purported cancer-fighting properties of specific foods have been overstated, the AICR's emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and minimizing red meat "is a healthful approach to diet."
"Red meat intake is linked to colon cancer risk," he said. Folate in some fruits and vegetables has been linked to lowering colon cancer risk, and other data have shown whole grains may help protect against some other cancers, Stampfer said.
This kind of diet also may reduce obesity, which also raises the risks for many types of cancer including breast and endometrial cancer, he said.
American Dietetic Association spokesman Dave Grotto, director of nutrition education at the Block Center for Integrative Cancer Care in Evanston, Ill., said just because people receive the recipes doesn't mean they'll change their eating habits.
"This isn't really anything new. People can do Google searches for recipes and there's books out there," Grotto said.
Still, he said the service may help people make healthier choices.
"This may not be the whole solution, but maybe it will help," Grotto said.
by Lindsey Tanner