Healthy Habits Run in the Family

Leaf detail

Rose Akca and her father Yasar.

AICR's Rose Akca and her father share cancer-fighting habits handed down from their Turkish ancestors. We asked them to share their story with you.

By continuing the healthy eating traditions of his family, Yasar Akca (pronounced "Akja"), now 61, has stayed well and maintained the same weight he had in his 20s. His daughter Rose is the Administrative Assistant in our Research Department.

Yasar says, "I've tried to teach Rose how to make some traditional Turkish dishes. And I've always made my children breakfast since they were born," he says. "As the saying goes, 'don't leave home without it.'"

A Well-Rounded Breakfast

Every meal in the Acka household – including breakfast — offers salad with baby greens and other vegetables such as broccoli, cucumber, tomato, fresh onion and Italian peppers. They are topped with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and herbs. Yasar uses oregano, parsley, mint and rosemary. The morning salad includes 3 walnuts. Toasted pita bread, plus feta cheese and honey, accompany breakfast.

"I always drink tea, not coffee," he says. "I prepare it Turkish style: a combination of regular American and Turkish. The water is boiled and kept hot so the tea can brew 15-20 minutes." In the morning, this strong tea essence is mixed 50-50 with hot water and at night, 25 percent tea to 75 percent water.

Dinner may feature soup, grilled fish or chicken and grilled vegetables with bulgur wheat, a whole grain.

Lunch is often Yasar's biggest meal of the day. Meat such as grilled chicken or steak, fish or scrambled eggs supply protein, alongside green beans, eggplant, okra and other vegetables, plus rice or bread, with a little traditional yogurt sauce. He also likes hummus (chickpea dip), garlic, lemon juice and chili peppers for their cancer-fighting and health protecting properties.

"I don't consume any carbonated drinks," he says. His favorite fruit is peaches. Sometimes he indulges in a Turkish dessert like baklava – a small honey and pistachio pastry made with phyllo dough.

Letting Good Health Happen

Yasar also gets all his vitamins from food. "If you eat a healthy diet, you can let your own body and immune system process the healthy substances you get from foods."

He adds, "I eat really slowly – not less than an hour for a meal. I chew a lot. Anything good for the body takes time." He also rarely eats at restaurants and never eats anything fried.

Yasar keeps physically active every day at work as a mechanic. He also likes walking, biking and swimming. He weighs himself every other month.

Rose says, "My father has taught me his eating habits by preparing food for me and explaining where it comes from. He enjoys reading about cancer-fighting properties in foods. That’s how we started adding broccoli to our daily salads! I enjoy working for AICR because it shares our food values."

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