Scientific research has shown that a healthy diet can be very beneficial for people diagnosed with cancer. Many foods have properties that can be helpful for cancer sufferers in terms of supporting the body’s immune function and ability to repair itself. A healthy eating plan will help you to get a wide variety of the nutrients that can support your body through your illness.
If availability and budget allow, try to eat organic foods so you can limit your exposure to pesticides and other potentially harmful toxins. Organic meat and poultry are widely available from supermarket as well as from excellent mail order suppliers direct from the farm.
Eat plenty of …
- Fruits and vegetables are detoxifying, alkalise the blood and contain immune enhancing antioxidants. The best way to ensure that you receive a variety of these important compounds is to eat a ‘rainbow’ of fruit and vegetables ie blue, yellow, orange, red and green. Try to have 5 portions of vegetables and 2-3 of fruit. They can be eaten raw or lightly steamed.
- Juicing is another great way of making sure you get a high concentration of nutrients in an easy to digest way. Use mainly vegetables with fruit such as apples for sweetening. A great combination is carrot, apple, celery, beetroot and about 1in knob of fresh ginger.
- Complex carbohydrates (whole grains). These should be eaten every day for their nutrients but also as a good source of soluble fibre. Experiment with grains such as quinoa, millet, barley, buckwheat and rye as well as wholewheat, brown rice and oats.
- Pulses (beans, peas and lentils) are a good source of vegetarian protein. They can be cooked in soups and stews or sprouted and added to salads or sandwiches.
Beneficial fats – oily fish, nuts and seeds plus are good sources of essential fatty acids especially omega 3. Eat nuts and seeds unsalted and preferably raw. An easy way to use them is to blitz in a grinder and sprinkle on muesli or porridge. Use cold pressed vegetable oils eg sunflower, for salad dressings and use olive oil for cooking.
- Water – aim for at least 1 litre per day. If possible use filtered tap water or spring or mineral.
Eat in Moderation …
- Poultry is a good source of low fat protein however it is not necessary to eat a large amount. I recommend that you aim to eat about 3-4 times a week and each serving should be about the size of the palm of the hand.
- Red meat tends to have a higher fat content but is a useful source of iron.
- Fish: choose the smaller types of oily fish such as sardines, herring and mackerel that are less likely to be polluted with heavy metals.
Eliminate or reduce …
- Red meat eg. beef, pork or lamb.
- Smoked and salt cured foods such as bacon, ham and cured meats – these contain nitrites and nitrates, used for preserving foods, that have been linked with cancer.
- Barbequed foods: a high consumption of these foods have been linked to cancers of the gastro-intestinal tract
- Dairy products: choose organic whenever possible and use skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, cheese, cream or yoghurt.
- Refined sugars: avoid all sugary foods such as sweets, biscuits, pastries etc. Beware of hidden sugars in all kinds of processed foods. Use honey, or maple and fruit syrups sparingly.
Processed foods: eg. ready meals and convenience foods.
- Caffeine: Coffee and all tea (unless labelled otherwise) contain caffeine.
- Alcohol: puts a burden on the liver, the body’s main organ of detoxification
- Hydrogenated or trans fats: found in many convenience foods (bakery goods), fried foods and margarine.
Hints on making dietary changes
Altering your diet and eating habits can be a daunting task. Try making gradual changes eg by swopping white bread for wholemeal, substituting coffee and tea for a fruit or herb tea. It is helpful to make larger batches of soups and stews and freezing the remainder to use for another meal. If your appetite is small, opt for easy-to-eat soups that are very nutritious or juicing which gives you a high nutrient boost.
- Porridge or muesli with fresh fruit, nuts and seeds. You can substitute dairy for soya, rice or oat milks.
Fruit smoothies made from fresh or frozen fruit and fruit juice with some blitzed seeds.
Wholegrain toast (try rye or barley) with scrambled or poached egg.
Fresh fruit salad sprinkled with mixed chopped nuts.
Mixed salad using a variety of fresh salad leaves and vegetables such as thinly sliced raw fennel or grated raw beetroot. Dress with lemon juice and olive or nut oils.
Homemade vegetable soups with beans or lentils added for protein.
Jacket potato with fillings such as hummous, beans or tuna.
Mixed grain sandwiches or wraps with lentil pate, avocado dip or spreads and salad.
Vegetable casserole made with root and green vegetables and lentils or beans
lean meat/fish grilled with lots vegetables steamed or steam/fried or salad
brown rice with vegetables and homemade tomato sauce
Nuts and seeds; fresh or dried fruit; raw vegetable sticks eg pepper, celery, cucumber and a dip
oatcakes, rye crackers, rice cakes or wholegrain toast with dips or veggie pates.
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