Cooking for cancer - what foods should you focus on
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death globally, accounting for close to 10 million deaths in 2020. While the most common cancers vary with every country, lung cancer mostly tops the list. But where women are concerned, it is breast cancer which is most prevalent. Other common forms of cancer include colon, stomach, liver and cervical cancer.
Possible theory on why cancer starts
Cancer, as we know, occurs when abnormal cells develop uncontrollably and spread in the body, destroying body tissue. This development is usually due to a change in the DNA within the cell. What makes it really dangerous is the fact that it can originate in any part of your body.
So what is it that you can do to bring down the risk of cancer?
Well, some of the risk factors for cancer include, use of tobacco and alcohol, an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise and air pollution. What you can do is bring down the risk of developing cancer by making healthy eating choices, leading a balanced lifestyle and managing stress. But you can never eliminate it.
While there is no miracle food for cancer, it is has been found that a plant-based cancer diet, which contains phytochemicals, works best in bringing down the risk of cancer. Phytochemicals are compounds found in plants which help prevent diseases like cancer.
A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, beans and whole grains is known to be good for cancer. In fact, the Macrobiotic diet is the kind of diet which is very similar to a Mediterranean one and considered to be the best for cancer.
Some studies have suggested that foods like carrots, kale, broccoli, peaches, berries, beans, pulses, fish, eggs and lean meat could help prevent breast cancer.
What you eat becomes even more important when you have cancer. Your body is in great need of nourishment and your food choices need to reflect that. However, while undergoing treatment like chemotherapy, food is likely to be the last thing on your mind. Side-effects like fatigue, nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhoea and loss of taste could rob you of your appetite.
So before treatment is a good time for you to feed your body with healthy nutrients. During treatment, colourful foods like dark and yellow vegetables and citrus fruits can be included in your daily diet.
Plant-based proteins are best as they are rich in vitamins and minerals. Where animal protein is concerned, lean meat, fish, eggs and low-fat dairy are good options. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are also good along with healthy carbs.
A balanced diet will also play a big role in managing the side effects, reducing inflammation, increasing immunity and energy.
When cooking for cancer, you could focus on feeding yourself food items from the list below.
Top cancer fighting foods
Fruits and vegetables - Berries, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, bok choy, tomatoes, spinach, leafy greens, garlic, ginger, grapefruit, sweet potatoes, bananas, apples, avocados and oranges. Basically any colourful fruit or vegetable is a good choice.
Whole grains - Brown rice, whole grain bread and pasta, oatmeal and quinoa. The idea is to choose whole grains over processed.
Cooking oils - Olive oil and canola oil. Vegetable oils are to be preferred over butter
Beverages - Green or white tea, water and coffee. It is best to stay away from fruit juices.
Protein - Lean animal protein or plant-based protein to be preferred. Fish, tofu, eggs, lentils and beans.
It is good to avoid red meat, processed meat and alcohol as these increase your risk of cancer. Adding turmeric to the food helps as its main ingredient is curcumin, which is believed to slow down the growth and spread of cancer cells.
Some dos and don'ts while cooking for cancer
Steam your vegetables and use herbs, garlic or onions to season instead of butter, cheese and sauce
Cut down on salt and use low-fat or skim milk for cooking.
Do away with deep frying and instead steam, boil, roast, bake or stir fry your food.
Use sugar and caffeine sparingly.
During the cancer treatment and even after, you need to become aware of what you are feeding your body, both in terms of thoughts and food. With a compromised immune system, you need to stay away from highly refined, processed food. Fried food which contains hydrogenated oils must also be avoided as it can increase inflammation.
To sum up, if cooking for cancer, it is best to go ahead and plan a balanced diet, which contains an abundance of fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, seeds, whole grains, lean meat and low-fat dairy. In fact, even if you don’t have cancer, this is probably the best kind of diet that you can follow to keep your body healthy, nourished and disease free.
A broad overview of a cancer diet
The way out of managing cancer or preventing it is to follow a strong diet and manage your lifestyle.
- Stay off sugars, sugary foods, refined carbohydrates; colas, sodas, soft drinks; hidden sugars in packaged foods, processed foods. This will keep you away from sugars which feed cancer cells.
- Complex carbohydrates are a good source of sugars and fibre, and also promotes smooth functioning of the digestive tract; ensuring proper waste elimination. Here, I cannot emphasize the necessity of whole grains from a brown/red rice to any good millet that really aids with the amounts of antioxidants and anti-aging benefits (brown rice alone has 70 anti-aging antioxidants).
- Good quality protein helps you stay satiated, keep blood sugars stable. I advise plant-based proteins. Protein also maintains our muscles; your intestinal lining has muscle fibres; this means lean protein if you eat fish and meats and plant-based protein if you are a vegetarian/vegan. Excess protein (animal protein) is not good for you, so balance it with vegetables and greens. We don’t want those pathways getting blocked we must maintain the quality of blood being clean and not toxic.
- Vegetables, which not only have good quality fibre; especially coloured vegetables that have plenty of beta carotene that converts to Vitamin A to repair the gut lining, leafy greens and green vegetables (also in the form of barley grass or wheat grass), these mimic the blood structure and are necessary for cleansing the blood and the much needed chlorophyll they provide. Plus help with the onslaught of chemotherapy/radiation and for those who have gut issues, these help keep you in a high-fibre mode and keep the gut moving.
- Fermented foods, serve a crucial part of any diet plan supplying good amounts of probiotics to nourish your gut. Foods like sauerkraut, quick pickles, non-dairy kefir, kimchi are highly recommended.
- Nuts and seeds bring in the trace minerals, good fats and oils that are needed. Any depletions caused by chemotherapy/radiation or if you need to use to prevent a cancer to fix the trace mineral load of the body always help.
- Fruits again provide a plethora of vitamins, antioxidants and fibre to help gut repair.
- Just the right amount of water or liquids as too much will loosen and expand our tissues, a lot of water comes from the foods you eat. An excess of liquids puts a pressure on the kidneys, bladder and sweat glands as well; making us tired over time. We need just enough, one way of measuring this is to ask ourselves: are we really thirsty?
- Adding sea vegetables like spirulina helps in detoxification, vitamins, protein, minerals and antioxidants. These cleanse the blood as well, will helps with chemotherapy/radiation and in a normal day-to-day life help you keep the blood structure clean.
- Workout and exercise regularly, and keep your lifestyle in-check by establishing a regular eating habits and sleep habits.
- Positive thoughts: Cancer is an issue of holding on to grudges and resentments, hence working all these out and forgiving people, events and yourself included really helps. Meditation is the key to work on your mind. You can buy my book: Vipassana: The Timeless Secret To meditate & Be Calm by clicking here.