As a cancer survivor, I wanted to do more than just the suggested surgery. I felt that if cancer liked my body once, then it might like it again. I wanted to do everything I could to prevent the cancer from coming back. What I discovered was that the best thing that I could do to improve my health was to improve my diet, and maybe support that diet with some supplements– especially for some nutrients that are hard to get in one’s normal diet, or certainly in the amounts I felt were necessary.
So what do I eat? Tons of fruits and vegetables, including a bounty of fresh herbs, beans, healthy fats such as nuts (walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, brazil), flax and chia seeds, avocado, olives and olive and coconut oil, green tea, some organic eggs and occasionally, some grass fed Elk or local fish. If I eat cheese, it is locally produced, organic and full fat. When it comes to produce, I believe a wide variety is critical, eating the rainbow, so to speak, but I also believe it is a good idea to pack in a few key items daily. Crucifers (kale, broccoli, cauliflower, arugula, radish, Brussels sprouts, etc.) are essential as they have compounds that are very powerful against cancer; try to eat a wide variety and focus a bit on broccoli. Celery and parsley can stop certain breast cancer tumor cells from multiplying and growing; carrots are free-radical scavengers and can be eaten cooked, raw or juiced. Doc had it right; an apple a day does keep the doctor away. For more of my favorites, please visit Eating to Cheat Cancer .
I don’t like the word ‘no’. I have two kids, so I have tried to perfect this, but words such as no, never, don’t and can’t—these are very negative words and are not helpful when you are trying to make healthful changes. I like to ask my clients to start with small changes and aspire to eating well 80% of the time; I find that this allows them the flexibility they need and before you know it, they are more like 90-100%, to the point when they no longer consider food choices to be a diet, but rather naturally gravitate to healthier options.
The easiest way to transition to a healthier diet is to find foods that you enjoy, and build the diet around those. In other words, if you don’t like broccoli, don’t start there, but maybe throw a few sprouts into your smoothie; small change, powerful response. Like almond butter but trying to avoid grains? Smear it on raw carrots or apple slices.
Ok, so back to the topic. Is eating bad for your health? We know that what we eat greatly affects our health and our risk for cancer. However, we hear so many conflicting stories, and read so many articles on the perils of what we thought were healthy choices. Plus, there are so many different strategies when it comes to choosing a dietary protocol. It is no wonder we are all confused. I often just want to throw my hands up in the air and say…eating is bad for your health! But before you do that and give up the quest, know that food matters and know that the best strategy is the one that works for you.
So let’s take a look at some of the controversies.
In our quest to avoid dairy, many of us switched to almond, soy or hemp. But a peek at the ingredients sends us right back to our local dairy farm. Make our own almond milk? Not likely if you have kids or a full time job.
Gave up the full fat as you heard the bad stuff is mostly in the fat? Think again, take out the fat and lose the health promoting naturally occurring CLA. Traded beef for chicken? Ever read what they feed chicken these days? Plus, chicken (eggs and meat too) are inflammatory; consider organic grass- fed meats. Get the rod out and catch dinner? Ah, the PCB’s and red tides; think again. Like shrimp? Consider the source; farmed shrimp from much of Asia is raised in a toxic environment. Grains and wheat? Dr Mark Hyman calls the wheat today Frankenwheat and suggests we avoid eating it, and so much has been written on the perils of gluten and grains. However, think gluten-free is the way to go? Only if the food is naturally gluten free….not some chemical substitute for the real thing.
So what can we do? Relax. Eating a small amount of anything isn’t going to kill you. Eat as close to nature as you can, and employ food as your ally. Worried about the sugar in carrots and fruit? Start your day with cinnamon. Just one to two teaspoons can help regulate blood sugar. Worried about BPA exposure? Add more probiotics (and a few other agents) to your diet. Concerned about heavy metals such as mercury? Eat more cilantro. Food really is thy medicine.
Want to know more about specific anti-cancer diets and protocols? Over the next few weeks, I will have several health experts on Survive and Live Well. We will hear from Elaine Cantin, survivor and author of The Cantin Ketogenic Diet; Ellen Kamhi, RN, The Natural Nurse; Wellness Coach, Jan Jargon; Dr Christopher Nagy; Dr Michael Schachter; and author Sarto Schickel, whose wife utilized the best of conventional medicine alongside the Gerson therapy to treat her stage IV cancer. All will share valuable insight on food and its impact on healing.
Food, it is good for our health, and if done right, can be downright unfriendly to cancer. Eat like your life depends on it, and yes, enjoy a bit of red wine–if that is something that gives you great pleasure. In fact, have it with some dark chocolate. Sure, chocolate has some sugar, but it is loaded with antioxidants and reduces inflammation, so if you crave dessert—have one that comes with benefits.
Want to talk about your specific needs for an anti-cancer diet? Visit my website to schedule an appointment for one-on-one coaching.
Elyn Jacobs is a breast cancer survivor, professional cancer coach, radio talk show host, speaker, and the Executive Director for the Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation. Elyn empowers women to choose the path for treatment that best fits their own individual needs. She is passionate about helping others move forward into a life of health and wellbeing. Elyn lives in New York with her husband and two young boys. Find Elyn at www.elynjacobs.wordpress.com. To tune into the Survive and Live Well show, visit www.W4CS.com, Tuesdays at 1pm, EST.
Follow Elyn on Twitter @elynjacobs and @survivelivewell, Facebook @Elyn Jacobs Consulting and LinkedIn @Elyn Jacobs