To thrive means I have to form better healthy habits including diet, exercise, and stress avoidance. In this post I will describe what I'm doing to eat better, knowing that our Creator provided us with amazing compounds for health if we will just put them in our mouths, chew them and swallow them.
I speak not as a health food nut. I always looked askance at those people. Me? For decades, I was a burger, fries and coke kind of guy! With my busy schedule, I usually only had time for drive-through fast food and prepared meals. That cancer diagnosis in January, though, was a serious wake-up call. I knew things had to change. My doctors and nurses, and a registered dietitian at City of Hope, confirmed what I was learning from my own reading of scientific studies: eating healthy food is one of the best things a cancer patient can do.
[Important note: your situation may differ depending on type of cancer, surgical history, prognosis, and treatments, so seek the guidance of your oncologist or a registered dietitian familiar with your case. I can only speak for what is working for my situation. I hope it helps others.]
Information on the cancer-fighting "superfoods" (blueberries, onions, tomatoes etc.) is readily available on reliable internet websites or from your doctor or a registered dietitian. (Note: don't trust someone who calls him/herself a "nutritionist" especially if they want to sell you their products. Registered dietitians have to complete medical training.) The key is to add a variety of raw, unprocessed fruits and vegetables to your diet. "Eat the rainbow" of veggies: the reds, purples, yellows, oranges and greens are indicative of cancer-fighting phytochemicals (plant molecules) that promote the immune system and overall good health. Don't get it processed; go for the real food, raw and natural the way God created it.
You may dislike raw vegetables because they taste bland or take a long time to chew. Here's what I do to keep it simple and enjoyable. I bought an inexpensive KitchenAid food chopper (about $32). I bought a box of Debbie Meyer Green Bags that keep produce fresh. In the grocery store, I scour the produce department for a variety of multi-colored vegetables and greens, the more the better (see recipe below). Look especially for the cruciferous vegetables like red cabbage, broccoli, and brussels sprouts; onions, tomatoes and mushrooms are also good superfoods. I bring them home, bag them, and start chopping, preparing enough for about 3 days. Mix them all in a bowl, add a few raisins and dried fruits before serving to sweeten the mix, and presto! You have an easy-to-eat, ready-to-use superfood salad. It actually tastes great as a snack or meal, even without any dressing. You can add spoonfuls of the mix to a breakfast burrito with turkey and egg, to sandwiches, tuna, chopped chicken, and to many other meals. Often, though, I just shovel it in while working at the computer or stopping to eat a snack. It requires less chewing and is quite delicious. [Note: I've heard that some chewing helps activate the healthy molecules.]
Fruits don't work as well in a chopper, so I eat them raw: pears, apples, bananas, blueberries (in yogurt), nectarines, strawberries, blackberries, grapes, watermelon, canteloupe, and more. I juice fruits and vegetables sometimes, but it's usually better to eat them raw I also eat mashed potatoes or yams with the skins included. You can get frozen vegetables now in packages that steam-cook them in the microwave, keeping more nutrients in. However you do it, include more fruits and vegetables in your diet. If you like nuts, they are great, especially walnuts and almonds. Crushed walnuts can be a topping for a small dish of ice cream. Unsalted nutty trail mix with raisins is a good snack. Tomatoes don't chop well, but you can cut pieces of them into your mix, or add tomatoes to sandwiches with leafy greens. I didn't realize how good they taste on nut butter sandwiches. Use whole wheat bread or sprout bread, and try almond butter or sunflower seed butter in addition to peanut butter. For snacks, almonds and raisins coated with dark chocolate are OK in moderation. Instead of white sugar, try stevia or honey.
It takes about 3 weeks to get accustomed to a dietary change. A lot of it is attitude and commitment. My dad used to say, "Happiness comes from liking the right things." Train your mind by thinking of all the benefits you will enjoy, make it a commitment, and start. You'll be surprised at how soon the old desires will fall off, and you will like the good stuff. I feel I have more energy since I started eating better. My weight is also stable, and my blood pressure is good.
I'm not advocating a total vegan diet--just adding more to your day. It's OK to occasionally indulge your favorite comfort foods. A little ice cream, chocolate, or a cookie will not hurt, so don't let guilt defeat your commitment. I eat unprocessed chicken, fish and eggs (I've sworn off of red meat, even if a little won't hurt). You can still eat other things, but I encourage you to make the good food the priority and learn to enjoy what will fight your cancer (or prevent it). I also doubt the value of supplements unless prescribed by your oncologist. That's another story; people have strong opinions about them, but beware of anyone seeking to sell you cures for cancer with a pill or special herbal mix. Even if you believe in those things, they are no substitute for eating right. One spice that seems to have solid science behind it is turmeric. I sprinkle it on chicken, mashed potatoes and other things whenever I can.
Who knows if my superfood suggestions will aid your cancer recovery? It certainly can't hurt, and it might help--in more ways than one. Not only does it put cancer-fighting compounds into action in your body, it's something you can do to take charge of your situation. A good mental attitude is part of your treatment. It makes you feel more in control, less helpless. As I pray over my healthy food, I thank God for all the amazing plants He gives us, and ask that all those phytochemicals He created will go to work against my tumors. That boosts my mood, too.
Here are some of the vegetables that go into my superfood mix: kale, swiss chard, collard greens, red-leaf lettuce, turnip greens, spinach, celery, red onion, different kinds of squash, cucumber, bell peppers (red), radish, purple cabbage, corn (cooked), broccoli, brussels sprouts, bok choy, carrots, mushrooms. Add cut tomatoes.
Sweeten with raisins, dried blueberries, dried pomegranates, dried mixed fruit, or honey.
Stir and serve!