When we decide to cook and eat healthier due to the threat of cancer or due to a cancer diagnosis, what are the goals? What can we reasonably aspire to accomplish? There isn’t a magical vitamin or a food that instantly cures all cancers, not even broccoli, despite its best efforts. First, let’s agree that you aren’t going on any darn diet. And you are not going to bravely face food we don’t like, because you are busy bravely facing other stuff. So, what can you get from fresh, vibrant produce to help you live well?
- Reduce your toxic baggage. Every bite of fresh, delicious veggie dishes is a bite without preservatives, GMOs, artificial sweeteners, and fats that are not your friends. Why make your body fight toxins? You want your defenses focused on cancer cells.
- Feed your cells the good stuff. In order to keep good cells from going wrong and to strengthen the cells that fight for you, produce supplies lots of phytonutrients that support you. Some phytonutrients are even said to help shrink tumors.
- Keep up your appetite. Bright colors, clean and bold flavors all appeal to your body. Some will become part of your go-to recipe for when you know you should eat but just can’t. Maybe and apple-carrot-beet-ginger smoothie or a creamy tomato soup or a zucchini frittata…Fresh light flavors can help you get past nausea, and easily digested fruit and veggie-based dishes can give tender tummies less trouble.
- Strength and empowerment. Physically, eating highly nutritious food will help you resist the physical challenges, the stress and the lack of energy you may face. But mentally, taking an aspect of your own wellness, learning more about it, custom-tailoring to your needs – or doing this for someone you take care of – can counter-balance the overwhelming medical panorama you are facing. Your oncologist has his/her area of expertise, but you can handle this other part of taking care of YOU. And learning new things is a sort of optimism, isn’t it?
- Share. Delicious food is a great way to connect with folks around you. Need to take your mind off things? Have some friends over to share a good meal. Healthy potluck? Let your family and friends know you are working on eating to fight your cancer and ask for recipes that use fresh fruits and veggies, especially cancer-fighting produce. Honestly, I’ve found that chatting about food gets lots of people almost as excited as talking about their pets or their kids.
- Eat food in season. It’s fresher and cheaper, but it also gives you something to look forward to. Don’t settle for winter hothouse tomatoes if you don’t have to. Wait for the sunshine-filled flavor that comes in summer.
- Treat yourself! In no sense should this be about deprivation. Eating fresh and healthy is an upgrade. You are reaching for the best and most delicious food because you need it and deserve all the support nature can provide. It’s all about stupendous quality.
- Delight. You know that eye-rolling and mmmmmm-ing when you get a bite of a blackberry crisp? Or that clean, breezy feeling you get from a crunchy cucumber? Or that lusciousness that is a summer melon? Oh, yes, that’s a happy feeling. And it’s available to you, right out of the fridge!
When my dad first was diagnosed, I gave my folks a serious talk about eating mostly produce and fresher, organic food. Some of that message stuck, and my mom’s cooking improved dramatically. My dad became interested in alternative medicines. And he out-ran that cancer for over 20 years. Coincidence? Maybe, but at least they both have eaten better for 20 years.
So forget every bad dieting experience you’ve had, forget hospital food and limp vegetables you were made to eat because they were “good for you”. Yuck. You can take charge of your food and elevate the vitality you get from it, your flavor palette and your enjoyment.