The effect of diet on cancer is controversial: many doctors, including my surgeon, refute any link with special eating habits and healing. However there is a growing body of research that indicates that there are benefits to concentrating on particular foods, which have added nutritional benefits, and to avoiding others, which are too acidic, too cooling, or too hot, depending on what type of person you are, and what diet regime you follow. I explain this more fully in my well-being.
My food journey began with reading the cancer patients’ bible Anti-Cancer by David Servan Schreiber. In it he advocates following a Mediterranean diet, washed down by copious amounts of green tea, no sugar, and only the occasional glass of red wine. It’s also a useful summary of the various research findings on the effect of lifestyle on cancer. For a review of the book, click here.
For many people this may be enough ‘control’, but for a more complete holistic approach, I decided to consult a Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner for acupuncture to help the healing process during the radiotherapy. All Chinese doctors look at the whole body, so diet is an integral part of the diagnosis. The same goes for Ayurveda, although the analysis is slightly different. Click here for more information.
I then combined the results of the TCM diagnosis of my Yin-Yang balance and dietary rules with some of my other findings (you can read about it by clicking the link). In the words of my Chinese doctor, Professor Tee Tong Ang, ‘proper dietary rules for improving health is similar to a best and expensive engine or that of a motor vehicle that needs the right type of highly refined petrol’ i.e. what you put in the body effects is reflected in its output. It is only common sense! Other friends and fellow cancer patients suggested books on juicing (The Complete Book of Juicing) and on the even more controversial dairy issue. The China Study by T Colin Campbell completely changed my opinion on the traditionally-held views of the benefits of dairy products and red meat, and I have stopped consuming them as a result.
Other friends gave me various books – Cooking for Cancer, Raw Food and The Ayurveda Cookbook to add to my already large collection, and together these have formed the inspiration for my anti-oxidant, immunity-boosting diet, which I will share with you, through my specially adapted recipes. Click here for details of all the books I use as reference.
A word on sugar
The plethora of new healthy eating websites drive me insane: so many of the recipes are packed with sugar substitutes like dates, honey, maple syrup. almond milk or butter, coconut (very, very sweet) and fruit juices. If you have cancer you should be very careful about including anything that has sugar, be it natural or unnatural. I limit my intake to fresh fruit in the morning with my granola, and a tiny pinch of natural palm sugar with cooking, but cut down enormously on the recommended amount in some of the recipes I use as a base. In particular, I do not add anything sweet to my vegetable juices and never make smoothies, as milk or milk substitutes are hidden calories. At the end of the day, sugar is sugar whether natural or unnatural. Its one of the reasons why I drink very little alcohol…I’m not trying to be a spoil-sport, just saying it’s easy to be deceived, or deceive yourself, with all the buzz around healthy-eating and sugar substitutes.
Here is a list of hot, cold and neutral property foods that I follow, adapted from the basic list given to me by Prof Ang. I am a cold person who needs warming up (cold Yin), so I stick to the left hand foods, combined with neutral column and occasional forays into the right hand ‘cooling’ foods, which I should only have in moderation. If you are a hot person then obviously you avoid the foods in the left-hand column. Under My well-being, I will explain how you can tell if you are a hot or cold person.
I have omitted items such as bird’s nest, shark’s fin, abalone and jelly fish skin, and tried to internationalise the list as much as possible! My Foods good for cold Yin section is naturally longer as I am updating it all the time. You can update your own list if you are opposite ie hot Yang through your own researches and preferences.
As you will see it’s not an all or nothing list; you are advised to eat within your diagnosis. In fact I cheat a bit, and for instance drink green tea up until lunch-time, but not after (for its anti-oxidant qualities). I tend to mix and match from my reading, so avoid dairy and all red meat, sugar and coffee. Fruit and veg with seeds are particularly healthy (fertile) so I load on cauliflower, broccoli/Chinese greens, papaya, kiwi, passion fruit, pomegranate and berries. Living in Singapore as I do, my diet and recipes are very influenced by the abundance of healthy produce and healthy cooking methods, such as steaming.
|Foods good for cold Yin||Neutral foods||Foods good for hot Yang|
|Apricots||Soya beans||Wheat and wheat products e.g. white bread/pasta|
|Kiwifruit||Carrot||Tomato – very acidic|
|Passion fruit||Potato||Aubergine – very acidic|
|Date||Black sesame seeds||Bamboo shoots|
|Mushrooms esp Shitake, Oyster, Enoki||Seeds – e.g. sunflower, pumpkin, goji||Orange|
|Sweet potato||Whole meal anything||Banana|
|Chicken||Olive & rapeseed oil||Ice cream|
|Fish – white and oily||Fish sauce||Crab|
|Nuts esp cashew, walnut, brazil, peanuts||Duck|
|Turmeric esp fresh||Lobster|
|Herbs: basil, coriander etc||Yoghurt|
|Wine – a little|
|Toover/Toor/channa dhal (chickpeas/split peas)|
|Mung beans and sprouts|
A typical day
Quick and easy miso soup with tofu, shitake and greens
Oriental chicken soup
Tom Yam soup
Or Salad made from any or all Quinoa/bean sprout/ raw carrot/ raw beetroot/hardboiled egg/avocado/asparagus/nuts or seeds/tinned tuna/spicy dressing/ ryebread
Snacks and drinks
Ryvita with marmite (for the B12)
Cold green tea
Lemon barley water
Soda and bitters
Any of the main dishes from My recipes
Alcohol I try only to drink on weekends and special occasions. But you can give me champagne any time! Favourite drink is vodka, soda and squeeze of lime. Lasts a long time and can be replenished with soda and bitters, my evening tipple of choice. Wine is rather acidic, especially white wine, so stick to chilled pinot; it is also very easy to drink more than a glass or two once you start!