Thinking about nutrition is important if you’re living with cancer and its treatments, but with everything else going on it can be hard to make it a priority.  

But what you eat can help you cope with the side effects of certain treatments, to recover and heal faster, fight off infections, and feel stronger, healthier and have more energy.

We spoke to Ruth Taylor, a nutritional therapist who recently ran a course at our Chandler’s Ford Cancer Support Centre, about things that can help, without putting too much extra pressure on yourself.

 

What do you think people’s main nutritional concerns are when they have cancer?

Like most things, there’s no ‘one size fits all’. It’s easy to tell yourself you should be eating the ‘right’ foods, but they need to be the right foods for you. There can be quite specific nutritional recommendations depending on the type of cancer you’ve been diagnosed with, so try to invest a little time in finding out what these are.  I’ve aimed to give some pointers below, which should help everyone.

 

Why is nutrition particularly important when I’m living with cancer?

In a nutshell, what you choose to eat can give you the opportunity to boost your intake of foods to support your health. We know that certain nutrients can promote health, and others may have the opposite effect.

 

What are the main things to bear in mind when meal planning?

Aim for balance and look to increase the variety of foods you eat, particularly fruit and veg. If you aim to include as many different colours on your plate as you can this will give you a whole array of nutrients.

 

What should I include in my diet?

Vegetables, especially above ground and dark green leafy vegetables and food that can reduce inflammation like oily fish, avocado, olives, nuts and seeds.

 

What if I haven’t got the time to think about nutrition or am too tired to cook? 

If you can, try and enlist a bit of help from friends and family. Meal planning can also be a way to ensuring a balance and variety across the week. If you’re too tired, consider bulk cooking by using a slow cooker or adding an extra portion which can be reheated later.

 

What if I have a poor appetite or my tastes change?

This is quite normal, but can be really upsetting. Adding spices and herbs to food can be a great way to change the flavours. If you’re struggling with appetite, aim for nutrient-dense one-pot meals and try not to overload your plate as this can be really off-putting. Healthy, homemade smoothies with plant-based milk as a base are also a great option.

 

What if I feel nauseous?

Aim to eat little and often, or sip on some fresh root ginger tea made by steeping root ginger in hot water.

 

What should I avoid if I have low immunity?

Aim to ensure foods are well cooked, avoid raw vegetable sprouts, raw eggs and unpasteurised juices.

 

Should I only eat organic?

Shopping organically can be too expensive for most people. Choose fresh, local foods that are ripe when picked to maximise their nutrient content. Non-organic vegetables and fruit can be washed in a cider vinegar water solution prior to preparation.

 

Should I take supplements or eat ‘superfoods’?

Superfoods include lots of everyday options such as dark green leafy vegetables, berries, bone broth and green tea.

 

What would you say are your top tips?

  •  Eat a variety of foods

  • Reduce your intake of sugar

  • Eat dark green leafy vegetables every day (try adding them to soups or witling a little spinach with eggs for breakfast)

  • Add herbs and spices for flavour

  • Boost your intake of oily fish

  • Stay hydrated

 

The following recipe has been provided by Louise Jones who runs Food for Thought Cookery School in Westbourne. Louise says her simplest piece of advice is to try and stay away from processed foods laden with sugar, salt, chemicals and preservatives and opt for foods that are easy to digest, such as raw fruit, vegetables, legumes and seeds, and food with high nutritional values like avocado, oily fish, nuts and chickpeas. Think whole foods in their natural form that hasn’t been played around with.

 

‘A hug in a mug’ – Turmeric latte

 Turmeric may be the most effective nutritional supplement in existence. The main active ingredient, curcumin, is a powerful anti-inflammatory and is a very strong antioxidant. It is activated by black pepper. It helps the body fight foreign invaders and also has a role in repairing the damage. It’s thought that it may also improve brain function and memory as well as delaying ageing and lowering heart disease. It may be able to help with depression. Simply combine the ingredients and whisk in a pan over a medium heat until hot, but not boiled. 

250ml plant-based milk of your choice

1 flat tsp turmeric powder

½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground ginger

1-2 tsp honey or natural sweetener of your choice

Pinch of black pepper to activate the curcumin (a compound that is found within turmeric)