Over the years I’ve had many conversations with newly diagnosed cancer patients. They’ve gone to all the most popular cancer websites and blogs. At this point one of three things happens: they become a raw-food-only vegan, they go the opposite direction and start the carbohydrate-free, fat-rich keto diet, or they are so confused that all food becomes suspect. I would like to heartily advocate for a return to truly holistic eating where we eat a variety of foods from a place of enjoyment.
Let’s look at some guiding principles that help us know what the best diet is for cancer patients:
1. Diet is just one aspect of tending your health. A balanced diet sits at the table with good sleep, physical movement, moderated stress, sunshine, laughter, love, and supportive herbal medicines.
2. Vegetables and fruits should occupy most of the plate at EVERY meal. The phytochemicals available in deeply colored plant foods are a rich pharmacopeia. There is no pharmacological substance that even comes close to the medicinal value of eating diverse whole foods.
3. Dietary individualization is essential. If someone is thin, has difficulty building muscle, has poor energy, or low digestive vitality, a cold, raw diet is not indicated. The warming and easy-to-digest nature of cooked foods will allow greater nourishment and nutrient extraction. By contrast, if you have a hot, fiery system, with heartburn, constipation, and high cholesterol, then a cooler, raw diet may be of benefit. Remember the internet does not know what type of person you are.
4. Intermittent fasting is not appropriate for everybody. Allowing our digestion to rest and cells to empty themselves of fat can be beneficial for many people, especially those with high sugars or lipids. However, it is not indicated for everyone, particularly those with thyroid issues, poor sleep, or adrenal fatigue. We think better and make wiser choices when we are not hungry.
My goal is for people to eat very broadly from the vegetable kingdom. Once that habit is in place (and it does take work!), then there is a lot of leeway for tailoring your diet to what suits you best.
Ideally, we are trying to construct a diet that:
• is nutritionally dense and digests well
• has variety and balance, including some cooked, some raw, and as many colors as possible
• meets your specific metabolic needs
• is super-gratifying
I believe that healthy eating is truly about adding more nutrients to our meals than it is about what we avoid. So, please enjoy your food! Eating should be a pleasure and feel like a gift.