MEET GUEST BLOGGER Kendall Scott from Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen:
Kendall was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at age 27. After making changes in her diet during cancer treatment and noticing major improvements in her energy and overall health, she attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and attained board certification as a Health Counselor to further her knowledge of food and integrative health and begin her health coaching practice. She is the co-author, with Annette Ramke, of Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen: The Girlfriend’s Cookbook and Guide to Using Real Food to Fight Cancer, which will be available in September 2012. Kendall resides in Maine with her husband and baby boy.
When did eating get so complicated?
We hear and read about so many different diets or the latest food or nutrient you absolutely should or shouldn’t eat, and we’re left wondering what the heck we’re supposed to do. Add to that frustration a cancer diagnosis, and you might be feeling more confused and overwhelmed than ever before.
Here’s the bad news. There is no magic formula or diet or “food in a box” that will be the answer to your prayers when it comes to figuring out what to eat. In fact, anything or anyone who promises that should be regarded warily. We are all so different biologically and need different foods at different times in our lives, so there is no “one-size-fits-all” diet or secret. And there is no quick, magic solution. We actually have to do a little work, take the time to prepare our food and pay attention to how that food makes us feel to know if it’s a good choice.
Here’s the good news. Generally speaking, there is a diet (and when I use the term “diet,” I’m referring to the foods you are eating regularly and over the long term and not a short term, quick-fix diet plan) that many experts agree can greatly benefit most people, including those affected by cancer. Eat real, whole foods and mostly plant foods. Reduce or omit processed foods, artificial foods, refined sugars and animal foods. This means plenty of vegetables, especially leafy greens, fruit, whole grains and plant-based proteins like nuts, seeds, beans and lentils. And if you want to include some animal foods in your diet like eggs, fish or meats, then consume it in smaller amounts and pay attention to your body after eating it.
If you can follow this general diet, you’re body will thank you. Eating clean, unprocessed whole foods is what your body needs to function properly, fight disease and maintain a healthy weight. If you can focus on this type of eating, not only will your body be better equipped to heal from and fight cancer, but it will also be better able to withstand treatment side effects.
One of the first things I noticed while undergoing chemotherapy was how much more quickly I bounced back to life in between chemo sessions every two weeks, once I began getting the junk out of my diet and the good stuff in. I felt happier, more energized, stronger, and less nauseous. What a difference from my meat-and-potatoes, take-out pizza diet!
I incorporated a basic, real-food, plant-based diet, but I also listened to my body. If I felt better eating some animal protein during treatment, then I did. For the most part I stayed away from sweets, except for the occasional treat (or I made my own healthier versions!) and I stopped eating so much processed food. It made me feel bad, and I didn’t want that. Paying attention to your body and how it reacts to different foods is important. When it comes down to it, you are the best expert for your body and how you should eat.
On top of feeling stronger and more energized, I also felt a sense of empowerment. I knew I was doing something amazing for my body that would help me through my cancer journey. From the moment I was diagnosed, I knew I couldn’t just sit back and let my doctors (no matter how awesome they were!) take control and hope everything worked. I needed to be proactive. I needed to know that what I did could actually make a difference. And it did.
Today, I am cancer-free and enjoying food in a way I never thought was possible. I love getting fresh kale from my garden. I can’t wait to visit the farmers’ market. I enjoy being in my kitchen, trying new recipes, chopping veggies and cooking rice. And I feel happier and healthier than ever before. And I see this new way of thinking around food catching on with my husband, family and friends, because they too can feel the difference.
So when you’re trying to find your way through the endless maze of nutrition information, try taking a step back. Go back to the basics – get clean, whole foods. Real food. Lots of plant food. Food your great-grandmother would recognize. Get in the kitchen. Get your family or friends to help you in the kitchen if you’re worn out. Try growing some spinach in a pot on your window sill. Don’t stress over the details, the calories or the latest diet fad. Just tune in to your body, do some experimenting and go have some fun in the kitchen!
To get you started, here is a favorite recipe of mine from Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen:
Yield: makes 2 1/2 cups
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large carrot, thinly sliced into rounds (about 1/2 cup)
2 bunches kale, thick stems removed, thinly sliced (about 8 cups)
1 garlic clove, minced
2 to 3 tablespoons tamari (soy sauce)
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup raisins
Heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the carrot for five minutes. Add the garlic, kale, tamari, cashews and raisins and sauté a few minutes until cashews begin to soften.