Summary: Nutrition plays a vital role during and after cancer treatment. The nutrients you put in to your body directly affect how well you can handle, and recover from, the strong treatments you need to fight your battle. Genetically modified foods, toxins, additives and chemicals can make the road to nutrition difficult and challenging. Knowing what types of foods you are eating can help you to ensure that you are eating a clean, wholesome diet that includes the best proteins, fruits and vegetables with the least amount of extra unnecessary ingredients as possible.
Your cancer diagnosis will truly affect everything in your life from priorities, to your family, work, even outlook on life. The time and trials after your treatment will be filled with learning about your illness and how to live a cleaner, healthier life. While what to eat may be the farthest thing from your mind, it is actually one of the most important aspects of aftercare. Eating a clean, healthy diet can benefit your life in a myriad of ways. Clean eating refers to eating those naturally grown, organic or whole foods. Some of those important ways are:
– to generally feel better in your day to day life
– to reserve your strength and energy for healing
– to maintain a healthy weight and your body’s stock of nutrients
– to tolerate and work through treatment related side-effects
– to maximize the benefits of treatment
– to decrease your risk of infection and maintain a healthy immune system
– to heal and recover quickly
During your treatment, your concentration will be on fighting cancer. After your treatment, your focus should shift to helping your body to be as strong as possible, filling it with the most nutritious and beneficial foods you can. Many studies show that those patients who eat well, nourish their bodies, and allow their bodies time to heal face chemotherapy and treatment better than those who did not (ACS).
What does it mean to “eat well?” This is something many people struggle with. Does it mean a specific diet? Avoiding dairy? Gluten? Sugar? Additives and extras? Not necessarily, or maybe, if you have a medical need for certain dietary requirements. Eating well is simply eating a balance of foods to help optimize your body and overall health. Getting the proper nutrition during this time is essential, and many foods have been proven to halt the growth of cancer in its tracks!
As you consider nutrition and what it means to your overall healing and health, you may also wonder how the quality of your food affects your health. The way that food is grown, raised, or treated can indeed affect your health or treatment. The Environmental Protection agency, or EPA, raises concerns about pesticides, which are substances intended and used for the prevention, destruction, repelling or reduction of pests. This also refers to herbicides and fungicides. These types of chemicals are regularly used on large farming crops all throughout the world, with varying levels of risk and danger to humans and animals. There are certain things you can do to ensure the fruits and vegetables you are eating do not have the remnants of chemicals on them.
- Wash vegetables and fruits with large amounts of water, brushing them with a produce brush. Dish soap can be used in small amounts, although rinsing properly is a must. Another method many use is allowing your fresh produce to bathe in a large bowl of water and vinegar (in a 1:1 mix) for up to an hour. This helps to break away any wax or chemicals put on to the product to help with shelf stability.
- If produce is labeled as pre-washed reduce your risk of food-borne illness by washing regardless of any prewashing. Trust your process.
- Place washed fruit and vegetables in containers or bags for storage, putting a paper towel inside of the bag helps to control moisture build-up.
The Dirty Dozen & Clean Fifteen
According to numerous environmental groups, the “dirty dozen” of fresh produce highlight the fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticides and harmful chemicals.
The “clean fifteen” are the fruits and vegetables that have the least amount of chemicals or toxins pesticides.
Genetically Modified Foods
Genetically modified foods are those foods that have been changed, altered or generated in a laboratory to resist pests, disease, increase nutrients, or improve amount or overall shelf life. These GMO foods are made by including genes from other plants and organisms. To date, there have been forty approved GMO foods in the United States (Grant). While many people have heard of genetically modified foods, not as many are aware of the dangers they could face.
Are these genetically modified foods safe? This is a very heated debate topic with studies proving that they are safe, and others proving and linking the chemicals to the development of cancer. GMO foods pose the same risks and benefits that other, non-gmo foods do. The presence of allergens, toxins, or even antinutrients are very common. Many scientists believe that genetically modified foods will increase in production in our world over the next few decades to enhance food nutrition and increase quantity and quality of food produced.
Certain GMO foods, like golden rice, contains beneficial DNA from daffodils that has proven to help combat serious vitamin A deficiencies in the body, which, when left untreated, causes blindness. In third world countries, these types of GMO foods can be very beneficial for those who struggle to get the basics of nutrition. The FDA, USDA and EPA all share oversight and believe that genetically modified foods can be beneficial in the future. For example, the tomatoes that contain extra lycopene, purple carrots rich in anthocyanins.
A food additive is any substance added to food. In a legal sense, the definition is “any substance the intended use of which results or may reasonably be expected to result, directly or indirectly, in its becoming a component or otherwise affecting the characteristics of any food.” This definition includes any substance used in the production, processing, treatment, packaging, transportation, or storage of food. Additives are most often used in foods for these five reasons:
– to improve consistency and texture with emulsifiers, stabilizers, and texturizers that keep foods creamy and mixed together, help with moistness, or leaving agents
– to replace nutrients lost during refining or milling
– to preserve food and keep it from spoiling
– to provide leavening or control acidity or alkalinity
– to enhance color or flavor
Some additives have been used in the United States for decades, while others are newer to the market. In some cases, the additives in food can be harmful to people with certain medical conditions. For example, added folic acid in some foods can be hazardous to those with certain MTHFR gene mutations. On the flip side, the calcium added to orange juice benefits the drinker by helping to strengthen their bones. There are some common food additives that you may recognize while reading labels like ascorbic acid, which is vitamin C, or beta carotene which is a source of vitamin A.
The foods you eat and ingest can and do directly speak to your DNA which can either benefit your body or cause detrimental damage and chaos. It is entirely up to you, the choices you make, and your genetic makeup. Healthier foods increase your body’s ability to function normally and allow all of your organ systems to work together at their best.
American Cancer Soceity Complete Guide to Nutrition for Cancer by Barbara Grant: Bloch, Hamilton, and Tomson. ISBN0944235786