Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Combat Cancer By Eating Healthy - A Guest Post By Jillian McKee

Those who know me, or who have read this blog for any length of time, know that I'm a pleasure eater.   As such, I'll never be a health food extremist; I enjoy my red meat, bacon, cheese, eggs, and pate way too much to expunge them from my diet.   That being said I'm 42 years old, and I recognize the need to eat sensibly, and even proactively, in order to maintain good health.  A diet which includes salads, citrus, oil rich fish, and fiber is not only important to maintain, but can also be delicious.

Believing this as I do, when Complementary Medicine Advocate, Jillian McKee asked to post a guest spot on this blog, I agreed immediately.  Following her piece are a few recipes I've come across, which utilize some of the principles she discusses.

Jillian McKee has worked as the Complementary Medicine Advocate at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance since June of 2009. Jillian spends most her time on outreach efforts and spreading information about the integration of complementary and alternative medicine when used in conjunction with traditional cancer treatment.
Cancer is a serious disease that can afflict anyone. It is important that everyone regularly has themselves checked for cancer. Upon being diagnosed with cancer, it is important that treatment is received and that there is proper education of the state of one’s condition. Besides the physician prescribed treatment, it is of paramount importance for those with cancer to live well, think good thoughts, and eat well.

For those with cancer, eating well is not a cure or treatment, but it can help the body be in the best possible condition to fight against the cancer. Nutrition is important for maintaining peak energy levels, keeping one’s mood high, and maintaining an overall high quality of life.

Among the most important foods to eat for those diagnosed with cancer is foods containing antioxidants. In our bodies, when stress is induced, harmful oxidation occurs which generates free radicals. These free radicals damage cells within the body and cause DNA mutations to occur which can cause cancer. Antioxidants are compounds that neutralize these oxidizing agents, preventing free radicals from being formed. Thus, antioxidants can help combat the negative side effects of stress placed on the body. Foods that are high in antioxidant concentration are vegetables and fruits.

Any citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons, and limes are high in the antioxidant Vitamin C. Vitamin C is capable of not only neutralizing free radicals, but it is also important in collagen synthesis. Collagen is an important component of skin. Consuming high amounts of vitamin C containing fruits will help improve skin elasticity. Since radiation treatment for those diagnosed with cancer can be quite harmful to skin, Vitamin C containing food should help immensely with maintaining optimal skin quality.

Vegetables such as carrots, oranges, red peppers, and tomatoes contain compounds called carotenoids, which not only act as antioxidants but are also important in maintaining healthy eyesight. Those undergoing cancer treatments should pay special attention to their eyes since chemotherapeutic agents can damage eyesight.
Along with all of the antioxidant properties of vegetables and fruits, they all provide high amounts of fiber. Fiber is undigested material, which passes through the digestive tract, and ushers forward the food and debris within the colon. Those receiving chemotherapeutic treatments should consume high amounts of fiber in order to both maintain colon health and to maintain regularity. The chemicals used in treating cancer can cause constipation or indigestion. Fiber from consuming fruits and vegetables on a daily basis can help alleviate these undesired conditions.

Fish, specifically oily fish can also be very beneficial for those suffering from cancer. Fish oil is high in Omega-3 Fatty Acids. These compounds are great for alleviating high blood pressure and depression, improving skin and eye dryness, reducing inflammation, and even slowing the growth of cancerous tissue. Consuming oily fish a few times a week should suffice for providing the body with the Omega-3 Fatty acids it needs. However, avoid consuming too much fish, since certain types of fish can be high in harmful chemicals such as mercury and PCB. In addition to Omega-3 Fatty acids, oily fish, and also peanuts and cashews, have high levels of the natural mineral Selenium. This mineral has been shown in studies to reduce the risk of cancer.

Soy containing foods, such as soya beans or tofu, contain an important family of compounds known as isoflavones. These organic compounds are considered both antioxidants and phytoestrogens. They help regulate hormone levels and through this mechanism, reduce cancerous cell proliferation. However, men should avoid consuming high amounts of phytoestrogens since they can act in a similar fashion to the female sex hormone, estrogen.

Foods high in Ellagic Acid are also great for their anti-carcinogenic effects. A variety of berries along with grapes are high in Ellagic Acid.  This acid selectively inhibits an enzyme, which catalyzes a reaction, which then allows cancerous tissue to grow and proliferate.

Eating healthy to help your body fight against cancer also includes knowing which foods to avoid. In general, foods that are not healthy and nutritious for people without cancer to consume are also not good for people with cancer to consume. As such, those undergoing cancer treatments should avoid foods high in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and high fructose corn syrup. All of these compounds increase inflammation and blood pressure, which only increase the rate of cancerous tissue growth. Thus, avoid eating fast food and highly processed foods. Also, be sure to avoid grilled foods with grill marks because burnt food contains Benzopyrene, a known carcinogen.

If you are receiving treatments for mesothelioma or any other kind of cancer, eating healthy can help make your fight against cancer much easier. However, nutrition is only an aid to ending cancer, not a cure. More information regarding developing and maintaining a healthy diet during cancer can be found at- The National Cancer Institute. 

From La Cucina Italiana Magazine, this first recipe combines citrus with my favorite oil rich fish, sardines.

Citrus Sardines (Sarde Agli Agrumi)
4 servings

  • 2¼ pounds fresh sardines
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • ½ cup chopped herbs (basil, sage, rosemary, parsley)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Lemon, orange or cucumber slices for garnish
Clean the sardines, remove heads and scrub gently under running water to remove the scales; butterfly and fillet. Place the lemon and orange juice in a skillet and bring to a boil. Rest the sardines on top, side by side, slightly overlapping and sprinkle with the orange and lemon zest. Add the olive oil, ½ cup water, salt and pepper. Cover and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Sprinkle sardines with the chopped herbs, transfer to a serving platter, spoon the sauce over top and serve warm, decorated with lemon, orange or cucumber slices.


This salad from Fitness and Freebies combines beans, tuna, and veggies into a high fiber single dish meal.

Italian Bean and Tuna Salad 
Recipe courtesy of American Dry Bean Board.


  • 11 oz can baby lima beans, rinsed, drained
  • 11 oz can dark red kidney beans, rinsed, drained
  • 10 oz can Great Northern beans, rinsed, drained
  • 5 cherry tomatoes, cut into fourths
  • 1/4 small cucumber, cut lengthwise into halves, seeded, sliced
  • 3-1/2 tablespoons bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup tarragon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons nonfat plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 11 ounces tuna steak, broiled or grilled, or canned white tuna in water, drained, flaked into small pieces
  • 5-1/4 large lettuce leaves
  • 2-3/4 basil or parsley sprigs

Combine beans, tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, and onion in large bowl. Add the next 8 ingredients (basil vinaigrette) and toss. Refrigerate mixture at least 4 hours for flavors to blend, stirring mixture occasionally. Add tuna to mixture 1 to 2 hours before serving. Spoon salad onto lettuce-lined plate; garnish with basil.

You can make the bean salad one day in advance and refrigerate, adding tuna 1 to 2 hours before serving.

Nutrition information per serving:

Yield: 8 servings
Calories: 625; Fat: 9.6g; Cholesterol: 37mg; Protein: 48.3g; Carbohydrates: 90.8g; Fiber: 24g; Sodium: 85mg; 13% calories from fat
Dietary Exchanges: Vegetable: 1.9, Bread: 5.1, Fat: 1.3, Very lean meat protein: 2.3 


Finally The Mayo Clinic gives us a recipe for a refreshing high fiber dessert.

Summer Fruit Gratin

  • 1 pound cherries, pitted and halved
  • 4 cups peeled, pitted and sliced mixed summer stone fruits, such as nectarines, peaches and apricots
  • 1 tablespoon whole wheat flour
    For the topping
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup sliced (flaked) almonds
  • 3 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar or firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons walnut oil or canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon dark honey 
Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C). Lightly coat a 9-inch (23-cm) square baking dish with cooking spray. In a bowl, combine the cherries and stone fruits. Sprinkle with the flour and turbinado sugar and toss gently to mix.

To make the topping, in another bowl, combine the oats, almonds, flour, turbinado sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Whisk to blend. Stir in the oil and honey and mix until well blended.
Spread the fruit mixture evenly in the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the oat-almond mixture evenly over the fruit. Bake until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is lightly browned, 45-55 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Nutritional analysis per serving
Serves 6

Calories224 Sodium52 mg
Total fat8 g Total carbohydrate38 g
Saturated fat1 g Dietary fiber5 g
Monounsaturated fat3 g Protein4 g
Cholesterol0 mg

Recipes print individually as pages 3, 4, & 5 for your fridge or recipe file.

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