Whether you live to eat or eat to live, food is essential to our lives and one of the most important influencers of our health and wellbeing. With so much confusing and often contradictory information on food and diet, it can be difficult to know what to eat to best support our health.
While we are all individuals, and there is no such thing as a perfect anti-cancer diet, here are some principles we think make a great foundation for eating well and supporting our immune systems at this challenging time:
- Keep it Real – One thing all nutrition ‘authorities’ agree on is that we should base our diet on an abundance of natural, ‘real’ foods and minimise intake of ultra-processed foods. In particular, most people would benefit from including more plants, such as vegetables, fruits, beans and pulses, nuts, seeds and whole grains, in their diet. These are packed full of fibre and nutrients which study after study show have extensive benefits for our health.
- Be Balanced – as well as an abundance of fibre rich plant foods, ensure each meal and snack includes a small portion of quality protein (such as eggs, fish, meat, yoghurt, cheese, beans, pulses, quinoa) and healthy fat (such as oily fish, extra virgin olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds). This will help keep you full through the day and provide sustained energy.
- Eat in Colour – ‘Eat a Rainbow’ is one of the best diet mantras to emerge in recent years, and vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices shine here. The wonderful pigments in brightly coloured natural produce are unique plant chemicals (phytonutrients), with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immune supportive properties.
- Seek Variety – having a diverse diet that includes many different types of food means we can benefit from a wide range of nutrients, as well as support healthy gut bacteria. This is especially key for vegetables and fruits which are nature’s true superfoods. Choosing foods in season, trying out varieties you don’t normally eat, and introducing more delicious herbs and spices are great ways increase diversity in your diet and keep meals interesting.
- Practice Moderation – When we’re experimenting with enjoying different nutritious foods and ingredients, it’s useful to remember that however healthy, eating too much of any single food can be unbalanced and leave little room to benefit from others.
- Find the Joy! – As well as nourishing the body, food and eating should nourish our spirit and be a source of pleasure. There’s a lot to be said for ‘a little of what you fancy does you good… and the good old 80/20 ‘rule’ (or even better 90/10!) works well here… follow (and hopefully enjoy!) our healthy eating principles most of the time and then take time to savour and feel good about any little treats you choose to have.
Lastly, we are very aware that for some people, the treatments, symptoms and side effects of their cancer can make eating difficult and some of these principles may not be easy or possible. We have some useful eating well resources that might be helpful, or do consider booking a 1:1 appointment with our nutritional therapist for advice and support for your particular needs.