According to the US National Cancer Institute more than 40% of people will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetime. While this is a staggering number, incidence rates are declining and survival rates are increasing. The current field of cancer research is very promising. New treatment strategies and options are being explored and developed for many types of cancer. As someone personally involved in ground breaking cancer research on a daily basis I am very optimistic that more patient specific treatment is emerging that will increase survival and reduce unpleasant side effects. We have already seen the field transform so much in the last decade, and I believe we will only continue to progress.
Unfortunately, many cancer patients currently must receive numerous chemotherapy, radiation and drug treatments which can cause unpleasant side effects. I strongly believe quality of life is something to keep in mind, but I also believe in fighting with all you’ve got. These treatments take a major toll on the patient, but many times lead to remission and recovery. Many cancer patients do not have the energy to continue with daily life activities and often depend on family and friends for support. One of the greatest challenges for cancer patients, especially those plagued by nasty treatment side effects, is maintaining a healthy and complete diet. Sometimes patients are so nauseated that they struggle to keep food down, others battle digestive issues, some will experience an altered sense of taste, and for some the slight odor of food can make them sick.
For patients struggling with nausea bland foods are best, while avoiding spicy strong flavors. As a child I suffered from motion sickness induced nausea a lot. My mother always gave me ginger supplement pills to help with the nausea and this goes right along with the commonly accepted notion of drinking ginger ale when one has the stomach flu. Following the idea that ginger can aid in the treatment of nausea, many cancer patients suffering the uncomfortable side effect of nausea may actually find some relief by taking ginger supplements daily. Additionally, foods with fresh ginger root may also help, as well as ginger teas. While it is not necessarily a tried and true remedy for chemotherapy induced nausea, many cancer patients do benefit some from it. According to a new study, it is critical to take ginger root supplements before starting chemotherapy, throughout chemotherapy, and after chemotherapy to gain the most benefit from them.
Another nagging side effect of chemotherapy and drug treatments is digestive issues. For patients suffering constipation, a diet rich in fiber is essential. Others will struggle with bouts of diarrhea, and must be vigilant about staying hydrated. Sports drinks, juices, and soup broths help get liquid into the system. Avoidance of irritant foods, such as greasy foods, is also very important.
As you can see, meal preparation and proper nutrition become major players in the battle against cancer. For this reason the American Cancer Society has released a new cookbook entitled “What To Eat During Cancer Treatment”. The 100 recipes in this book support cancer treatment recovery by addressing many of the unpleasant side effects with delicious family-friendly meals. A couple of my favorites are listed below, including Honey-Yogurt Parfait and Honey-Teriyaki Salmon.
Layering yogurt with fruit and granola is a healthy breakfast or snack. Use fresh fruit, such as berries which are rich in antioxidants, or substitute dried fruit rich in fiber, such as apricots, if you prefer. Try using Greek yogurt, which is extra thick and creamy, with a higher protein content than regular yogurt. Honey is a great sweetener which contains far less sugar than traditionally sweetened yogurts.
1/2 cup yogurt
2 teas honey
1/4 cup fruit (fresh or dried)
1/4 cup granola
In a small bowl combine the yogurt and honey. Layer in a serving glass with fruit and granola.
Teriyaki glaze is a thick sauce that pairs sweet and savory flavorings. This recipe can be made with salmon or chicken depending on your preference. If you are sensitive to the smells of food choose chicken over the stronger smelling fish and try grilling outdoors instead of inside.
2/3 cup teriyaki sauce
2 tbls honey
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 (1/2-inch) piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
4 (4-oz) salmon fillets (or chicken breasts)
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray. Combine teriyaki sauce, honey, garlic, and ginger. Reserve a few tablespoons of this mixture. Place salmon skin side down on baking sheets and brush glaze over the top of them. Bake 5 minutes and reapply glaze. Bake an additional 5 minutes, or until fish is cooked through. Remove from oven and top with the reserved glaze. Serve with fresh steamed vegetables and brown rice.