February 24, 2023
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants” Michael Pollan
“Your body does not do well on food-like substances” Maggie Luther ND
In the past calorie dense foods were necessary as they kept us alive and were likely nutrient rich.
In modern times we need to re-calibrate to focus on NUTRIENT dense rather than CALORIE dense foods.
Conversations about diet can be complex. We all eat. We all have different preferences for taste, texture, smell based on our experiences so far. We all have our own favourite foods and our “normal foods”. Added to this our relationship with eating itself, and the complications of also considering those we live with and what they will eat and writing about eating becomes clouded.
Why talk about food at all when it comes to recovering well?
Food is a very necessary part of our lives. Nutrition is an important aspect of recovering well after cancer treatments as what we eat is a major source of some of our healthiest nourishing choices we make (or not).
Support gut health (repair from the treatments and digestion from now on)
Energise us - and have our energy be stable and building over time (Food is meant to make is feel good).
Provide us with all the nutrients we need to healthy processes in our bodies (including strong immune function)
Support elimination of “toxins” so they don’t get stored in our fat tissues “for later” and build up.
Taste good (this is a controversial and subjective subject, even within my own household.)
Luckily our diet has all of this capability - and I think that’s pretty impressive. No wonder there are people who dedicate their careers to nutrition and supporting others to eat well, there are just so many benefits to having a healthy diet and eating well. It’s a complex and fascinating topic, and when we eat well we tend to feel well too.
It seems like everybody has an opinion about what to eat. Many of the options claim to be research backed and evidence based. This leads to a lot of confusion about how to eat well (Paleo, Ketogenic, Vegan, Pegan, Vegetarian, Ketotarian, FODMAP, Mediterranean, Pritiken, Blue Zones to name just a few of the “diets/ eating philosophies” out there).
I have found the most helpful thing is to focus on what TO eat rather than what not to eat. I look for common themes among varying information. What I have come to is 7 basic ideas and a set of guidelines that form the base principles of a healthy diet in my view.
How do we achieve all this?
Nutrient Dense, Water containing Foods
The more VARIETY of healthful foods you eat, the better.
Keep Glycemic load minimised
Plant rich diet
LOTS of vegetables
LOTS of water containing foods
Reasonable amount of berries, nuts, seeds
Source protein from a variety of sources - if you choose to have animal protein use lean preferably organic meats and be mindful of your portion sizes
USE herbs and spices to add flavour and diversity to your diet
Drink plenty of water
Eating organic food where possible. It can be hard to source enough of a varied diet when limited to what is available organically, and sometimes the cost is significant. EWG* have a report of the “dirty dozen” foods that have the most pesticides used in their production. I pay particular attention to these ones and source organic where I can, including buying organic frozen berries.
½ Non starchy vegetables or low GI fruit such as berries
¼ Starchy vegetables or pectin rich fruit or grain-like vegetables
¼ Protein with a little healthy fats (if using pulse protein have minimal complex carbohydrates)
AVOID or significantly decrease:
Refined sugar I use Stevia as a sweetener, it’s natural and calorie neutral. Monk fruit is another good option.
Refined carbohydrates (white flour based foods) This includes gluten free refined flours.
Additives (EWG* produces a report on the top food chemicals to avoid)
As part of Recovering Well I have written about supporting healthy digestive systems and aiming for stable energy levels. The Guidelines are a list of ideals, and you might be wondering if there was ONE thing you could focus on.
The answer to that is as simple and complex as - Eat Vegetables!
Specifically as many non-starchy vegetables as possible.
Vegetables (especially non-starchy ones) are nutrient dense, they contain a variety of micronutrients.
Depending on how they are grown and stored vegetables will contain antioxidants, phytochemicals and an abundance of vitamins and minerals (so do berries and other fruit).
Vegetables supply short-chain fatty acids and they can be fermented. This support healthy bowel flora.
Many vegetables contain soluble fibre, supporting healthy digestive system and elimination.
Vegetables can be eaten cooked or raw.
By loading up on vegetables you will naturally decrease eating other less desirable foods such as simple sugars.
The general public guidelines are for 5+ a day but from what I have learnt I would suggest it’s more like 9.
And by the time you have fitted in your 9 servings of non-starchy vegetables (or 6 vegetables and 3 fruit) you will be loaded up with nutrients and won’t have much focus on much else.
Then you can add a little protein, some seeds and nuts (for healthy fats), and a little complex carbohydrates such as rice/ quinoa.
How do you get 9 servings of vegetables into your diet every day?
It’s easy to get stuck into a routine of eating the same vegetables each week, with only a little variation for the seasons.
Here are a few benefits to having a variety of vegetables in your diet:
Many fruits are also nutrient dense and water containing and have soluble fibre.
Herbs are very flavourful and learning to add these to your cooking makes such a big difference to the flavour of your meal that you will find you don’t need to rely on sugar/ salt/ additive laden flavouring sauces.
Seeds are highly nutritious and although they aren’t water containing they give us so much (essential fatty acids, minerals, vitamins, anti-oxidants and fibre) that they are worth including into our diets every day.
This can be done using a blended seed mix (that you make once a week and leave in the fridge). I suggest you use 50% flaxseed and a combination of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, hemp seeds.
For more information you can read my article on savoury snacks.
There are some foods that don’t work for some people. Whether this is a full blown allergy or just a food that makes you sick even thinking about.
I advocate building up your tolerance for a variety of tastes and textures by adding small amounts of foods that aren’t your favourite and getting used to different tastes.
I also advocate supporting your digestion and gut integrity to allow you to be able to have as varied healthful diet as possible.
In a consultation with clients we work together and can analyse what they are eating and through careful questioning and food diaries we can gain clues to how the food they eat is affecting them. This leads to discussions about what changes will be most helpful, and incorporates each persons preferences, must haves etc
This is not a consultation, and in this setting I can only offer general guidelines. I encourage you to experiment and find what works for you within the healthy guidelines, there really are many ways to eat well and support your recovery by having a nutrient dense healthy diet.
Overall the goal is to increase or have lots of what helps and decrease or minimise what doesn't.
Our bodies are extremely complex but what we know is that we need enough protein, carbohydrate and good quality fats (macronutrients) for energy and repair as well as approximately 30 vitamins and minerals (micronutrients).
What you eat is meant to nourish you.
Cites of Interest:
*EWG are a non profit organisation that advocate for policies that protect global and individual health. www.EWG.org
The Everything Guide to Adrenal Fatigue, Maggie Luther ND
The Holford Diet by Patrick Holford
NutritionFacts.org. This site has a Daily Dozen Meal Planning Guide and a Evidence based eating guide that are useful resources you can get emailed to you for free.
ONE, Jamie Oliver
The Revive 5 Cafe cookbook by Jeremy Dixon
Cancer - The best of both worlds - Julia Davidson
October 06, 2023
I have found with the people that I help that using minerals gives us a strong foundation to work with.
On a personal level I am extremely grateful for the support of minerals!!
September 01, 2023
August 25, 2023
When you start to think in a downward spiral, or become distracted or focussing on negative “unwanted” thoughts - of the past, the present or the future you simply tell your brain “Useful Thoughts Only”
The trick is catching yourself in the act, but I suspect you may have a few (or even many) opportunities each day to practice this technique. The great thing is, even if you realise after quite a while that you have been riding the unhelpful thought train, you can stop at any time and tell yourself - USEFUL THOUGHTS ONLY.