After being diagnosed with cancer we are often inundated with a small avalanche of dietary advice. Everyone, it seems, is keen to offer opinions about what we should or should not eat. I read books on macrobiotics, juicing, raw food, the dangers of dairy and the importance of iodine until I felt the need to go and lie downin a darkened room with a chocolate éclair over my eyes.
I instinctively felt that eating the right things would play a very important part in my recovery. But I have to say, I did become fearful, overwhelmed and a little bit paranoid about the whole anti-cancer diet. I also felt slightly depressed at the prospect of a lifetime of lentil stew and carrot sandwiches that I envisaged stretching tediously before me.
Now, I have always prided myself on my cooking but one of my main problems was that I just didn’t know where to start, nor did I have the energy to undertake an Open University course in nutrition and naturopathy. I understood that the first step would be to actually have the right foods in my kitchen. It would be relatively simple matter to create healthy meals if my cupboards and fridge were all stocked up with healthy ingredients. But what were they?
At the time it would have been great to have had a simple shopping list to take with me to the supermarket. You may be experiencing similar confusion about what to eat and what to buy. Fear not. Chemo Chic has been there to beat a path before you. And that path has led us to the door of Barbara Cox, nutritionist, chef and proprietor of – you guessed it – Nutrichef.
So take the stress and guesswork out of food shopping. You simply can’t go wrong with Barbara’s super shopping list.
100 Star Foods For Superhealth
To facilitate the myriad of biochemical processes that go on inside us each and every day we all need a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. To get these nutrients we need to eat a wide variety of different kinds of food, but, alarmingly, many of us eat a very restricted diet in which we repeatedly choose our favourite meals. In contrast, I noted that people in Japan – where I was lucky enough to live for eight years – eat a far more varied diet, often consuming around 100 different varieties of food each week. Is it any wonder, therefore, that the United Kingdom finds itself at Number 37 in the world rankings for life expectancy, while Japan finds itself at Number 3.
So why not aim to up your intake of healthy ingredients? Here I’ve identified 100 of the best on Planet Earth, beginning with the most important group – fruit and vegetables.
Fruit and Vegetables
Although the UK Government recommends a daily intake of five portions of fruit and veg, experts say this should be the bare minimum. Nine or ten is a better figure to aim for. In fact, a recent study from the US National Cancer Institute found that women who ate ten servings of fruit and veg each day lowered their risk ofhaving a heart attack by 40%. For each additional serving, you lower your risk of heart disease by an additional 4%. I find that a target of ten is easy to achieve if you make stir fries, stews and casseroles.
- Red and orange peppers Rich in disease-fighting antioxidants, they contain three times as much vitamin C as citrus fruit, and they have antibacterial qualities.
- Broccoli A cancer fighting veg, it’s high in calcium, folate and antioxidants.
- Carrots They have cholesterol lowering properties and are rich in Vitamin A, which is good for your eyes.
- Sweet potatoes Rich in Fibre, vitamin C, folate, iron, copper and calcium; sweet potatoes are also bursting with Vitamin A.
- Watercress Packed with folate, iron and betacarotene, and good for cardiovascular and thyroid function, too.
- Tomatoes They’re packed with vitamin C and the antioxidant lycopene.
- Red cabbage Rich in fibre, vitamin C, betacarotene and disease-fighting sulphorate.
- Blueberries Loaded with anthocyans, vitamin C and fibre. A great source of disease-fighting antioxidants.
- Apples Rich in Vitamin C and soluble fibre, which is gentler on your gut than insoluble fibre.
- Peaches Easily digested and have a cleansing effect on your kidneys and bladder, too.
- Asparagus High in nutrients, especially vitamin K (important for blood clotting) and folic acid. A good liver tonic.
- Beansprouts Rich in vitamin B3, which keeps down cholesterol levels and regulates blood sugar. Also rich in biochemicals that aid digestion.
- Aubergines Full of calcium and betacarotene, aubergines are good for the cardio-vascular system
- Mangetout Good source of fibre and rich in vitamins A, C and K.
- Watermelon An ‘anti-aging’ fruit that’s rich in lycopene and immune-boosting vitamin C.
- Pineapple Contains bromelain, an important digestive enzyme that kills bacteria. It’s an anti-bloat food, too.
- Raspberries Provides around 40% of your daily dose of vitamin C as well as other powerful antioxidants.
- Kiwi fruit Very rich in immune-boosting vitamin C, magnesium and potassium, which are vital for healthy nerves and muscles. One kiwi contains your reference nutrient intake of vitamin C.
- Cranberries Rich in anti-aging antioxidants; help prevent the build-up of plaque in the arteries and may help to prevent urinary tract infections.
- Pomegranate Hailed as a new superfruit, thanks to high levels of Vitamins A, C and E and other antioxidants.
- Goji berries These Asian fruits contain up to 21 trace minerals. They’re said to be the richest source of carotenoids, including beta-carotene, of all known foods. Available as dried fruits from health food shops.
There are two kinds of carbohydrate: complex and simple. Normally in life we’re told to keep things simple and avoid overcomplicating things; however, with carbohydrates, we should do the opposite! Simple carbohydrates are all the naughty ones like chocolates, cakes and sweets that provide us with ‘empty’calories – calories galore with very few useful nutrients thrown in for good measure! The problem with simple carbohydrates is that their high concentration of sugar breaks down very quickly, giving you an energy ‘high’ followed quickly by an energy ‘low’.
In contrast, complex carbohydrates like oats, millet, maize, rice and wheat provide us with energy in a slow-release form, and they provide us with vitamins and minerals.
- Brown rice Good source of energy, as well as B Vitamins.
- Pearl barley Linked with lower cholesterol levels, good for the digestive tract and contains zinc, which boosts the immune system.
- Oats A superb energy source, rich in fibre, they reduce cholesterol and are packed with minerals and vitamin B5 – important for hair, skin and nails.
- Quinoa Good source of protein, vitamin E and iron, plus zinc, which is good for the immune system.
- Spelt A distant relative of wheat, but it’s more easily absorbed by the body.
- Rye Contains iron and B vitamins. Regular intakes of rye are linked with lower rates of heart disease.
- Buckwheat High in protein, use this gluten-free grain in flour form for bread, pancakes etc.
- Millet This gluten-free carb is great as an alternative to rice. Contains zinc, iron, vitamins B3 and E.
- Soba Noodles Usually made from buckwheat, they may have wheat flour added. Contain selenium and zinc.
- Couscous A source of slow release carbohydrate, it’s rich in vitamin B3, which provides energy. Also rich in minerals and vitamin B5 – important for healthy hair, skin and nails.
- Bulgur/cracked wheat Both good sources of slow-releasing carbs.
Protein is essential for growth and repair. As for how much to eat, a rough guide is to clench your fist and eat the same volume of protein with every meal!
- Walnuts A good source of omega-3’s and antioxidants.
- Shellfish Most varieties are high in omega-3 fatty acids and zinc.
- Turkey Rich source of vitamin B12, potassium, zinc and iron.
- Chickpeas Rich in phyto-oestrogens, which are linked with lower rates of some cancers.
- Eggs One egg provides a third of your Vitamin B12 needs, essential for the nervous system.
- Kidney beans Great Source of fibre and are rich in complex carbs.
- Tofu Low-fat protein that contains some iron, zinc and B vitamins.
- Mackerel The richest fish source of omega-3’s.
- Edamame A soya bean that’s rich in cancer-fighting isoflavones.
- Venison Lower in saturated fats than other red meats.
- Mussels Provide an excellent supply of B12. Rich in selenium and iodine, which helps thyroid function.
- Mung beans Most nutrititious when sprouted, they’re rich in minerals, phyto-oestrogens and vitamin C.
- Rabbit Lower in fat than other red meats and is rich in iron, zinc and vitamin B12.
- Pumpkin seeds A particularly good source of iron and zinc.
- Dulse (seaweed) High in vitamin B, iron and potassium.
Local, seasonal foods will be fresher and more nutrient-rich. Here are some around in the colder months, when we’re in even more need of a healthy diet.
- Artichoke Rich in fibre, vitamin c, potassium and magnesium, they’re good for digestion.
- Acorn squash Packed with nutrients that benefit your eyes, blood pressure and immunity.
- Celeriac Contains potassium, phosphorus, vitamin C and fibre.
- Beetroot High in vitamin C, betacarotene, magnesium, iron and folic acid.
- Red onion Rich in cancer-fighting quercetin.
- Brussels sprouts Loaded with folic acid and suphotaphane, thought to be a potent anti-carcinogen.
- Passion fruit A good source of vitamins A and C, passion fruit is thought to aid sleep.
- Satsumas Excellent source of vitamin C and folate.
- Kale Full of iron and folic acid, and easy to use in stir-fries.
Fats and Oils
Healthy Fats are important for your metabolism and absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K, for brain development and feelings of satiety. Aim for no more than 70g (about 3 tablespoons) a day.
- Flaxseed oil Rich in fatty acids thought to prevent heart disease.
- Rapeseed oil A healthy cooking oil and a source of omega-3’s.
- Avocado Contains vitamin E, so it’s great for your skin.
- Olive oil Rich in oleic acid, which helps you absorb omega-3’s.
- Hazelnut oilHigh in omega-9’s and contains vitamin E.
Herbs and Spices
These provide trace elements, have medicinal properties and help create different flavours and textures, enabling you to experiment with a wider variety of foods.
- Ginger Good for digestion and is also anti-inflammatory.
- Garlic This has antibacterial, antiviral and antiseptic qualities.
- Mint Contains vitamin C, calcium and iron.
- Turmeric Containing curcumin, it has anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting effects.
- Cinnamon A warming spice useful for treating colds, stomach pains and poor circulation.
- Bay leaves They provide traces of iron and phosphorus, and are good for digestion.
- Rosemary A good stimulant for your immune system and a powerful antioxidant.
- Chives They contain compounds that may help to lower blood cholesterol levels.
- Coriander Good tonic for your stomach, heart and urinary tract.
- Dill Antibacterial herb that’s a good source of calcium.
- Fennel Known for its diuretic effects, traditionally used to relieve intestinal cramps.
- Parsley Contains vitamin C, folic acid and betacarotene.
- Sage is an anti-inflammatory and is good for digestion.
- ThymeKnown best for its antioxidant properties.
- Sunflower and pumpkin seeds These help beat inflammation.
- Porridge its slow-release energy may help control sugar cravings.
- Bananas Contain serotonin, which boosts mood, and their potassium may help beat fluid retention, too.
- Lentils Loaded with magnesium – low levels of magnesium may cause cramps.
- Wholegrains Rich in vitamin B6 and B1, which help beat cramps.
- Celery Contains phytochecmicals that may help calm nerves.
- Spinach Rich in folate – low levels of which have been linked to depression.
- Green tea Rich in catechin polyphenols, which slow the signs of aging
- Pink grapefruit Contains lycopene, which mops up free radicals.
- Salmon Contains dimethylaminoe-thanol, a powerful antioxidant.
- Basil Used by herbalists for its antidepressant properties.
- Strawberries Rich in antioxidants that are said to aid concentration.
- Yeast extract Filled with brain-boosting B vitamins.
- Sardines Bursting with omega-3 fatty acids.
- Fig This fibrous fruit contains sleep-inducing tryptophan.
- Wild lettuce Leafy greens that contain the sedative lactucarium.
- Sesame seeds Their omega-6s support healthy sleep patterns.
- Nettles are used in herbal teas andhave purifying properties.
- Physalis is high in vitamin C.
- Daikon radishes are rich in iron and high in antioxidants
- Acai berries are antibacterial.
- Papaya aids digestion.
- Okra is a good veg source of calcium.
- Miso paste is rich in phyto-oestrogens.
- Guavas are high in vitamin C