Nutrition Before During and After Cancer

Information on nutritional needs for cancer patients

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Fermentation and Nutrition

Humans have been fermenting foods for thousands of years.


Food fermentation is defined as taking a raw material and converting that raw material to a desirable product in which flavor, aroma, texture, and appearance of that raw material is drastically changed.

Fermentation is a natural metabolic process in which microorganisms convert carbohydrates into either alcohol or acid. Through these conversions, certain microorganisms play a role in two of the most important functions of food processing: food preservation and food safety. Fermentative bacteria, yeasts, and molds (the Good) preserve foods by producing metabolites such as lactic acid, acetic acid, propionic acid, ethanol, and bacteriocins that suppress the growth of spoilage microorganisms (the Ugly) and pathogenic microorganisms (the Bad) that are naturally present in foods.


Fermentative microorganisms also enhance the organoleptic properties of foods.

It is especially important to ferment or cook the cruciferous vegetables; these vegetables have important anti-cancer properties. But if they’re not cooked or fermented first, they tend to depress the thyroid, which lowers your energy and gives you a tendency to gain weight.

Fermentation makes the foods easier to digest and the nutrients easier to assimilate, since much of the work of digestion is already done and it doesn’t use heat, fermentation also retains enzymes, vitamins, and other nutrients that are usually destroyed by food processing.

  •  Sauerkraut: Made from shredded or chopped cabbage, salted and jarred in its own liquid, then left to ferment for a few weeks before going into the refrigerator.
  •  Kimchi: A traditional Korean side dish that often starts with cabbage and can include other vegetables and seasonings such as chili peppers.
  •  Kombucha: A drink made by adding a starter culture of bacteria and yeast to tea, sugar and other flavorings. It can contain varying amounts of alcohol.
  • Natto: Fermented soybeans.
  • Miso: A Japanese seasoning, made from soybeans.
  • Kefir: It is a fermented milk-based drink made by the actions of a legion of symbiotic microorganisms. Kefir is a very complex probiotic. There are over 30 different species of organisms in kefir, including lactic acid bacteria and yeast. These microorganisms are encased in a matrix of milk proteins and polysaccharides called kefir grains, which resemble small clumps of cauliflower or popcorn. Cow’s milk is most commonly used to make kefir, but the beverage can be made by inoculating any type of milk with kefir grains. This can be done simply enough in home kitchens but is impractical for commercial kefir products. Commercial kefir products are thus made with a starter culture instead of actual kefir grains, which means commercial kefir products tend not to have the same properties (fewer probiotics, diminished health benefits, etc.) as traditional kefir.

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All the talk about Vitamin D


Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is produced in the body with mild sun exposure or can be consumed in food or supplements.

 Adequate vitamin D intake is important for the regulation of calcium and phosphorus absorption, maintenance of healthy bones and teeth, and it is supposed to have a protective effect against multiple diseases and conditions such as cancer, diabetes type 1 and multiple sclerosis.

Vitamin D is a pro-hormone and not a vitamin. This is because the body is capable of producing its own vitamin D through the action of sunlight on the skin, while vitamins are nutrients that cannot be synthesized by the body and must be acquired through the diet or supplements.


 Vitamin D has multiple roles

  1. Maintain the health of bones and teeth
  2. Support the health of the immune system, brain and nervous system
  3. Regulate insulin levels and aid diabetes management
  4. Support lung function and cardiovascular health
  5. Influence the expression of genes involved in cancer development. 

It is estimated that sun exposure on bare skin for 5-10 minutes 2-3 times per week allows the body the ability to produce sufficient vitamin D, but vitamin D has a half-life of only two weeks, meaning that stores can run low, especially in winter. Recent studies have suggested that up to 50% of adults and children worldwide are vitamin D deficient.

 Vitamin D is produced when sunlight converts cholesterol on the skin into calciol (vitamin D3). Vitamin D3 is then converted into calcidiol (25-hydroxyvitamin D3) in the liver. The kidneys then convert calcidiol into the active form of vitamin D, called calcitriol (1,25-hydroxyvitamin D3). As such, statins and other medications or supplements that inhibit cholesterol synthesis, liver function or kidney function can impair the synthesis of vitamin D.


Some Facts about Vitamin D

  • Vitamin D’s primary role is to support the development and maintenance of bones and teeth.
  • Vitamin D deficiency is common, especially in the elderly, infants, people with dark skin and people living at higher latitudes or who get little sun exposure.
  • Vitamin D deficiency has been seen in up to 80% of hip fracture patients.
  • 800IU of vitamin D per day reduces the risk of fracture by 20% in the elderly and decreases the risk of falls.
  • The metabolism of vitamin D may be affected by some medications, including barbiturates, phenobarbital, dilantin, isoniazid and statin drugs.


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Benefits of plant based diet

While there is no known cure for certain disease, researchers have identified several lifestyle factors, including diet and exercise, which appear to affect not only the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, but also the progression of the disease. A recently published study called Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) determined that following an eating pattern that has components of the DASH and Mediterranean diets could reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 53%. Also encouraging is their finding that even for those with just moderate adherence to the diet, the reduction in risk is still 35%.


Both the DASH and Mediterranean diets are rich in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as well as healthy fats. The MIND study identified ten food groups that appear to be beneficial to brain health, and five others that are harmful to the brain, but the guidelines for the MIND diet are fairly general. With the exception of berries, which the research identified as a very potent brain-protecting fruit, regular consumption of any types of leafy green or other vegetables, all types of nuts, and any whole grains reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s, as did eating any type of fish or poultry. The length of time the MIND diet is followed also appears to be important. Those who ate the brain-healthy foods for longer periods of time appeared to have the most benefit.

Mediterranean Diet

Mediterranean diet 1

The 10 good MIND food groups

  • Beans
  • Berries (especially blueberries and strawberries)
  • Fish
  • Green, leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, arugula, Swiss chard, etc)
  • Nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Other vegetables (carrots, broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, etc)
  • Poultry
  • Whole grains (brown rice, farro, quinoa, oats, etc)
  • Wine

The 5 food groups to limit or avoid

  • Butter and stick margarine
  • Cheese
  • Fried or fast food
  • Pastries and sweets
  • Red meats

Tips to incorporate the diet The MIND diet is more about a consistent eating pattern rather than eating specific foods and quantities each day. Researchers identified the following dietary patterns in those with the lowest risk:

  • At least three servings of whole grains a day (e.g, oats, 100% whole-wheat bread, brown rice, or quinoa)
  • A salad and one other vegetable a day
  • A glass of wine a day
  • A serving of nuts a day (usually as a snack)
  • Beans every other day
  • Poultry and berries at least twice a week
  • Fish at least once a week



What’s the problem with eating sugar?


The federal government’s decision to update food labels marked a change for consumers. For the first time, beginning in 2018, nutrition labels will be required to list a breakdown of both the total sugars and the added sugars in packaged foods.


Why are food labels being revised?

The shift came after years of urging by many nutrition experts, who say that excess sugar is a primary cause of obesity and heart disease. Many in the food industry opposed the emphasis on added sugars, arguing that the focus should be on calories rather than sugar. They say that highlighting added sugar on labels is unscientific, and that the sugar that occurs naturally in foods like fruits and vegetables is essentially no different than the sugar commonly added to packaged foods.


What about “natural” sweeteners?

Food companies like to market agave nectar, beet sugar, evaporated cane juice and many other “natural” sweeteners as healthier alternatives to high-fructose corn syrup. But whatever their source, they are all very similar. To suggest one is healthier than another is a stretch. In fact, the F.D.A. urged food companies to stop using the term evaporated cane juice because it is “false or misleading” and “does not reveal that the ingredient’s basic nature and characterizing properties are those of a sugar.”

 What’s the issue with added sugars?

It mainly comes down to the way they’re packaged.

Naturally occurring sugar is almost always found in foods that contain fiber, which slows the rate at which the sugar is digested and absorbed. (One exception to that rule is honey, which has no fiber.) Fiber also limits the amount of sugar you can consume in one sitting.


A medium apple contains about 19 grams of sugar and four grams of fiber, or roughly 20 percent of a day’s worth of fiber. Not many people would eat three apples at one time. But plenty of children and adults can drink a 16-ounce bottle of Pepsi, which has 55 grams of added sugar – roughly the amount in three medium apples – and no fiber. Fiber not only limits how much you can eat, but how quickly sugar leaves the intestine and reaches the liver.

Why is it a problem to have too much sugar?

Many nutrition experts say that sugar in moderation is fine for most people. But in excess it can lead to metabolic problems beyond its effects on weight gain. The reason, studies suggest, is fructose. Any fructose you eat is sent straight to your liver, which specializes in turning it into droplets of fat called triglycerides.

While many health organizations – including AICR – recommend avoiding sugary drinks, this highlights the powerful affect that cutting out one single part of the diet may have, independent of other healthy changes.


A study focused on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition that can eventually cause cirrhosis and even liver cancer, suggests that a daily sugary drink increases the risk for NAFLD, especially – but not only – among overweight individuals.

Obesity and overweight are key risk factors for NAFLD, when there is extra fat in liver cells not caused by alcohol. AICR’s latest report on liver cancer, found that obesity increases the risk of this cancer. And research currently links sugary beverages to weight gain and obesity.

How much sugar is too much?

One of the largest studies of added sugar consumption, which was led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that adults who got more than 15 percent of their daily calories from added sugar had a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. The biggest sources for adults were soft drinks, fruit juices, desserts and candy.

While those might seem like obvious junk foods, about half of the sugar Americans consume is “hidden” in less obvious places like salad dressings, bread, low-fat yogurt and ketchup. In fact, of the 600,000 food items for sale in America, about 80 percent contain added sugar.

 Follow the World Health Organization’s guidelines, which recommend that adults and children consume no more than about six teaspoons daily of added sugar.


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This Season think color


Think colors! When you sit down to your Thanksgiving meal, take a look around. What colors do you see? Many traditional Thanksgiving foods are pretty bland in color – white, beige, cream, and ivory tend to be the norm at most holiday tables.


This year, if you are the host, think about how you can make your dishes more naturally colorful. The easiest way to do this is by incorporating seasonal fruits and vegetables. If you aren’t the host, keep an eye out for color anyways. Aim for at least three different colors on your plate.

It is also important to watch your portions. Start first by choosing the foods you love. Not like, love. Then serve up your portions a little bit smaller than you normally would, odds are that you will still have plenty of food leftover if you need to go for seconds. Before grabbing extra servings though, be sure to give yourself sometime between plates to identify if you really need to eat more or simply want to eat more.


If you are hosting or cooking make simple substitutions to your menu and recipes. There are many ways to increase the health value of the foods you eat on Thanksgiving Day. From using more herbs and spices, to utilizing more fresh or frozen veggies, almost any dish can be made healthy.

Most guests will appreciate the effort that is if they notice. A few common recipe swaps include using applesauce or prunes in place of butter or margarine in baked goods, replacing heavy cream with evaporated milk or low-fat yogurt, and replacing those crunchy fried onions on top of green bean casserole with sliced almonds.

Eat your best and enjoy the day. It is possible to do both and your body will thank you for it. A healthy Thanksgiving doesn’t need to be complicated or full of saturated fat. Keep it simple and full of color. You’ll feel better after the meal and will start the holiday season off with a healthier perspective.

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Effect of Carbs


There are questions about possible negative health effects of some carbs, such as fructose, which is found in sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, and galactose, which is found in milk. But the question of how carbs affect health is mostly focused on how quickly and efficiently the body can break the molecule down and deliver glucose to the bloodstream.

But you don’t eat carbohydrates; you eat food, so it’s useful to categorize foods by the type of carbohydrates.


Simple-carb foods are those that your body breaks down quickly and easily, such as sweeteners (sugar, honey, maple syrup) and refined grains (white flour, pasta, white rice). These are the carbs that tend to spike blood sugar.

Complex-carb foods, which include whole grains and legumes, have large, complex molecules that are more difficult to digest and don’t cause the same rapid increase in blood sugar.


The simple/complex classification isn’t perfect. Many fruits and vegetables contain both types of carbohydrates: Some get broken down quickly, others more slowly. And it’s not always true that whole foods are digested slowly while refined foods are digested quickly. Potatoes, for example, have lots of carbohydrates in the form of starch, which is broken down quickly.


Carbohydrates in refined grains — bread, white rice, pasta — come packaged with some fiber, some protein and even a few other nutrients, their calories aren’t quite as empty, and the speed with which they’re digested varies. (Refined flour is also fortified with folate, essential to reducing the risk of fetal neural tube defects.)


White bread, for example, lets loose a flood of glucose, so your blood sugar spikes, but pasta, particularly if it’s not overcooked, doesn’t have that effect. Although the ingredients of the two foods are almost identical, pasta has a difficult molecular structure that your body can’t break down as quickly.


There is a measure for how much a particular food increases your blood sugar: the glycemic index, or GI. When carbohydrates in a food get converted quickly, that causes a spike in insulin, which your pancreas releases to prompt cells to absorb the glucose. The hormones that your body releases in response can make you feel hungry.


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Boost Your Energy with Healthy Snacks

Although the word snack brings up images of chips and candy bars but snacking can be a great opportunity to get healthy nutrients instead of relying on supplements. 

Small nutrient-rich snacks eaten throughout the day are a wonderful way to get enough vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D, calcium and potassium as well as dietary fiber. 

Foods over Supplements

AICR’s expert report found that the phytochemicals and nutrients in foods work together to protect your health, while in supplements they are isolated. “For snacks, foods that supply protein, fiber and a little fat are the best”.


Super Snacks

Here are some tasty, satisfying snacks. Each provides 250 calories or fewer – less than a small bag of chips or a 1.5-ounce candy bar. These healthy snacks will keep your hunger at bay and provide long-lasting energy.


Dip your fruit: Create a yummy dip for fresh melon, peach, apple and mango chunks using 1/2 cup of plain Greek yogurt or low-fat cottage cheese or Labne, a tablespoon of peanut butter, a teaspoon of honey and a pinch of cinnamon.


Veggie bean dip: 2 Tbsp. chickpea spread (“hummus”) with carrot and celery sticks and strips of bell pepper, plus 1 6-inch whole-wheat pita bread toasted and cut into wedges.


A pick-me-up: 1 hard-boiled egg with a handful of cherry or grape tomatoes and 1 slice whole-wheat bread.


Say cheese: Pair a 1-ounce slice of low-fat Swiss cheese with a slice of whole-wheat toast and a sliced apple or pear.


Soup it up: 1 cup of low-sodium broth-based soup with 1/2 cup frozen mixed veggies and 1/4 cup cooked chicken breast. Heat through and serve with a slice of whole-grain bread.


Sweet potato dunk: Half a steamed or boiled sweet potato that’s been chilled and cut into wedges, dipped in a mixture of 1 tsp. brown mustard, 1 tsp. honey and 2 Tbsp. of Greek yogurt or Labne’.


Bake an apple: Core an apple and slice it. Place on a microwave-safe dish. Top with a dash of cinnamon and 1 tsp. of orange juice, cover with damp paper towel and microwave 5 minutes; or bake on a pan, uncovered, at 350 degrees in conventional oven for 25-30 minutes. Top with low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt and enjoy.