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Eating Well During Cancer Treatment

Certain foods are especially soothing or strengthening for people undergoing cancer treatment.

Eating well is important for everyone, but it’s essential if you have cancer, an affliction that knows no borders and does not discriminate. As a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society in South Dakota and a member of the Native American Journalists Association, I’m acutely aware of the dual challenges of eating well while fighting illness. Good nutrition can boost your immune system and reduce your risk of secondary infection as you undergo treatment. Now, two nutrition books are here, both published by the American Cancer Society, to ease the burden: What to Eat During Cancer Treatment ($20) by Jeanne Besser, Kristina Ratley, Sheri Knecht and Michele Szafranski, and its companion cookbook, Complete Guide to Nutrition for Cancer Survivors ($25), edited by Abby Bloch, Barbara Grant, Kathryn Hamilton and Cynthia Thomson.

The Complete Guide addresses the hot topics in nutrition and cancer, including some various claims made about foods that can cause cancer or prevent it. Should you eat organic? What about the wheat-grass diet? Is it important to eat garlic when you have cancer? The roles of coffee, flaxseed, green tea, sugar, omega-3 fatty acids, soy and broccoli, and their connections to cancer are also examined. When it comes to specific nutrients that may aid healing, The Complete Guide discusses vitamins and herbs that can help people with cancer, as well as those that may not. According to the book, ginger can help with nausea. And melatonin may promote better sleep after treatment. But kava-kava? The book advises caution. Additional topics: fatigue, weight fluctuations, and lifestyle choices to improve survivorship.

The book also contains a Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides with “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” lists. It names the top fruits and vegetables that contain the highest amounts of pesticide residue, and those with the least. Note: Peaches top the Dirty Dozen list, while the onion ranks number one on the Clean 15. (But don’t worry if you can’t live without peaches; the Complete Guide also offers a recipe for spray that you can clean your produce with).

What to Eat During Cancer Treatment is the ultimate comfort-food cookbook for people going through treatment. Treatment can make eating difficult; this book claims to offer 100 great-tasting, healthy recipes to help patients cope. Recipes are organized by the side effect they abate. For example, for nausea, try brie and apple grilled cheese. For sore mouth, try sherbet shake. For altered taste, try honey-teriyaki salmon.

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