Here is a good Columbus Dispatch Q and A article about the importance of good nutrition for chemotherapy patients:
Cancer patients helped by options
By Jolene Thym
Few people realize, however, that almost 80 percent of the patients who undergo cancer-related treatments become malnourished.
Rebecca Katz, a nationally recognized wellness expert and a senior chef and educator at the Commonweal Cancer Help Program in Bolinas, Calif., has undertaken a mission to change that statistic by harnessing what she calls the “power of yum.”
Nourishing, good-tasting food, she says, represents the most important and most-often-overlooked element in treating the 1.5million U.S. cancer patients.
And, she adds, everyone should take to heart a message: Delicious, well-
balanced foods – velvety ginger-carrot soup, orange-pistachio couscous, watermelon granite – help enhance health, whatever the circumstances.
These days, Katz is basking in sudden celebrity after her latest book, The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery, picked up double honors at the prestigious International Association of Culinary Professionals awards.
The book that Katz describes as an “underdog” won in both the health category and as the “People’s Choice.”
In her San Rafael, Calif., garden, she recently talked about fame, glory, health and the power of yum.
Q: Does healthful eating really prevent or cure cancer?
A: We don’t use prevent or cure when we talk about the power of eating well, because the fact is that in today’s world, there are so many ways in which we are exposed to potentially harmful elements. So many factors – air, water, food packaging – are out of our control. This is about risk reduction.
But eating healthy, nutrient-dense foods is one of the ways we can take that control back. . . . The more whole foods you eat, the more you create an inhospitable environment for cancer cells.
Q: Why has it taken so long to recognize the role of good nutrition?
A: Nurturing is not rocket science. Considering food as healing has been around for a very long time. Even my Magic Mineral Broth recipe is basically the ancient art of alchemy – it’s food as medicine.
Q: Let’s talk about that magical broth. You call it your “Rosetta stone of soup,” an equal-opportunity base for tea, soups or stews – full of magnesium, potassium and sodium.
A: I made it because it tastes good, but it turns out to be one of the most healing foods a cancer patient can eat.
There has been so much research on the healing properties of various foods. The only question is when we will start integrating that research in our treatment approaches. This is where it starts.
Q: Were you surprised by the “People’s Choice” award?
A: It was such a shocker. I think it’s because this is a book that empowers people, puts them in charge of something when they feel like their whole life is out of control. People are ready for this.
Q: A staggering percentage of cancer patients are malnourished. What can a family do?
A: The biggest problem is that the treatments wreak havoc with the digestive system. Patients are often not hungry or feel sick.
I tell people that the goal when feeding a cancer patient is not to get them to eat – or to eat more.
The goal should be to introduce them to little bites of “yum” – nutritionally and flavor-packed bites in which every element of that mouthful counts.
The other problem is that foods often don’t taste good to patients. When someone undergoes chemotherapy or radiation, their taste buds begin to misfire.
The challenge is to make something that will stimulate those taste buds. My solution is FASS: fat, acid, salt and sweet. It’s something I developed to help people “fix” food so it appeals to the patient.
If it tastes too sweet, you add acid; if it’s too salty, you add lemon, adjusting until the food comes in line with the taste bud signals.
I tell people the best thing they can ask a cancer patient is “How does this taste to you today? Let me fix it for you.”
Q: What advice do you have when groups of friends want to provide meals?
A: Assign a team captain – one person who will find out what the needs are each week and what kinds of foods the patient feels like eating. Find out if they are having problems swallowing or if their mouth hurts.
Give small portions in small containers so they can be stored until the patient feels ready.
Q: Anything else?
A: When cancer patients suffer loss of appetite, I tell people to put on their Sherlock Holmes hat. Ask what sounds good; make it a visual for them.
Ask: “Would you like some lumpy, bumpy mashed potatoes or a smooth and creamy soup?” Or ask: “If your taste buds were going to travel around the world, where would they want to go today?”
Our advice: Eat, chemo buddies, eat!
Feel good and keep smiling! Pat & Pattie