Lifestyle tips for prevention and survivorship. Keeping you well beyond cancer! My goal is to help you find a nutrition plan that works for you. Whether you're facing cancer or you're doing what you can to reduce your risk, I'd love to help! Run by Julie.
For my regular readers… let me give you the cliff notes version and see if you can answer this question yourself!
Lectins are found in many fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
If you eat foods in the ways that they have historically been prepared and consumed, there is no evidence of lectins contributing to health problems.
There is some evidence showing lectins can promote health and immunity, and therefore reduce cancer risk.
So go ahead… guess the answer! What does your common sense tell you?
I guess you’ve probably figured it out by now. All those people either hating on lectins, or promoting them as a cancer cure, are not basing their advice on any kind of good, solid evidence.
Anyway, for those who want to know more, here’s some helpful information!
All About Lectins
What are lectins?
Lectins are carbohydrate-binding proteins that are present in plants, found in highest amounts in grains and beans (legumes)
They are found in foods like potatoes, tomatoes, wheat, peanuts, and soybeans, just to name a few
When the food is growing, lectins help to protect the plant against pests
They are not easily digested
They are “deactivated” and removed when food is cooked properly (side note – this is why I tell people that we should not consume an all raw food diet!)
Something that I did learn when doing all this research was that kidney beans have the most lectins of any foods. Obviously, we’re not going to eat kidney beans raw. However, you do want to make sure that beans are cooked well before eating.
It is suggested that boiling them for 30 minutes will be enough to get rid of the lectins. It’s also recommended not to cook them in a crockpot because it doesn’t heat them hot enough. This was kind of surprising to me, and I love a crockpot!
My take home is to use canned beans for the crockpot meals, or make sure that I boil the beans for 30 minutes before using the crockpot. Or… another alternative –> Instant Pot anyone?
How do lectins function in the body?
Lectins actually are known to have some health benefits, from antimicrobial, to possibility of cancer prevention
Lectins can cause illness if consumed in large amounts and if they are not cooked properly
High intake of lectins can cause damage to the intestinal lining
If you become sick because of lectins, YOU WILL KNOW IT! It causes symptoms like food poisoning – upset stomach, diarrhea, bloating.
Now, let me first say that more research is needed before lectins can officially being recommended for helping cancer. The evidence currently is very limited, although interesting.
It seems like it may be a while before we have any conclusive answers on lectins, but in the meantime, we can use some common sense and evidence-informed knowledge about how food works in the body to come up with a reasonable approach to lectins!
Common Sense Approach to Lectins
Here are your take home points:
Lectins should not be consumed in pill form! Your body always prefers nutrients in food over supplements.
When consuming beans and grains, cook them completely.
If cooking beans in a crockpot, use canned beans, or boil them for 30 minutes before putting in the crockpot.
Consuming a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean and/or plant proteins is the best cancer fighting diet that is on the market! Research seems to prove it time and time again.
Be sure to eat your plants and cook the ones that need to be cooked. DUH! : – D
Antioxidants are a good thing. They are part of plants which have various other phytochemicals. However, more does not equal better!
Antioxidants are good when they are in food form. Just like anything else, problems can arise when you start taking concentrated versions of it. Our bodies prefer to get nutrients in the concentrations that they are grown!
Antioxidants. What are they?
Antioxidants are components in foods that eliminate free radicals in the body.
Examples of antioxidants are…
All of these are found in fruits and vegetables. For example:
Beta-carotene and vitamin A are found in orange vegetables like sweet potatoes and carrots
Lycopene is found in red tomatoes
Lutein is found in green, leafy vegetables
Vitamin C is in citrus fruits
Vitamin E is found in almonds and oils
Antioxidants are good things when found in foods. However, high doses of antioxidants (i.e. antioxidant supplements) can be a bad thing when undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Actually, I don’t recommend high doses of antioxidants for anyone!
These substances can negatively interact with the treatment and cause the treatments to not work as well as they could.
Because of this reason, it is not recommended to consume antioxidant supplements during cancer treatment. You can get all the antioxidants you need through your foods.
Many people going through cancer treatment have a hard time eating. Be sure to check out my treatment tips page here to see tips for when eating is difficult.
Breast cancer affects many people, directly and indirectly. Many breast cancer survivors have questions relevant to their diet. Here are some of the questions we’ve heard many times from breast cancer survivors! And truth be told, this info is true for other types of cancer too!
ONE: I’m a breast cancer survivor, should I avoid soy foods?
There are many rumors regarding the relationship between soy intake and breast cancer survivor’s risk of recurrence. Current data on breast cancer survivors shows that soy, in it’s natural form, has not been found to increase recurrence of breast cancer. It is NOT recommended that breast cancer survivors consume powder or pill form of soy protein. Stick to the real food! (i.e. tofu, soymilk, edamame, soy nuts).
All cells depend on sugar to grow, particularly glucose. At this point, it has not been shown that eliminating dietary sources of sugar and carbohydrate actually results in slower growth of tumors. The truth is that our bodies don’t get to pick and choose which cells get what fuel. In fact, completely avoiding all sources of sugar results in your body having to work extra hard to make the glucose that it needs to function.
Past research led to the theory that phytoestrogens in flax seed mimicked estrogen effects on the body. However, current research disproves these theories. Flax seeds have a multitude of benefits to the population. In fact, it may have more cancer fighting mechanisms than first thought!
Flax seed, as a whole, provides more benefits than flax seed oil. Flax seed oil lacks beneficial fiber and lignans that whole flax seed provides. It is recommended to consume flax seed in it’s ground form for optimal absorption of beneficial nutrients.
FOUR: What types of fats are best for breast cancer survivors?
Decreasing intake of saturated and trans-fats is recommended while increasing amount of Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically from fish, legumes, and lentils, has been studied to decrease growth of breast cancer tissue.
Getting plenty of exercise, eating enough fiber, and eating a diet low in saturated fat are all factors that promote healthy breast cancer survivorship. Choose healthy fats from fish, nuts, seeds, avocados and plant based oils. Eating a plant based diet with moderate intake of animal foods, is the best way to achieve this goal!
FIVE: What is a plant-based diet and how do I know if I am eating enough plants?
A plant-based diet focuses on receiving nutrition from fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. If desired, moderate intake of protein from animal sources can fit into a plant-based diet. Fruits and vegetables provide phytochemicals that help promote and improve our immunity. A daily goal of 4-5 cups of fruits and vegetables is recommended to optimize nutrition. Aim for 1 cup of fruits and/or vegetables at each meal!
Nutrition information for cancer survivors can sometimes seem overwhelming. The best advice should follow the common sense guidelines that you’ve always known to be true. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and be physically active!
Be sure that you are getting your nutrition information from a qualified professional. There are dietitians who specialize in oncology so ask for a referral from your oncologist!
For additional learning, check out these resources:
Over the years, I’ve had several people ask me about alkaline water. FINALLY, I did a video to set the record straight!
Does alkaline water kill cancer? - YouTube
Alkaline water does not kill cancer. Our kidneys and lungs keep our pH tightly regulated.What we eat and drink does cannot significantly change our body pH. If it did change significantly, we would need to go to the hospital!
But don’t worry – alkaline water won’t harm your body… just make your wallet smaller. ; – )
Here are two articles I wrote a few years ago on the acid/alkaline diet:
Are you confused about what is fact when it comes to nutrition and cancer? Everyone seems to have an opinion on what you should eat but you wonder which suggestions actually have evidence. In this session, I cover:
popular nutrition myths
5 core truths about nutrition and cancer
nutrition tips for managing side effects
what to eat for optimal well-being for cancer survivors during and after treatment
practical methods to decide what’s right for you!
This is the recording of the webinar I for Triage Cancer about 2 weeks ago, so they have an intro at the beginning that takes the first 4:33. FYI!
Triage Cancer Webinar: Cancer Nutrition - Tips & Truths Recording - Vimeo
Phew! Things have been busy for me the last few weeks! I did a cooking workshop (recipes to come in a future post), writing, doing classes and getting ready for 2 talks at the YSC Summit 2018. I’m starting to get caught up and look forward to sharing some fun things that I pulled together.
Now that you’ve set some goals for your healthy lifestyle, it’s time to pick out some ways to reward yourself. Rewards should not always be food. Actually, it’s probably a good idea NOT to use food.
Many people have been rewarded with food for a majority of their life. Just think about your school classroom. Good behavior is often rewarded with candy. How do you celebrate holidays or birthdays? Cake. It’s all fun and games until you begin to associate the feeling of joy/happiness/job well done with the food itself.
The food becomes an emotional attachment and you begin to think that the food can give you that feeling of happiness. Often times, that is the reason that we want to eat when we’re stressed or depressed. We see the food as providing us with that feeling of happiness and love. This is termed “emotional eating”.
To redirect the emotional eating habit, you will need to find a way to reward yourself that is healthy. Think of the things that you like that aren’t food related. If your goal is a long term goal, then you might want to make the reward a bigger one. Don’t forget to set those short term (weekly) goals. Reward the small steps with smaller rewards as you work towards the bigger goals.
Here are some examples of healthy rewards:
Massage or other “spa” related item.
Health related magazine (Nutrition Action, Health, Vegetarian Times).
Necklace or other jewelry
Box of your favorite tea
Smelly soap or bubble bath
Long term rewards:
iPod or MP3 player
Rewarding yourself is an important way to help you reach your goals. Use an incentive to keep yourself motivated in making a healthy change and reducing your cancer risk.
In order for any attempt at changing behavior to be effective, the intention needs to be specific and realistic. Always run them by a friend, since they can help you identify if your goal is realistic or you or not.
When you first make a change, it is essential that you start with an achievable (read: EASY!) short term goal. These would be ones that you would achieve in a week or a month.
Long term goals are ones that take 4 months or longer to achieve. Long term goals require several short term goals along the way.
Most New Year’s resolutions are long term goals. They are often not achieved because appropriate short term goals weren’t set along the way. Most of the time I recommend short-term goals to start with.
It’s a lot more fun to celebrate after a week of achieving something, then having to wait for several months to see if you were successful!
Let’s get started!
Hopefully you’ve already been thinking of one or two areas to work on. Remember, 3 at the most! I’ll give you my example for this season of my life.
I have a 6 month old and trying to plan and prepare dinner has been a challenge for us as parents, as it is for many of my clients!
For the most part, we’ve been barely getting by and just grabbing whatever we can find to eat in the fridge or pantry. It works, but it causes me stress to not know ahead what we are going to have. Especially as I start getting hungry!
Another benefit to making sure that I have meals made up in the evening is that I get leftovers to take for lunch. Without a packed lunch I’m stuck wondering what to eat for lunch, or not eating enough which is a recipe for a hangry woman – not good for anyone, ha!!
My long term goal would be to plan meals, and have a month menu framework to utilize. In order to reach the long term goal, I need to set my short term goals.
I need them to be specific (measurable) and realistic (achievable). In order to achieve this goal, I should identify what steps I need to take. By writing down the steps in achieving the goal it helps me to see what small things I need to do to move towards reaching the goal.
My short term goals will be to:
Make a list of family favorite recipes.
Make a list of foods that I can purchase at the store that makes dinner quick and easy.
Utilize google calendar to choose which recipes to make on each night. I will aim for recipes that can be made the night before, or in the crockpot or instant pot. Aim to do this prior to Sunday grocery shopping!
Grocery shop on Sundays.
Another essential step to achieving positive lifestyle change is setting up rewards, at least for the first several weeks. I’ll talk more about rewards in the next article.
Maybe you have a long term goal to increase intake of fruits and vegetables (a good goal for most people!) You would need to set several short term goals to meet that.
Here are some things that might help:
Make a list of fruit/vegetables snacks that I like and put it on the fridge as a reminder.
Sign up for healthy recipes to be sent to my email.
Try a new way to prepare a fruit or vegetable once a week.
Sign up for a healthy cooking class.
Shop for fresh fruits and vegetables twice a week.
Keep fresh fruit out in a bowl on the counter or kitchen table.
Keep track of fruit and vegetable intake on the nutrition tracker.
Here are some other specific and achievable healthy eating/ wellness resolutions:
I will do 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week.
I will eat fruits and/or vegetables 5 times/day.
I will Drink 8 cups of water daily.
I will not drink more than 36 oz. of soda per week.
I will try cooking a new healthy recipe once a week.
In the next post I will talk about tracking progress and rewarding yourself. You can start thinking about some positive, non-food based rewards for celebrating successes.
If you’re someone thinking about making a positive change, feel free to share your resolution by posting in the comments. I’ll be happy to give you feedback.
If you’re not ready to make a change – don’t worry about it! Reward yourself for the positive things you’re doing already and check back with yourself in a month or two.
2018 is here and many people have set New Year’s resolutions. Most of the time, I recommend that people don’t set resolutions, because they typically have the wrong attitude about it and then don’t make lasting changes.
But is it possible to make resolutions that result in positive life change? Yes! And there’s absolutely no reason why this is a process that can only happen at the beginning of a New Year. It should be an ongoing process that we engage in!
The Wrong Way To Set Resolutions
Most people set themselves up to fail because they set resolutions that are completely unrealistic OR they are ineffective because they are not specific enough.
Here are some examples of unrealistic resolutions:
I will not eat ______ this year. (“I’m not eating any more sugar… ever”!).
I will walk every morning this year. (“I’m going to make myself walk, even when it’s 8 degrees outside!”).
I will stop buying things new and save the earth this year. (“I’m going to quit buying anything”).
There is danger in setting unrealistic resolutions. These resolutions aren’t achievable. No one can do anything ALL THE TIME. You need to give yourself room for moderation.
People who set resolutions like these end up failing pretty quickly. When resolutions aren’t met, the emotional consequences of failure are remembered and guilt builds up.
This failure can be the biggest barrier to reaching future goals.
Here are some examples of ineffective resolutions:
I will exercise more this year. (“I didn’t really exercise before, so that shouldn’t be too hard!”)
I’m going to start cooking this year. (“I don’t really know how, but I guess I’ll figure it out.”)
This year I will eat clean. (“Clean eating is what everyone is talking about so it must be good”.)
The problem with these resolutions is that they are way too vague! They won’t be achieved because there’s no way to measure if you’ve done it or not. This will leave you distracted and not focused on the things that you really want to achieve this coming year.
Now that you know what doesn’t work, I’ll spend the next post discussing ways to make positive changes that will stick for a year, and beyond!
As “pre-work”, start by picking your priorities. You cannot change everything at once, so pick no more than 3 specific areas that you want to work on.
I made this recipe at Thanksgiving last week. I’m not really a pumpkin pie person, but I feel like it’s necessary to have it at Thanksgiving just because it’s tradition. I went to share the recipe with someone and couldn’t find it anywhere on my website. Apparently, I never posted it! I figure… better late than never. : – )
Originally this was one of Chef Malena’s creations. I’m still sad she moved away to DC because she was so fun and creative! She did it for our cooking workshop a year ago as sweet potato pie. I basically substituted the pumpkin for sweet potato in her recipe and it turned out great.
Since I’m not a huge traditional pie crust person, I bought a graham cracker crust from the grocery store. Next time I might even try a chocolate graham cracker crust.
This recipe uses flaxseed meal as the egg substitute, which is pretty cool! You just need to soak the flax in warm water for 15 minutes or so before you mix it in. Flax is a great way to add extra plant nutrients.