I knew something was wrong when I nearly passed out in Starbucks. I had cut all sugars and carbs, even natural sugars such as fruits. As I would soon learn, this was not the way to go. Our bodies need sugars and carbohydrates to survive. I just needed to eat the right kind.
I met with Malerie Giamo, a practitioner of Classical Chinese Medicine (Dipl. OM) and a licensed Acupuncturist and Herbalist. She provides a complete system of care that integrates eastern and western practices of wellness including acupuncture, herbs, dietary therapy, mind-body guidance, and health education. Malerie's innate wisdom and belief in the body's power to heal, guided me though my journey.
Malerie spoke of providing a bridge for the body to acclimate to a different type of sugar. Instead of desserts and carbs from breads and other foods, I incorporated dates, prunes, honey and some fruits into my diet. I eliminated fruits with high sugar content such as watermelon, mangoes and pineapples. Apples, with the skin (important!) became a go-to snack, particularly when dipped in almond butter.
My beloved bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches were replaced with Bob’s Red Mill oatmeal sprinkled with organic (you don’t want berries laden with pesticides) blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and bananas…not always all at once. I sometimes added chia and flax seeds. Both are high in lignans, found to aid in killing breast cancer cells and reducing tumors. I was also taking Flax Seed oil as a daily supplement (and still do).
Frozen organic berries are another good choice. Frozen fruits are picked at peak ripeness and retain most of their minerals and vitamins. Just be sure to check the label for any added sugar (no!). Non-frozen fruits are picked early and ripen in transport. Once a fruit is cut from the stem, it starts to lose nutrients. I recommend a combination of fresh and frozen fruits. The absolute best tasting fruits are those from farmers' markets!
As I am writing this blog looking back, I have since started taking Juice Plus and highly recommend it! I notice that when I skip a dose, my body starts to crave it. Not only are the fruits and vegetables organically grown and picked at peak ripeness, but the soil is organically farmed and rich with minerals. In traditional growing, tremendous amounts of soil minerals are lost with chemical and pesticides. How can this not affect the quality our food?
You Are What You Eat
Everything we eat is an investment in our future selves. Coming down with a disease such as cancer, is extremely costly. Each of my treatments were over $50,000. Was my cancer caused by food alone? No. But certain foods do create inflammatory environments for cancer to flourish (see previous blog posts). I was eating too much sugar and under too much stress. Other factors played into it as well.
I always knew that cancer came to heal me in many ways. But in order to do so, you have to be willing to look beyond the physical and heal your old wounds and ways. No doctor can do that work for you. God can.
I am trying to keep things simple, as I remember how overwhelmed I felt during that time. Please do dig further on anything that strikes your interest. There is so much out there, and in my cancer experience, doctors don't talk about eating. It's just not how they are schooled.
Cancer Free with Food by Liana Werner-Gray was one of my go-to books. It's easy to read and full of wonderful information and easy recipes. It's beneficial for those with cancer as well as those seeking cancer prevention.
Other anthocyanins include: acai berries, blackberries, cherries, raspberries, strawberries and blood oranges to name a few. There is much written on anthocyanins and their ability to fight many types of diseases. Stock up on those organic berries!
Oh, Chocolate.I Adore You.
I LOVE chocolate. Before my diagnosis, I ate it nearly every day in some form-brownies, cookies, cake, or the quickest and easiest- candy bars. Unless I was in need of a quick sugar spike, I avoided the types found at the checkout counter of the drug store (except Mounds bars) and opted for the types found in Whole Foods or other natural grocery stores. In my mind, they had to be ok. I didn’t eat them all at once, but broke them into small chunks to reach for throughout the day. No high fructose corn syrup, but still sugar. And addictive.
Of all the foods, losing chocolate was the hardest. However, it’s amazing what you can do when you are scared enough. Mercifully, it wasn’t long before I discovered that chocolate can be healthy as long as it is eaten in its “clean” form.
CACAO (not cocoa)
Caoao is the main ingredient in chocolate. When caoca is harvested and heat-processed into cocoa powder, it loses much of its nutrients. Raw caoao is what you want, as it is rich in nutrients and minerals. But what interested me most was that cacao was believed to be a powerful anti-cancer agent.
“Cacao has been proven by the science community to be an anti-inflammatory with anti-tumor activities. It has been shown to have many anti-cancer properties because of its high antioxidant count (40x that of blueberries!).” Cancer Free With Food.
Antioxidants help to prevent the damage done by free radicals. “Free radicals are molecules in the human body that have gone rogue so to speak. These highly reactive substances can do damage to cells causing them to function poorly or die. This can promote disease in the body. The damage free radicals do to healthy cells can ultimately cause cancer.”The Antioxidant Benefits of Raw Cacao. By Jody Braverman
In regards to brands, I am sure there are many out there. The brands mentioned below were chosen for personal taste. There are many alternatives! Look for one that is is high in cacao. Be sure not to confuse this word with cocoa. Easy to do, especially when sending others out to shop for you. I choose bars with 60-70% cacao and higher.
HU Bars: I love HU bars as they taste the most like chocolate and have clean, healthy ingredients. Remember, it takes awhile for the taste buds to adjust with any new food-particiularly when you are used to refined white sugars. The bars come in different flavors and are costly, but I make them last. Even though I was found tumor free in December 2019 (6 months after my diagnosis) I will always watch my daily sugar intake, as well as everything I eat. You can't go back to your old ways. Healing is a process.Once you get your body to an optimal state, it requires maintenance and diligence. Do I ever cheat? Sure. When I do, my body rebels. It doesn't want that food anymore. And I have leaned to respect and honor my body.
Back to chocolate!
HU has a whole brand of other yummy products, like baking chocolate and chocolate -covered almonds. I found HU at Whole Foods or places like the online store, Thrive Market (if you want to spend a little less).
Cacao Nibs: For the past two years, my morning (and often afternoon) pick up was some type of flavored cold coffee with almond milk. With cancer, I still wanted caffeine but had to drop the sugar. I liked the Califia brand coffees and started drinking their unsweetened Black and White Cold Brew Coffee. Initially missing the sugary taste, I started sprinkling cocoa nibs in the coffee and over time, my taste buds acclimated to this new “sweetness.” The cacao nibs are an acquired taste, but l now snack on them alone. P.S. The nibs float in cold coffee-so you crunch them. When I try now to drink those flavored coffees, they taste far too sweet. Your body will tell you what it wants.
Cacao Powder: A substitute for many healthy dessert recipes. I use it for making non dairy chocolate mousse and hot cocoa. I love cacao powder in my oatmeal for even stronger dose of antioxidants. It looks like chocolate oatmeal!
Yes, You CAN!
I never, in a million years, thought I could cut out most sugar. I was addicted. As I write this blog post during the COVID 19 crisis, I share how imperative it is that we keep our bodies healthy and strong. We have a powerful army within us. We just need to supply it with the right reenforcement!