Last week we considered nutrition choices during cancer treatment and reminded ourselves that as cancer is taking place all the time, our bodies have robust mechanisms in place to keep the process under control.
A sensible measure is to follow the guidelines limiting what increases our risk (as detailed here) and it is vital that we incorporate more habits and choices into our routines that support health.
The following have all been shown to lower your risk of all diseases including cancer and strengthen immune function:
- Balance blood glucose levels
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise regularly and prioritise daily physical activity *note excessive, intense exercise without sufficient recovery can contribute to your inflammatory load
- Mindset health support with meditation, mindfulness and relaxation
- High intake of vegetables and fruits *probably closer to 7-10 servings rather than 5 a day
- Good social health and minimising social isolation
- Consuming an antioxidant-rich diet by including tea, coffee, cocoa, herbs, spices and vegetables
- Optimising sleep health
- Spending time in nature
- Owning pets
- Being in a loving relationship
- Maintaining optimal nutrient status *especially vitamin A, D, C, Iron, Magnesium, Selenium and Zinc
- Sufficient intake of essential, anti-inflammatory Omega 3 fats
- Time-restricted eating e.g. shortening your eating window, minimising snacking and extending your overnight fast
Here’s what this could look like practically (all the above will support weight management too):
- Aim to move across your day, consider an 8000-12000 step target and use an app to track if it’s motivating
- Find some form of exercise you enjoy and set aside 2-3 hours weekly to be consistent with it
- If you are metabolically impaired with diabetes, cardiovascular diseases or significantly overweight, resistance training plus walking will provide added metabolic benefits
- Make half your lunch and dinner plate vegetable-based. Consume two servings of fruit and if you can get some vegetables into breakfast or snacks it’s a bonus e.g. omelettes, smoothies, Bircher muesli, soups, crudities and humous. You can find inspiration for mealtimes in our recipe section.
- Stop snacking, grazing and drinking calories in between meals. Stick to 3-4 designated mealtimes and fast in between
- Aim to eat earlier in the evenings and/or have a later breakfast to extend your overnight fast
- Find some mindset support tools, great options include yoga, Qigong, mediation apps, breathing exercises, talking therapies, hobbies or simply talking to good friends
- Eat a nutrient-dense diet by minimising processed foods and consuming primarily whole foods: meat, fish, eggs, dairy, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices
- Eat oily fish three times a week, think S.M.A.S.H (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring)
- Consider regular blood tests and checking in with a qualified nutritional therapist to assess how your current diet is working for you in terms of metabolic health, hormones, digestive health and nutrients
- Get outside daily and if you live in an urban area find the greenest space you can
- Get savvy with your spices and alliums: chilli, ginger, cinnamon, garlic and onions are all beneficial for immune health
- Scatter fresh and dried herbs on everything: salads, soups, roasted vegetables and stir fry.
- Drink your antioxidants with black tea, green tea, herbal teas, coffee and cocoa
- Socialise on a regular basis or use video calls to speak pals (your immune system likes to see faces)
- Establish a sleep routine and grab any chance for an early night or afternoon nap. Address sleep hygiene too. Kick the tech out of the bedrooms and turn it into a dark, cool cave.
- Double-check your closest relationships still work for you and have conversations if they don’t.
- Owning or borrowing a dog could be a game-changer. We’re biased of course but it’s guaranteed you’ll get outside, find yourself becoming more social as your dog humps another it tends to be a conversation starter. You’ll also experience endless love and a ridiculously enthusiastic, slobbery welcome every time you walk through the door.
Rome wasn’t built in a day.
To begin with, I suggest picking three things to work on and to help I’ve put together a collection of Fitter Food recipes that cover many of the nutrition pointers detailed.
You can download our Fitter Food recipe collection by popping in your email below.