My green juicing tips

Green smoothies are now a ‘thing’, but I just haven’t found one I like and honestly I’d rather eat my fruit whole and enjoy it, rather than use it to mask the flavour of something I don’t like. Also my digestive system honestly doesn’t always cope well with a cold smoothie landing my stomach. I find fresh juices more manageable, but with juicing you are removing most of the plant fibre, which means the natural sugars in any fruits and vegetables you use are digested and hit the blood stream more quickly (not ideal).

My solution is green juicing, using only green vegetables rather than sugary fruits and roots. One glass a day is plenty for me, and if you’re going through chemotherapy I did read in the Living Well With Cancer Cookbook that you shouldn’t have more than this during treatment. I can only speak from my own experience, but I do feel better for having a green juice each day. Also, it may be a coincidence, but I needed a couple of blood transfusion during the first half of my course of chemo this year, and since I started having a green juice every day I haven’t needed another one. Make of that what you will!

A quick glance at my Instagram will show you how partial I am to an organic veg box delivery, and I do really like the selection offered in the Abel & Cole green juicing box. Unlike a lot of juicing boxes available it doesn’t have any high carb roots and is light on the fruit (only lemons and some apples, which I leave out of my juices and keep for eating whole). You get celery, two cucumbers, two lemons, ginger, parsley, mint, two types of greens (usually spinach and one that varies seasonally, but can be kale, lettuce, chard or watercress), and a few apples – all organic, for £12.50 plus delivery. Admittedly you can also get organic version of most of these in supermarkets, although you’d likely struggle to find organic herbs and ginger.

What generally goes in my green juice:

1 large stick of celery

1/3 cucumber

handful of spinach and/or chunk of broccoli stalk and/or spring greens and/or cabbage

small lump of fennel (about 1/4 small one)

2-3 mint stalks with leaves

small handful of parsley

small piece of ginger (approximately size of large pea, more if liked)

The instructions that come with the juicer generally tell you to sandwich leafy ingredients between harder ones to get the most juice out of them, which works well.

I’m lucky enough to have an Oscar Vitalmax juicer. It’s what’s known as a ‘masticating’ juicer as it ‘chews’ up the veg, which is supposed to be superior to the cheaper ‘centrifugal’ juicers which spin the veg around but may not extract as much juice and oxidise it more. If you haven’t tried juicing before and budget is an issue maybe start out with a cheap or second hand centrifugal juicer and see how you go, then upgrade later. I would definitely recommend the Oscar as it is much quieter, more compact and easier to clean than the centrifugal juicer I previously had, and very easy to use. I was lucky enough to find a pre-owned but unused one on eBay a couple of years ago, but think it is worth the investment at full price.

 

 

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Recipe: wild salmon fishcakes

The beneficial effects of omega 3 essential fats are now widely acknowledged, but many of use still struggle to include foods rich in omega 3 in our diets. Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and trout are some of the richest sources. There are also vegetarian sources like flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts, although omega 3 is actually a family of fats and the type included in vegetarian sources is slightly different and requires the body to convert it to be used.

Salmon is the oily fish I find most palatable and easy to include in my diet, but over recent years some research has shown that farmed salmon can be high in environmental toxins such as PCBs and require treatment with antibiotics and pesticides to control lice infestations that have an impact on the levels in food and on the environment (there’s an interesting article about it here). So wild salmon is regarded by some as the best option, although it is significantly more expensive, has a different texture and requires shorter cooking times.

Tinned wild salmon is a slightly more economical option and widely available supermarkets. You can mix it with mayo and use as a sandwich filling, or even add it to pasta sauces, but my favourite way to have it is in fishcakes. The recipe below is gluten and dairy free and naturally low carb. Most importantly, it’s really tasty!

wildsalmonfishcakes

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

213g tin wild salmon

1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

1 egg, beaten

1 heaped tbsp ground almonds

1 tbsp mayonnaise

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp finely chopped dill, or to taste

1 tbsp finely chopped parsley, or to taste

a generous grind of black pepper

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 C fan. Remove the large bones and skin from the salmon – most easily done by placing on a plate and using two forks to pick through.
  2. Place the salmon in a large bowl and add the other ingredients. Mix well. If the mixtures looks too wet, add some more ground almonds.
  3. Shape the mixture into 8 to 9 cakes and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
  4. Place in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes (until golden brown).
  5. Serve hot or cold with vegetables of your choice, a wedge of lemon, and some mayonnaise or horseradish sauce.

What’s your favourite way to eat wild salmon?

Eating Well Part 3: helpful books

There are so many books available now about cancer, but quite frankly I don’t want to spend my time reading about it. I had a moment a few months ago when I wondered whether I had been missing out by avoiding them, and so ordered a whole stack online. Most of them were returned or sent to the charity shop.

The two books that stayed are actually cookbooks, but ones that offer quite a bit of background nutritional information. There are only a couple of recipes in each that appeal to me and suit how I’m eating right now, but obviously tastes differ, and I think they are worth a look as it’s easy to dip in and out of them without getting bogged down in unnecessary detail too. Both incorporate what I would consider a more ‘complementary’ nutritional therapy-type perspective in a way that is still accessible and I would hope wouldn’t completely freak out a dietitian.

cookbooks1

The first is called Nourish by Christine Bailey. Christine is an experienced nutritional therapist who also does a lot of work in healthy recipe development, and she’s produced this book in conjunction with the Penny Brohn Cancer Centre in Bristol. The nutrition section in this book is fairly concise, but I think it makes a nice starting point.

The second is The Living Well With Cancer Cookbook by Fran Warde & Catherine Zabilowicz, produced in conjunction with the cancer charity Maggie’s. This goes into a bit more detail and had some snippets I hadn’t come across. I found this a really informative and somehow reassuring read. I also liked the way it acknowledged that there are some more ‘out there’ approaches, but that these may have their downsides or require specialist support.

What books have you found useful?

Eating Well Part 2: finding a nutritional therapist

Nutrition has become a really important part of supporting myself through treatment, as it makes sense to me to provide my body with the best raw materials possible to carry out its repair processes. As I qualified as a nutritional therapist a few years ago I was already familiar with this approach to nutrition, but I realise most people will be more familiar with dietitians (who do a really important job, but within a medical framework). There is a useful summary of the differences between nutritional therapy and dietetics here if you are interested.

Supporting people with cancer was only covered lightly in my training, so I sought out someone with specialist knowledge to support me with an individually tailored programme. I really didn’t feel it would be a good use of my energy or all that healthy for me emotionally to suddenly try to research everything for myself from scratch.

I am fortunate to have found a nutritional therapist who is extremely experienced and knowledgeable. It was really important to me that any advice was research-based, and in particular that any supplements I take are safe and won’t interfere with my medical treatment.

If you are interested in finding someone to support you, I would say looking for a practitioner with experience of supporting people with cancer (ideally the type of cancer you have) is important.

How to find a nutritional therapist

There is a searchable database of qualified nutritional therapists on the website of the professional body BANT. All BANT members have completed a recognised qualification and have to keep up-to-date by completing a specified number of hours of additional training each year. Whilst the website shows you practitioners in your area, it doesn’t necessarily show the areas they specialise in.

Nutritionist Resource offers a bit more information, but to be honest nutritional therapists who specialise in supporting people with cancer can be few and far between. I would research people in your area and e-mail them to ask what their experience is.

When it comes to supplements, don’t be scared to really grill people on the evidence their recommendations are based on. Although I personally think specific supplements can be really helpful, you are much better off not taking any than risking taking something that will reduce the efffectiveness of your treatment (which is possible!) or may interact with your medications and worsen side effects. Food should be the primary focus.

Obviously it’s not possible for everyone to see a nutritional therapist, whether due to geography or finances, so coming up in the next post are a couple of books that I’ve found helpful in giving a really sensible, balanced overview of nutrition for supporting yourself during and after treatment.

Eating Well Part 1: the challenges

Nutrition can be a bit of a minefield these days, whether you are coping with an illness or not, but possibly even more so when it comes to supporting yourself during cancer treatment. On the one hand, the official advice seems to boil down to follow a standard healthy diet, and possibly add high calorie foods if you are struggling to maintain your weight during treatment. On the other, you have people from various camps recommending going vegan, or ketogenic, or green juicing six times a day. Even as someone with a professional background in nutrition (but no specialised knowledge or experience of supporting people with cancer), I find it can be a source of great anxiety and can only imagine how confused someone with standard nutritional knowledge might feel.

My personal philosophy about nutrition in general is there is no one perfect diet that is suitable for everyone. Whether it be due to physical factors such as variations in our genetic make-up, composition of our gut bacteria, or the way our immune system is programmed, or other equally important considerations such as personal preferences and cultural beliefs, different things suit different people. In a way this can be very empowering, but it also often means a lot of experimentation to find what suits you.

Working out what to eat during cancer treatment adds a further layer of complication, as so many aspects can affect digestion and appetite. Whether it be the side effects of chemo, the drugs that go alongside it, antibiotics, or a physical obstruction to your digestive system, your normal eating habits may go completely out the window.

I also think it’s really important to consider the psychological and emotional aspects of changing your diet. While there may be benefits to adding or removing certain foods in theory, if you struggle or find things overly restrictive you can end up creating stress and anxiety that outweighs the benefit of the changes. So my philosophy is ‘be kind to yourself’. If you decide to make a change, do it gradually, make sure you have enough alternatives that you know you can eat on hand before removing anything, and don’t beat yourself up if the only food you can face eating one day is completely the opposite of what you’re aiming for.

Coming up next time – finding individualised nutritional support.