He should have died, but he didn’t. –Graham Clouston about Ian Gawler in the mid 1970s

Eat well, be well

By Roger Childs

Ian and Graham are among thousands who have had cancer and been given a death sentence. However, they have come out the other side. They put their survival down to a number of factors related to life style change – diet, meditation, exercise, positivity, spirituality and the support of family and friends.

Eat Well Be Well autumn saladThis article looks at the crucial element of what we eat. As Ian Gawler bluntly puts it — If you want a junk body, eat junk food. 

Principles of a healthy regime 

A whole-food, plant-based diet is best.

  • Eat foods that are known to be healthy and enjoyable, like vegetables, fruit, seeds and nuts. And avoid those that are known to be unhelpful. Do the reading!
  • Avoid saturated fats and use unsaturated fats and oils.
  • Use Omega 3 fatty acids e.g. flaxseed oil, and Omega 9 — found in olive oil, avocado and most nuts. Avoid omega 6 fatty acids e.g. sunflower oils and canola.
  • Protect oils as much as possible from air, heat and light.
  • Use modest amounts of protein e.g. 55-60 grams daily. Best to use vegetable sources and grains e.g. tofu, soya beans, brown rice, legumes (peas / beans)
  • Reduce or avoid meat, fish and dairy consumption.
  • Eat fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds regularly.
  • Avoid processed food where possible.
  • Eat plenty of whole grains and fresh fruit and consume the skins where possible.
  • Drink at least eight small glasses of fluid per day. Reduce or avoid alcohol.
  • Adopt a low salt diet and do not add salt to food. Similarly with sugar.
  • Reduce the use of plastics in wrapping food – if unavoidable, remove immediately in your kitchen.
  • Breads – opt for wholemeal and seeded varieties. (Vogels make a vegan variety and most bakers will do vegan loaves.)
  • Cereals – go for unprocessed varieties, low in salt and sugar.

Eating for recovery

Ian Gawler emphasises two types of diet — healing and wellness. In the recovery from cancer, these are the basic principles to follow:

  • Think about what you eat and enjoy it.
  • Use fats wisely and avoid deep frying and cooking with oils. Water works well with a small amount of Tamari Soy Sauce.
  • Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, organic where you can, eg out of your own garden.
  • Lower salt and sugar intake – don’t add them to food. Some honey is OK.
  • Eat nuts for snacks – unsalted, also dried fruit such as dates, prunes, figs, cranberries and dried apricots.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Drink herbal teas in preference to “gumboot” tea which has caffeine.  
  • Drink plenty of pure, clean water.
  • Keep food away from heat and light.

vegan nuts and seedsBasically the strong recommendation in the recovery diet is to go vegan – no dairy, fish or meat. After recovery, the emphasis in the wellness diet should still be on a plant-based, low salt and sugar regime. Moderation in eating eggs, ice cream, cheese and fish, plus small amounts of alcohol is acceptable. 

Going dairy free — find substitutes

Vegan summer pastaIf you do go vegan, there are plenty of tasty substitutes.

  • Other milks – soy, almond, coconut
  • Coconut yoghurt e.g. Raglan varieties
  • Non-dairy spreads – e.g. almond butter and Fix and Fogg Everything Butter
  • Whitakers dark chocolate e.g. Ghana
  • Decaffinated Coffee – Cafe L’Affare has a tasty alternative. 

Eat plenty of food with known anti-cancer properties

Regardless of what sort of diet you are on, be aware of foods known to be cancer fighters, such as

  • raspberries
  • pomegranate – the juice is excellent but expensive!
  • beetroot
  • brassicas – broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts
  • turmeric /ginger / garlic
  • tomatoes
  • beans 
  • green tea
  • broccoli sprouts.

Eat Well Be Well 1All nuts are good — however avoid the salted ones, and consume the shells if they are edible.

Juices from fruit and vegetables 

This is an ideal way to get your necessary fluid intake. Prepare you own if you can. Fruit and vegetable juice(s) can be combined in smoothies with soy milk and coconut yoghurt.

Eat Well: Be Well by The Gawler Cancer Foundation  

Eat Well Be WellThis is the ideal cook book for the diets covered above, with advice on cooking terms and techniques, suggested foods for the pantry, storage ideas and meal planning.

The scores of healthy recipes are set out in sections:

  • dips and nibbles
  • dressings and sauces
  • bread
  • soup
  • main course
  • vegetables and side dishes
  • salads
  • sweet treats.

(For the earlier articles in the series, see posts of 18 October, 25 October and 7 November)