One of the biggest changes I made after my diagnosis was my diet, and it wasn’t easy! Cutting out everything delicious sucked. No alcohol, no sugar, no processed wheat or carbs like pasta and bread, limited dairy; basically, everything I loved in the before-times 🤦♀️
Although I have relaxed a bit now that I’m two years out and all of my blood tests and scans continue to look great, the majority of the time I still stick to my diet; it has really become my way of life, it’s just how I eat now. And I feel great! I actually sleep well, I have more energy during the day and get way more done (I am far busier than I was prior to diagnosis but don’t feel nearly as tired), my skin is better, and my headaches that used to happen multiple times a week have disappeared. I thought that I was just someone who was always tired and got headaches, that it was my normal; but now that I know how good I can actually feel, it makes it much easier to stick to the diet.
At first though, it was incredibly difficult, especially since my diagnosis came in the summer right in the middle of BBQ, pool party, and cottage season. People ask how I did and do it, and my answer is always the same: I didn’t have a choice, cancer is an excellent motivator.
One of the hardest parts of the diet, after the elimination of all my precious goodies, is getting enough vegetables in. They make up a huge part of my diet now, and I try to get a minimum of 4-5 cups of veggies a day (8-10 servings). This can be tough, given the amount of time that it takes to prepare veggies for a salad or other side dish. I also like to include some anticancer plants other than vegetables in my diet, but many aren’t that palatable. My solution was to create an anticancer smoothie that I could toss everything into.
My recipe has shifted over the months as I have honed my protocol. I will do another post about the jacked up version of this smoothie (warning you now though that although it is PACKED with anticancer foods, it doesn’t taste the greatest; not horrible by any means, but it’s not a Booster Juice either 😛). The version below is what I make now, and tastes fantastic! You can always make your own variations too by adding things like cocoa powder, sour cherries, a date, different veggies, hemp seeds…the sky is the limit! Just be sure to include the anticancer plants and compounds I list below.
A little bit on the benefits of each ingredient:
Greens – Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, romaine and other lettuces, mustard greens, collard greens, chicory and chard are full of prebiotic fibre that your gut buddies will love. This is fibre that we can’t digest but that the good bacteria and microbes in our gut feed on, keeping them happy and healthy, which keeps us happy and healthy (if you read my notes on the “Interconnected” series or watched it yourself, you will know all about this!). A smoothie is an excellent way to get a cup or more of greens into your diet easily. These greens also contain substances called carotenoids, some of which have been proven to have anticancer benefits: “Researchers believe that carotenoids seem to prevent cancer by acting as antioxidants – that is, scouring potentially “free radicals” from the body before they can do harm. Some laboratory research has found that the carotenoids in dark green leafy vegetables can inhibit the growth of certain types of breast cancer cells, skin cancer cells, lung cancer and stomach cancer.”1
Banana – Bananas have a lot of health benefits outside of cancer, and if you eat them on the greener side, these benefits are increased and you miss out on the sugar content of a ripe one. They contain a fair amount of prebiotic fibre, and they have antioxidants and a host of vitamins and minerals. They can help to modulate blood sugar, improve kidney function, and improve digestion2. They are no slouch when it comes to cancer either. In a study where they compared the ability of eleven fruits to reduce cancer cell growth in vitro, they found that “[…] bananas and grapefruits appear to work four times better, dropping cancer growth rates by about 40 percent.”2
Cauliflower – It was a surprise to me when I learned this, but cauliflower makes a smoothie smoother, much like a banana does! Add it’s powerful anticancer properties as part of the cruciferous family of vegetables, and we’ve got a winner when it comes to smoothie ingredients. Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower contain a compound called sulforaphane that has potent anticancer effects. In a study on stomach cancer and cruciferous veggies, they found that there was a strong correlation between a high intake of cruciferous vegetables and lower rates of stomach cancer3. Another important substance in these vegetables is indole-3-carbinol: “Researchers are interested in indole-3-carbinol for cancer prevention, particularly breast, cervical and endometrial, and colorectal cancer. Their reason is that diets with higher amounts of fruit and vegetable consumption are associated with a decreased risk of developing cancer. Researchers suspect indole-3-carbinol (I3C) is one of several vegetable components that might protect against cancer.”4 I3C is also proving to be an estrogen regulator, and “[s]tudies increasingly indicate that dietary indole-3-carbinol (I3C) prevents the development of estrogen-enhanced cancers including breast, endometrial and cervical cancers.”5 I eat cruciferous vegetables every day, and in a smoothie is a great way to get them in!
Avocado – Avocados contain a plethora of cancer-fighting phytochemicals and anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. Some of these include carotenoids (which I mentioned above), glutathione (a potent antioxidant), oleic acid (which has been shown to reduce breast cancer risk), and vitamin E (another great antioxidant)6.
Moringa – Also called the drumstick tree and the miracle tree, this plant is native to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. It packs a punch when it comes to cancer and shows promise for playing a role in anticancer drugs. Moringa has been shown to increase tumour-supressing proteins and reduce cell growth by activating apoptosis7.
Amla – There are so many anticancer effects for this one, it’s hard to know where to start! Also called Indian Gooseberry or scientifically as Phyllanthus emblica, this berry is native to, you guessed it, India and is a common component of Ayurvedic medicine. Amla can help with cancer prevention by preventing gene mutation, reducing the toxic effects of heavy metals, scavenging free radicals and more. When it comes to existing cancers, amla has potent tumour repressive properties against a number of cancer types by increasing apoptosis and reducing cell proliferation, particularly with breast cancer. It has proven to be cytotoxic to ovarian and cervical cells. In fact, “[…] a striking study has been carried out employing aqueous extracts of the Indian Gooseberry administered orally against an ovarian cancer xenograft model . In this report, the extracts were able to completely ablate the growth of ovarian xenografts, with little or no residual tumour being observed after treatment.”8 And I could go on! This one is so exciting and a must-have in your smoothie.
Inositol – A carbohydrate found in your body and in foods, inositol has a number of health benefits that are being studied. It may decrease anxiety by affecting serotonin levels and several studies have shown that it reduced the number of panic attacks participants had. Although reduced anxiety is a nice bonus, the main reason I started including it in my smoothies is because studies have also found that inositol increases insulin sensitivity9. This aids in the control of blood sugar levels, and keeping blood sugar on the lower end of the safe zone is good for all those with cancer because of cancer’s love of sugar.
Flaxseed – Flaxseed has some controversy surrounding it because there are components in it that mimic estrogen. However, studies have shown that while it has substances in it that are structurally similar to estrogen, it actually has antiestrogenic (estrogen blocking) activity. Enterolactone and enterodiol are both found in flax and have antiestrogenic effects. Because they are structurally similar to estrogen, they bind to estrogen receptors on cancer cells, particularly in breast cancer, blocking actual estrogen and therefore decreasing cell growth. Flax is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are related to a decrease in breast cancer risk. Flax also contains a-linolenic acids, which have been shown to suppress cell growth and proliferation and induce apoptosis. Animal studies have also found that flax works synergistically with Tamoxifen, making it more effective than just the drug on its own10. It pretty quickly becomes clear why I include this in my smoothies! A note about flax: it goes rancid very quickly after grinding, even though you don’t taste it, so it is always better to buy whole seeds and keep them refrigerated to maintain freshness, grinding them before each smoothie and using right away.
MCT/Udo oil – Udo’s oil contains flaxseed oil along with sesame, sunflower, evening primrose, and coconut oils. If you have read my diet guide, you know the importance of getting the proper omega-3 to -6 ratio, which Udo’s oil provides. MCT (medium-chain triglycerides) oil is derived from coconut oil and, unlike long-chain fatty acids and other fats, they go right from the gut to liver to be used as energy or turned into ketones and are therefore less likely to be stored as fat. MCT oil has been linked to better brain and memory function, increased energy and endurance, weight loss, lowered cholesterol, and lowered blood sugar levels11.
Berries – These pretty fruits aren’t just tasty, they also pack a powerful anticancer punch. There is a mounting body of research showing that berries may be among the most potent anticancer foods. They provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, inhibit angiogenesis (development of blood vessels around tumours in order to increase blood flow to them and therefore their growth), protection from DNA damage, and they affect apoptosis and proliferation of cancer cells12.
Hibiscus tea – This beautiful tea is both delicious and supports overall good health. It is packed with antioxidants, may help to lower blood pressure and blood fat levels, it can boost liver health, fight bacteria, and it contains polyphenols that have been found to have powerful anticancer properties. One test-tube study found that hibiscus extract impaired cell growth and decreased the invasiveness of certain cancers13. It makes a great alternative to juice, a popular inclusion at smoothie bars, because you will avoid the high levels of sugar. It’s even pretty easy to grow your own hibiscus and use the petals to make your own organic tea! For a detailed overview of the history, uses, and process to grow and care for hibiscus, check out this great article from Happy DIY Home.
Green tea – The anticancer benefits of green tea have been studied extensively all over the world. It’s main component is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which I have taken in supplement form as well as in copious cups of green tea every day! There are so many anticancer activities attributed to EGCG that have been proven in studies that I won’t list them all. Some of them include a delay of cancer onset (preventative effects); prevention of recurrence, second primary tumour, and metastasis; an increase in cancer cell stiffness, inhibiting their motility and therefore metastasis; working synergistically with other anticancer compounds to increase their efficacy, their anticancer activity, and to induce apoptosis; preventing tumour promotion even when cancer cells on xenograft mice were treated with tumour promoting substances after the application of EGCG by preventing these substances from interacting with their receptors; inhibiting the viability of cancer stem cells; and inhibiting the expression of genes that promote growth in a variety of cancers including breast, lung, and colorectal14. The list goes on! It’s really quite incredible and probably deserves a whole blog post of its own. Needless to say, whether it’s in your smoothies or your thermos, green tea is an integral part of any cancer prevention and treatment plan. It is worth mentioning that if you do epigenetic testing, there is a gene variant that will result in a recommendation from tests like 23andme and Nutrition Genome to avoid coffee and green tea because of the caffeine. I did have that gene variant, but was advised by my naturopath as well as my integrative MD that the benefits when it comes to cancer and green tea far outweigh the negatives, so drink up!
The recipe for my anticancer smoothie is below. Give it a try, and let me know in the comments if you do and how you like it!
- 1-1 1/2 cups of organic greens of choice
- 1/2 a banana, on the green side is better (you can omit this if you are just starting out and heavily limiting your sugar)
- 1/2 cup of chopped cauliflower or avocado (or both!)
- 1 tsp of moringa powder
- 1 tsp of amla powder
- 1 tsp of inositol powder
- 1 tbsp of flax seeds
- 1 tbsp of MCT or Udo oil
- 1 cup of organic mixed berries
- 1 cup of water, cold green or hibiscus tea, or non-dairy milk of choice (or enough to make it the consistency that you like)
Place everything in a blender or Magic Bullet cup, and blend until smooth. Enjoy!
Note: If you are using a Magic Bullet or something similar and it’s getting pretty packed, the liquid you are using might just sit on top, not leaving room for enough liquid to make your smoothie smooth; you will end up with a gluey smoothie, and that’s no fun! I like to use a chopstick or similar utensil to make little channels down to the bottom of the cup for the liquid to trickle through and fill the spaces. You will be able to fit in significantly more liquid this way and get a delicious, smooth smoothie!
- “AICR’s (American Institute for Cancer Research) Foods that Fight Cacner – Dark Green Leafy Vegetables”: https://www.aicr.org/foods-that-fight-cancer/foodsthatfightcancer_leafy_vegetables.html
- “11 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Bananas”: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-proven-benefits-of-bananas#section10
- “Cruciferous Vegetable Consumption and Stomach Cancer – A Case Study”: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31094219
- “Indole-3-carbinol”: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1027/indole-3-carbinol
- “Indole-3-carbinol is a negative regulator of estrogen”: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12840226
- “Avocados – A Super Cancer Fighting Food”, by Dr. Nalini Chilkov: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/avocados-a-super-cancer-f_n_632985
- “Moringin from Moringa Oleifera Seeds Inhibits Growth, Arrests Cell-Cycle, and Induces Apoptosis of SH-SY5Y Human Neuroblastoma Cells through the Modulation of NF-κB and Apoptotic Related Factors.”: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31010127
- “Anticancer Properties of Phyllanthus emblica (Indian Gooseberry)”: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4477227/
- “5 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Inositol”: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/inositol-benefits#section5
- “The Effect of Flaxseed in Breast Cancer” – A Literature Review: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5808339/
- “What are the possible benefits of MCT oil?”: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320251.php
- “Protective Role of Dietary Berries in Cancer”: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5187535/
- “8 Benefits of Hibiscus Tea”: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/hibiscus-tea-benefits
- “Cancer Prevention with Green Tea and Its Principal Constituent, ECGCG – from Early Investigations to Current Focus on Human Cancer Stem Cells”: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5824026/