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The A-Z of Plantalicious Ingredients – F is for Fennel

I loved aniseed balls as a kid.  I used to go up to the shop at the far end of Mayes Lane buy a “quater” or 4 oz of them and devour them within minutes.   I could not get enough of that exotic aniseed flavour.  At college I drank Pernod, thinking myself rather sophisticated, (hardly) and have also sampled Raki, Arak and Ouzo on my travels.  I ended up with a pair of emerald earrings in Beirut after drinking Arak, but that’s a tale for another time!  Aniseed is a  flavour that I have always loved, hence my love of fennel as a vegetable.

Fennel (also known as Florence fennel or finocchio) is a delightfully crunchy and slightly sweet herb that has a bulb-like shape, making it look a little like a heavy-bottomed celery.

 

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It has not yet been spread and naturalized as an herb around the world, but still primarily grows in coastal climates and on riverbanks.

While this fantastically flavourful herb is most commonly associated with Italian cooking, it is actually an extremely versatile ingredient. In fact the bulb, stalk, leaves and seeds are all edible and delicious.

Any part can be chopped raw and added into your favourite salads. When eaten raw like this, the texture is crisp and the flavour is quite assertive and aniseed-like.  The leaves are delicately flavoured and similar in shape to those of dill. It truly is a delicious way to enhance the texture and flavour of a salad or coleslaw.

Cooked, it becomes much softer and has a more mellow flavour. The bulb makes an excellent addition to any mediterranean dishes. It’s also wonderful sautéed, stewed, braised or grilled. The leaves can also be used to liven up soups and sauces, or as a garnish.

Dried, fennel also makes for a sweet, calming tea, although that’s the one time, I am not keen on it.

Ideally choose the smaller, young bulbs, as they are more tender. They should look white, with no blemishes, and feel heavy for their size. The feathery green tops should be fresh and bright, with no yellowing.

Quick recipe tip – Pop some chopped fennel into an oven-proof dish, with some stock, cover and bake for 45 mins.  Simple and delicious.

As well as being a pungent delight for the taste buds and tasty addition to any meal, Fennel has a number of amazing health benefits, including anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties.

The same high concentration of essential oils in fennel that gives it the aromatic fragrance and flavour, makes it an effective potential cure for many mild to moderate ailments.

  •  Since fennel is rich in iron and histidine, it serves as a good natural remedy for anemia
  • Lactating mothers can consume fennel juice regularly to increase the secretion of nutritious milk for their infants
  • The high amounts of vitamin C, flavonoids and essential oils in fennel bulb all provide synergistic healing properties for the prevention of cancer*
  • The essential oils in fennel increases the secretion of digestive juices, helping in reduction of stomach inflammation and in the absorption of nutrients from the food eaten
  • The sulphur content together with all the right amino acids and essential oils in fennel help strengthen hair
  • The high potassium content in fennel helps reduce high blood pressure and thus decreasing the risk for heart attack and stroke

*with regard to the potential benefits that Fennel has regarding cancer and weight-loss, see this article I just came across – http://www.naturalnews.com/044051_fennel_cancer_treatment_weight_loss.html

 

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Meatless Monday – what will you eat? Try it and tell me how you get on.

I’ve tweeted a lot about Meatless Mondays before. It is an initiative that encourages people to not eat meat on Mondays to improve their health and the health of the planet. Meatless Monday is a non-profit initiative of The Monday Campaigns Inc. in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for a Livable Future.

This is an initiative that you hear a lot about in the US and is talked about a lot in the mainstream media. See Fox News article on the 5 benefits of Meatless Mondays –

better health – yes – even from one small change each week

live longer – decrease your risk of premature death by 19%

improved diet – through consumption of fibre which is only found in vegetables

save time and money – vegetables are economical and many dishes are simple and quick to prepare

For more details and the full article and references here:

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/02/18/5-benefits-eating-less-meat/

It’s not a common practice in the UK, but I am keen to change that. I want more people to consider making a small change in their eating habits. Meatless or meatfree Mondays (as it is known in the UK) see: http://www.meatfreemondays.co.uk/ is one way of making that change.

For inspiration please take a look at the recipes on www.plantalicious.com as well as share your recipes in the recipe section of The Community on the website.

Please also comment on your meatless or meat free Monday meal choices.

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Cancer – Fighting Cancer with antioxidants, but from our food or a pill?

When I was a child no one spoke about cancer.  I can remember it really being a really taboo subject, more like “the disease that shall not be named”, or just referred to almost out of my hearing as “The Big C”.

Nowadays, you can’t open a newspaper or watch a news bulletin, without cancer being talked about. It touches us all, we all know somebody fighting cancer, being diagnosed with cancer and hopefully being a survivor of cancer.

One of the things that always intrigued me was the idea that antioxidants are really like little toy soldiers in our bodies.  Little warriors who go around fighting the good fight against the cancerous cells  developing in all of us. I recall going to one of those health screenings, paid for by my employer, where they used a small gun to measure the amount of antioxidants I had in my body.  At the time I had about 4 times the average level of antioxidants, as measured by this process. I can remember coming home and feeling rather smug about my very high antioxidant level!

What I hadn’t appreciated, was that I was getting my antioxidants out of a bottle in the form of tablets and pills. I.e. supplements. When I started studying plant-based nutrition. It became very obvious to me that this was not the best way for my body to be provided with the antioxidants that it needs. In supplement form the antioxidants are isolated and your body effectively says: “thanks a lot, but what the hell do you expect me to do with these?” What is your body supposed to do when it doesn’t have all of the other component parts that go with the antioxidant in nature, enabling it to use the  component to the best of your body’s abilities?

If you doubt what I’m saying and you are as fervently pro-popping antioxidant pills, as I once was.  Although, I doubt anybody spent as much money on supplements as me who took circa 35 pills a day!  I would suggest that you read the book – Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition by T Colin Campbell (http://www.amazon.com/Whole-Rethinking-Nutrition-Colin-Campbell/dp/1937856240 ) In the book, he explains, his approached nutrition as being rather like a symphony.  I like the analogy because it’s easy to understand that no one instrument in isolation can have the same effect as the entire orchestra playing together. I’m oversimplifying, but I hope you get my drift.

I came across this video today with some research cited by Michael Greger that shows how antioxidants taken as food in their whole natural state, rather than being extracted into a supplement is the best way of using these little warriors to fight cancer in our bodies.

You can find his video here: http://bit.ly/1fhx40f  it lasts a few minutes and is well worth a watch.

Reaching for that bottle of supplements or multivitamin, it might just be time to step back and think.  Ask yourself: “could I get the benefits of these pills from a wholefood source”? Put down the bottle step away, open fridge and make yourself a salad or better still a Plantalicious Recipe.   You’ll be glad you did, just as I was, not only will you be saving many hundreds of pounds a year, but it could just be that by taking these supplements in isolation you are doing yourself more harm than good.

I am not suggesting that by ingesting some antioxidant rich foods that we can suddenly make the world Cancer free.  What I am suggesting is that you give your body the best fuel you can to give it the best chance of healing itself.

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Carbohydrates – Why Do So Many People Believe That Carbohydrates Are Bad for Them?

The diet industry has convinced many that carbohydrates are bad for you. Thus, we’ve seen the introduction of many low carb or even no carb diets. But what the people who promote these diets aren’t telling you is that not having enough carbs in your diet can put a person’s body into a state of Ketosis. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ketosis) So does that mean that low carb diets are dangerous? Is there a better way to diet for fitness or weight loss purposes? Read on to learn the truth about carbohydrates.

 

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Basically, low carb diets end up meaning high protein. How do most people, especially individuals who are interested in fitness, get that extra protein? Generally from meat, fish and diary, which typically means adding a lot of extra saturated fat and cholesterol to your diet as well. Some fish are high in saturated fat and fish contain cholesterol. Plant based diets, however, recommend getting your protein through beans, nuts, starches and grains like quinoa. You can also get a surprising amount of protein in the vegetables that you eat, such as broccoli. This is why Doctor Oz promoted a diet designed by T. Colin Campbell. It’s a plant based diet which allows an individual to still get plenty of protein, but without cutting out carbohydrates.

 

The real issue with carbohydrates is processed foods. Most people who eat a Western diet are getting their carbs from fast food or from other processed foods like convenience foods, microwavable meals and even bags of potato chips. By avoiding these types of foods and getting rid of processed sweets and replacing them with fruit, you can rid your diet of the unhealthy carbs without eliminating those necessary good carbs from your diet.

 

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The Starch Solution is another diet which has been developed by Dr. McDougall. This is another plant based diet.  People confuse plant based with vegan.  The two are not the same.  They share the fact that the followers do not consume meat, fish or dairy products, however vegans may eat processed and convenience foods.  The Starch Solution diet could be thought of as low protein because the diet focuses on using starches to fuel the body, although Dr McDougall points out that it is virtually impossible for someone to be protein deficient and there is protein even in the humble potato. Again, the secret is to have starches that have been minimally processed. Have lots of fruits and vegetables while cutting out the refined sugars. The result is an overall healthier feeling, more energy, and more alkaline blood. Remember that acidic blood is the best environment for cancer to grow. So plant based diets like this, even ones that are high in carbohydrates, are best for your overall well being.

 

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Yes, many diets that people try today are fads. That’s why so many people believe that carbohydrates are bad for them. The fact is that eating the right carbohydrates is better for you than eating a low carb diet filled with the wrong types of proteins that can contribute to heart disease, cancer, high cholesterol, and many other health problems. Rather than falling into the trap of believing the hype from fad diets, it is far better to eat a healthy plant based diet, the diet that human bodies are clearly meant for, and to enjoy carbohydrates along with a healthy program of regular exercise.

 

Additional Reading:

http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/nutrition-plan-will-save-your-life

http://www.chewfo.com/diets/the-starch-solution-by-john-mcdougall-and-mary-mcdougall-2012-what-to-eat-and-foods-to-avoid-food-list/

http://www.drmcdougall.com/health/shopping/books/starch-solution/

 

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A Day with Dr Esselstyn at the Cleveland Clinic – Notes from Carol Hagan

Here are Carol Hagan’s notes from her day at the Cleveland Clinic with Dr Esselstyn:

Dr. Esselstyn and his wife are the most kind and giving people.  Why do I say that?  Dr. Esselstyn contacts each of the patients in the session 10 days before the session to review their health history and to “get in touch with the nuances of what brings them here.”   He stated: “I believe the only way we can show our respect to patients is to treat them with integrity and invest our time in them.”  And I saw evidence of that in how he related to everyone.

What is so potent about seeing his message in person is that he takes a different tact than I saw from Dr. Neal Barnard in our Food for Life training.  By contrast, Dr. Barnard takes a
direct but softer approach because he doesn’t want to alienate any of the participants.  He wants to keep a crack in the door so they’ll walk through.  Dr. Barnard encourages people switching to whole-food plant-based eating to go, initially, with look-alikes until they can make the jump to full-on plant based nutrition. So you will see Dr. Barnard recommend veggie burgers, soy dogs,and some prepared health foods to get the process of change started in as gradual a manner as is required by the patient.   Dr. Esselstyn is by contrast fully committed to
his “Moderation Kills” stance.  (For details see: http://www.heartattackproof.com/moderation_kills.htm )  He wants you to jump into the deep end right away and eschew all oils, animal products, caffeine, and refined foods immediately.

Dr. Esselstyn really hits hard the point that each time you take in animal products, processed oils, salt and sugars that you are injuring your endothelium, (effectively the thin layer of cells on the wall of your blood vessels – see – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endothelium  ). He hit hard the idea that even if you eat healthy during the week and cheat on the weekends, that’s still 1/3 of the year that you’re accruing damage to your endothelium, creating sticky blood, exacerbating production of plaques and hastening rupturing plaques and foam cells. The statement he made was “instead of a major stroke, you’ll still have a stroke. Instead of early onset dementia you’ll have later onset dementia. Etc.” Point well taken.

Ann, his wife, is equally as forceful in her commitment when she teaches about cooking.

Here are some key points that Carol noted:

  • Eat 6 small servings of greens throughout each day (raw or cooked), every single day.
  • Water is drink of choice. He wasn’t big on a glass of wine now and then but he takes it on a case by case basis. Decaf coffee appears to be okay to drink.
  • Supplements – He says he is going to revise his manuscript in terms of supplements. He now advocates taking only B12 because if you are eating on this food plan you are getting your nutrients in the quantities that your body needs. Your body will extract it as it is needed.
  • HDL does not need to be as high as we had recently thought.  If you are eating healthfully your body will find its own set point on what a healthy HDL level is.
  • He does encourage vitamin D if you’re unable to get outside to get sun exposure.
  • Exercise on a daily basis is strongly encouraged.
  • 1 T flax or chia seeds daily for healthy omega fats.
  • Changes in nutrition can positively impact heart issues in as few as 10 days.

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Carol Hagan’s Lunch at The Cleveland Clinic with Dr Esselstyn

Ann Esselstyn demonstrated how to make this fantastic collard green sushi. She’ll have a cookbook coming in September.

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Lentil and butternut/carrot/ginger soup was served in kale lined bowls.

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Fruit was served with citrus, mint and ginger garnishes. Who would not enjoy this?

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Veg wraps were part of the lunch fare for patients learning how to eat plant based meals.

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And finally out guest writer with Ann and Dr Esselstyn:

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Pictures from Carol Hagans day with Dr Esselstyn at the Cleveland Clinic

Carol shared some pictures from the start of her day with Dr Esselstyn –

Ann Esselstyn preparing for the day:

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Some suggested resources to support your plant based journey:

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Heart Attack Proof – The work of Dr Esselstyn – Guest Posts from Carol Hagans

Carol Hagans and I met on Twitter.

She is going to spend today observing Dr Esselstyn  – see http://www.heartattackproof.com/ – working with a new group of patients.

For those who do not know Dr Esselstyn and his pioneering work – Please click on the link above or buy his book or check out videos of him on You Tube etc.,  Such as this one – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPeLgcyJ2Y8

If you know anyone who is either suffering from heart disease or who is at risk – then share this with them – You would be doing them a favour!

Dr Esselstyn is one of my personal “Food Heroes” who has shown us that we can take personal responsibility for our health through our dietary choices and change our health destiny.

I asked Carol is she would be willing to her experiences of her day at the Cleveland Clinic  with us here on Plantalicious.

Here is her first post –

It’s almost time to drive to Lyndhurst Campus of Cleveland Clinic to learn from Dr. Esselstyn. More soon!

I’m just as excited as she is – I only wish I could be there too, but I hope that through Carol we will get a sense of how Dr Esselstyn works with his patients to help them Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease.

 

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Doctors – Do they care about your health? Does yours? Mine seems only concerned with disease not with health.

I am mad.  No, I mean, I am honestly mad.  Maybe sad, angry and disappointed would be better ways of expressing how i feel.

Why?   I hear you ask.
Well, a few months ago, I wrote to my Doctor and sent him a copy of the “Forks Over Knives” DVD.  I delivered the parcel with the DVD and a covering letter to my local surgery, to ensure that my assigned Doctor received it.  I am tempted to say who it was addressed to – Dr Sikorski, at Sydenham Green Group Practice, in Sydenham, SE London – but then that might look like sour grapes on my part!  No, on second thoughts, I think naming and shaming him is the right thing to do.
What happened to make me so angry?
I sent the DVD & a letter offering to run no-added fat, whole food, plant-based cooking classes FOR FREE either at the surgery or at my home.  I asked him to watch the DVD and to come back to me.
I waited.  Nothing.  Not a word.
So about 3 months later, I sent this:
Dear Dr Sikorski – 

 
I am writing to ask if you received my previous note and the DVD of “Forks over Knives”.  I hand delivered this to your reception, so I wanted to check that you got it.  
 
Assuming you did receive it.  Did you watch it, as per my request?  If so, I’d love to know your reactions to it and too my offer to provide free cookery demos of no-added fat wholefood, plant-based recipes to your patients, if you think this might be beneficial.  I ran a similar one of these recently and my videos from the event are on my web site.  (www.plantalicious.com)
 
I want to reiterate that my website and my endeavours in this field are strictly non-commercial.  My website is a means of sharing what I have learned on the e-Cornell Plant-Based Nutrition course run by the T. Colin Campbell Foundation to help people take responsibility for their health and to use plant-based nutrition to help imrove their health destiny.  If you are sceptical about this as I imagine you may be, please take a look at the Happy Heart Course run by the team behind the Happy Pear in Wicklow, Ireland.  http://happyheartcourse.com/ Even if you and your colleagues are skeptical, let me ask you one question: “what harm can it do if some of your patients improve their intake of plant-based foods?”
 
In the few months that I have been following a mostly no-added fat, wholefood, plant-based diet, my blood pressure has reduced, my weight has reduced by 35lbs and my cholesterol has reduced, all not bad whilst travelling the world with a very stressful job, including wining and dinning clients all whilst not being on any kind of deprivation diet.  After years of yo-yo dieting, I seem to have finally found something that works for me, which I am passionate to share with others.     
 
Ironically I had a ddisagreement with one of your Drs a couple of years ago, where he wanted to prescribe me a statin drug, which i refused asking him to look at my cholesterol history as it had been reducing over time.  He would not discuss this and became angry.  At a subsequent visit to Sydenham Green, I saw the splash screen that came up before my notes.  This Dr had added an unvalidated note indicating me to be an “aggressive patient, who should be handled with care”.  I was livid and spoke to the Practice Manager who told me the note had been removed and wrote me a letter of apology, and at my request told me that you had changed your procedures for such “value judgements”.  I use this to illustrate that I am pasionate about taking personal responsibility for my health and where possible using my own resources, such as nutrition.  
 
So, can you let me know if you received the DVD?  If you watched it?  If you interested in how this might be used within Sydenham Green.  
 
Even if you do not want to pursue this, I would love to have your feedback and to get the DVD back please, which I am happy to collect, as I have a number of others who I want to share this with so if you would be kind enough to return it to me. 
 
One idea might be to host a screening of the DVD, maybe to your heart and diabetes patients and let them discover what the films has to say. The DVD is circa £15, so it might save them the cost of buying a copy themselves.  
 
I look forward to your reply and in the meantime wish you and your team a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy 2014!
 
Kind regards – 
 
I got a very short note back, it basically said “Sorry – too busy to watch it”.
What?  Too busy to really care about the health of your patients?  I wonder if he and his colleagues would spare an hour to meet the representative of a drug company who are selling a new statin?  I know, I totally understand that he is busy, but to just dismiss this out of hand, seems to me to show a real lack of care about patient health.  A 10 minute appointment where the answer is invariably a prescription for a drug seems to be the modus operandi rather than caring for the long term health of patients.
Could it be that Dr’s and my Dr in particular is more interested in disease than health?  Is it more rewarding to have patients taking statins or diabetes drugs than genuinely helping them to find a way of becoming responsible for their own health?  How can it be?  My Dr is not a bad person, in fact I have always liked him.  He is kind and caring.  I think it is more that he is busy to the point of being overwhelmed and that he does care passionately but is working in a system that operates in a certain way:

Disease Symptoms->Diagnosis->Prescription

I want to make a change in the above system to make it more like:

Personal Responsibility->Less Dr’s visits->Less cost on the NHS->more healthy vibrant people

Am i in cloud-cuckoo land?
I genuinely want to share what I have learned, and to be an inspiration to others to take responsibility for their health as much as they can, so what can I do?
Having given this some thought, I am going to create a Press Release that says that I am looking for a Dr’s practice or similar to work with, where I will provide some cookery lessons and some information.  Maybe I will find a Dr who unlike my own, does have the time to work with me and lets see if between us we can make a difference.
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WORLD CANCER DAY – FEB 4TH 2014 – Some thoughts and some practical resources

Today is “World Cancer Day” – do we need one?  

 Every day, I hear about cancer, or I see a “Please share this pink ribbon or fund raising coffee morning…” on Facebook.  
 
What really amazed me today, was to hear that effectively we are losing the battle against cancer, in that according to a new global cancer report compiled by UN Agency, The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) shows 1:  
  • As a single entity, cancer is the biggest cause of mortality worldwide 2  – there were an estimated 8.2 million deaths from cancer in 2012
  • Global cancer incidence over four years increased by 11%* to an estimated 14.1 million cases in 2012 – equal to the population of India’s largest city (Mumbai)3
  • Cancer cases worldwide are forecast to rise by 75% and reach close to 25 million over the next two decades   
These are frightening statistics, “forecast to rise by 75%…” So what are we to do?
 
The press release for World Cancer Day  http://www.worldcancerday.org/press-release-wcd-2014 also suggests that practical solutions are needed to “to reduce premature deaths must have prevention as their cornerstone.
 
These include:
  • Development of National Cancer Control Plans
  • Awareness programmes against modifiable risks factors (my emphasis) 
  • Cancer screening programmes – shown to have decreased some cancers by at least 25% 1
  • Introduction of HPV vaccination programmes”
 I highlighted that bullet above as I am firmly of the belief that there are things we can do….
 
Here are some ideas.  They are not an exhaustive list and I am not a doctor.  I am simply sharing some resources and thoughts that may help you to reduce your risk of joining these statistics or help you, your friends or family in their fight against cancer….
 
First of all, I am not saying you have to do what I have done and choose to eat a 95-98% no-added fats, whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet.  Most of my friends and anyone who reads my website (www.plantalicious.com) and Facebook posts know that I follow a WFPB diet.  Am I saying that you have to do so too?  Let me say it again – “No”!  Your diet is entirely up to you.  What I want to do is to encourage you to consider what you can do.  I believe that we are not helpless victims when it comes to our health.  Our bodies have a terrific ability to heal themselves and can thrive when given the right fuel.  They will even put up with years of abuse.  What I want to do is to share some thoughts and ideas based on what I have learned as I have embraced this way of eating.  
 
Firstly, did you know that people eating plant-based diets, in general, tend to have much lower cancer rates?  This is likely due to a few key factors:
  • WFPB diets are high in fibre.  Fibre is an important nutrient that helps to remove excess hormones (esp for hormone-driven cancers), toxins, carcinogens, etc.,  Fibre is a great component of a cancer-fighting diet!  Unfortunately, you can not get the same effect from a fibre supplement. There are two types of fibre, both of which are important.
  • Vitamins & Minerals.  Vitamins and Minerals are abundant in WFPB foods, especially leafy greens. The body uses them specifically to fight off disease. (Take a look at the Nutrient comparison chart in the book: The China Study to show the difference between animal and plant food nutrients).
  • Cruciferous Vegetables – these have shown to be the most potent cancer-fighters, actually stopping the growth of cancer cells. “Do you like any of these?” (broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, spring or mustard & collard greens, etc…Can you incorporate more in your diet? 

Resources

There is an over whelming amount of information on Cancer, where can you look for reliable and evidence based information?   Website and resources I’d recommend:

What type of cancer do they have…. Is it hormone-driven? (breast, prostate, endometrial, etc…)

    • Have you considered the notion of dairy stimulating production of hormones. And, also the effect of fat and obesity on these cancers?
    • What if it is Colon cancer? Take a look at the evidence linking the intake of meat with colon cancer
 
Should I take a load of supplements to help in my Cancer Treatment?
  • It is important to understand the difference between a supplement (an isolated nutrient) and a whole food (which contains a symphony of nutrients). You definitely get more “bang for your buck” with a whole food. Particularly, fibre which (see above) is an important part in fighting disease.
  • Taking isolated supplements can be dangerous. We override the body’s ability to determine how much of that nutrient needs to be absorbed by taking a supplement – in some cases, this has been credited with causing heart disease, cancers, advanced aging, etc…
 
So this is not an exhaustive list, but I hope that it helps you and yours either avoid some of the cancers that lifestyle changes can prevent and improve your ability to fight cancer should you be diagnosed with it.  
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