Reader Response: Changing Your Diet to Recover Some Energy

January 22, 2013 Providence Health Team

In a recent post, “You Don’t Have to Put Up With Cancer-related Fatigue” Barbara, a blog reader, generously shared with us how she changed her diet as part of the process to get her energy back. We thought it might be beneficial for our other readers if Iresponded to some of the key changes she made and why they worked. Thank you Barbara for getting this conversation started!

At this point I try to eat nothing out of a box.
Processed foods have less nutritional value than ‘whole foods’. What are whole foods? Foods that are not altered by preservatives and chemicals in the preparation process; whole foods are anything that is ‘made from scratch.’ Examples: cooking your own oatmeal from raw oats, adding your own spices, nuts, etc., and not using a package that you simply pour water over to make.

Try to eat five different colors of fruits and vegetables--5- 8 servings a day. I do eat a green salad daily.
Various colors of fruits and vegetables can assist in obtaining a variety of nutrients contained within. For instance: a lot of beta-carotene and Vitamin A is found in orange colored vegetables such as yam, squash, and carrots. Dark green leafy vegetables (chard, kale, spinach) are high in iron content. A green salad provides fresh food and roughage. This provides a good source of vitamins, minerals, nutrients, as well as helping to keep the digestive system moving along.

I am supposed to avoid baked goods, but don't always. This includes even whole grain breads.
Baked goods usually contain flour and sugar, which represent carbohydrates (sugars) once broken down through digestion. Because the human body needs fewer carbohydrates to maintain a healthy balance it makes sense to limit the consumption of baked goods. As a rare treat, this is okay. If at all possible, whole grain breads are best. Flour is processed from its whole grain form to create ‘white flour.’ The processed end product of white flour has far less nutritional value than a whole grain option.

I used to drink two glasses of milk a day, I now limit milk to a splash on my steel-cut soaked- overnight oatmeal--there go the Cheerios and bran flakes.
This recommendation is an excellent example of why there is no substitute for talking with your health care provider about your specific situation. For some cancer patients, the intake of milk could be very beneficial. I’m assuming that this recommendation was made to you to cut down your fat content but again, this should be handled on a case by case basis under the supervision of your provider.

The naturopath said to eat two cups of cooked whole grains a day.
Combining a whole grain with a protein such as beans (black or pinto) and legumes (lentils) results in a ‘perfect protein’ that contains all the essential amino acids necessary through proper nutrition which results in the building blocks of the nutrients needed by the human body.

Eggs, beans and nuts and yogurt are my main protein with some chicken, lamb, venison and a little cheese. I was told to limit red meat which I already did. A little protein with each meal.
Essentially, you are cutting down your fat content by selecting protein sources which are lower in fat. If at all possible go the extra step to select organic, free range eggs. If one is going to eat lean meats, try for a local source that is organically fed. I mention this, but it is a tricky issue, as this is more expensive. Red meat refers to beef, pork and lamb. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends eating no more than 18 oz. per week of red meat.

Changing your diet is never easy. If anyone has other tips they would like to share we would love to hear them. Keep up the great work Barbara!

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