“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” is a quote attributed to Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine.
As far back as the fifth century BCE, Hippocrates recognized the connection between food and health. A new cookbook called The Living Kitchen: Healing Recipes to Support Your Body During Cancer Treatment and Recovery was written in the spirit of Hippocrates’ famous axiom.
The book’s co-authors, Tamara Green and Sarah Grossman, are certified nutritionists who specialize in nutrition for cancer patients.
While there are many interesting, dairy-free recipes in it, Living Kitchen is more than just a cookbook: it also includes nutritional information and guidelines for what to eat during the various stages of cancer treatment.
For instance, the women offer recommendations on ways to combat the side effects of cancer treatment, like dry mouth, swallowing difficulties and loss of appetite.
“Our goal in writing this book was to make an impact on people’s lives, whether it’s the caregiver, or the person whose undergoing cancer treatment,” Green said in a conference call.
The book is designed to support the different phases of cancer, Grossman explained. “It’s about what to eat before and during cancer treatment.”
The two women met in 2009 at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition in Toronto. Green is a Torontonian, while Grossman hails from a small New Jersey town near Philadelphia.
They said they bonded over their shared love of wholesome food. “We sat next to each other and we had a great rapport,” Green recalled. “We said, ‘Why don’t we start this business together?’ ”
In 2010, they launched their company, Living Kitchen, which now encompasses nutritional counselling, cooking instruction, meal delivery and private chef services.
Initially, they prepared specialty foods for people with chronic conditions like Crohn’s disease, diabetes and fibromyalgia.
In 2012, cancer support and prevention became their main focus. They had lost family members to cancer, but they also began to see people their own age getting sick, Grossman said.
“It was very upsetting to see them diagnosed with cancer.… We really wanted to help make a difference. We began to guide them in the food choices they were making.”
For example, they advise cancer patients to avoid dairy products, Green said. “We stay away from dairy. It can be quite inflammatory for some people.
“Dairy also releases growth factor. We don’t want to stimulate growth, which could stimulate tumour growth when the body is undergoing treatment.”
Anther one of their many dietary recommendations is to eliminate refined sugar and to limit sweets.
Today, one of Living Kitchen’s main operations is a private chef service, Grossman said. “We do customized menu plans and create the recipes.… One of our chefs prepares the food.”
Green added that, “People all want to do something to help somebody with cancer … but bringing a person a heavy lasagne or casserole is not really helpful. Those kinds of dishes could overwhelm the (sick person’s) system.”
“A lot of people’s digestive systems are compromised, so they need food that’s easy to digest,” explained Grossman.
“We wanted our recipes to support the person diagnosed with cancer, but we also wanted food that can nourish and keep other members of the family healthy.”
Saag Coconut Chicken
ο 15 ml + 5 ml (1 tbsp + 1 tsp) virgin coconut oil, divided
ο 125 ml (1/2 cup) diced yellow onion
ο 3 cloves garlic, minced
ο 10 ml (2 tsp) peeled minced ginger root
ο 5 ml (1 tsp) turmeric
ο 5 ml (1 tsp) cumin
ο 5 ml (1 tsp) coriander
ο 5 ml (1 tsp) garam masala (optional)
ο 2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) sea salt
ο pinch of pepper
ο 500 ml (2 cups) spinach, coarsely chopped
ο 250 ml (1 cup) kale, de-stemmed and coarsely chopped
ο fresh chopped cilantro, to taste
ο 398 ml (14 oz) can full-fat coconut milk
ο 4-6 chicken thighs
ο 250 ml (1 cup) cooked brown rice (optional)
Heat 15 ml (1 tbsp) of coconut oil in a wide pan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, spices, salt and pepper and saute for another minute.
Add the spinach, kale and cilantro and stir, making sure that all the greens are coated in the spices. Pour in the coconut milk. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Remove the mixture from the heat and carefully puree it in a food processor, until the mixture is perfectly smooth. An immersion or regular blender can be used.
Without washing out the pan, add 5 ml (1 tsp) of coconut oil and sear the chicken for 5 minutes per side. Add the blended green mixture back to the pan, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and has an internal temperature of 74 C (165 F) or higher.
Serve with rice, if desired. Makes 2 to 4 servings.
Thai Coconut Soup
ο 15 ml (1 tbsp) virgin coconut oil
ο 1 small yellow onion, chopped
ο 4 cm (1½ inches) ginger root, peeled and finely chopped
ο 2 cloves garlic, minced
ο 375 ml (1½ cups) de-stemmed, cleaned and chopped brown cremini mushrooms
ο 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
ο 1 red pepper, chopped
ο 398 ml (14 oz) can full-fat coconut milk
ο 750 ml (3 cups) chicken or bone broth
ο 250 ml (1 cup) snow peas, sliced in half lengthwise
ο 60 ml (1/4 cup) fresh cilantro, finely chopped
ο 1 lime, juiced
ο 10 ml (2 tsp) tamari
ο optional proteins: 2 small chicken breasts, or 250 ml (1 cup) cubed organic tofu, or 2 140 g (5 oz) portions of cod
Place a large pot over medium heat and add the coconut oil and the onions. Sauté the onions for 5 minutes, or until translucent and soft. Add the ginger, garlic, mushrooms, carrots and red peppers and saute for 3 minutes.
Pour in the coconut milk and broth. Add optional proteins. Cover the pot, bring to a boil and simmer for 25 minutes, or until the vegetables and protein are cooked. Add the snow peas and simmer for 2 more minutes.
If chicken or cod is included, remove it from the broth, shred or flake into small pieces and put them back into the soup. Garnish with fresh cilantro, lime juice and tamari. Serve hot. Makes 4 to 5 servings.