It is, of course, an excellent thing to raises awareness about breast cancer but while early diagnosis is vitally important, just as important, although not attracting so much attention, is helping those who have been diagnosed to get through their treatment in the healthiest and least unpleasant way possible.
With that in mind, when his mum was diagnosed with breast cancer, Jim Fisher, chef patron of French cookery school www.cookinfrance.com recruited nutritional therapist, Lucy Hyland of www.foodforliving.ie and together they applied their skills to creating recipes and nutritional ideas to help those undergoing chemotherapy.
‘My mum and I used to love cooking together,’ said Jum, ‘but once she was diagnosed, there were more important things to consider than gourmet cooking. We had to focus on maintaining her strength and fitness as well as choosing foods that helped her overcome chemo’s radical effects of her body. This included a diminished appetite and a drastic change in her sense of taste.
We concocted a series of recipes that could be adapted on the fly to her changing sense of taste and her – often severe – physical symptoms. Chief amongst those that affected her appetite and ability to taste was Oral Mucositis which caused pain and inflammation of the surface of the inside of her mouth. Mouth ulcers were also a problem making it difficult to eat, drink and even talk. Coupled with this was constant fatigue, high levels of stress and a nagging fear for the future.
Our recipes and approach helped Mum and I hope others will get benefit from this too”.
Jim’s tips and recipes are available totally free on his CookinFrance site but to give you a little taster are a few of his tips and his recipes for Panna Cotta and Spiced Prunes.
Maintain and repair mucosal lining of mouth, stomach and gut
Calm lining with teas such as liquorice, chamomile and fennel. Ginger tea also helps with any post nausea. Include these ingredients in dishes or even juices if it helps.
Increase consumption of easily digestible foods
It’s the perfect time for slow cooked stews and casseroles and soups with heaps of veggies. Liquidise as much as possible –people drink broth to get the electrolytes and nutrients in. Freshly made smoothies and juices are great if you have a blender – dairy can be hard to tolerate but you might be able to add some yogurt to smoothies – if not, I tend to use 100% nut butter blended into smoothies and not noticed – great source of easily digestible protein and good fats (great for all that repair work)
Increase natural anti-inflammatories as body is generally quite inflamed afterwards
Examples include garlic, ginger, nuts and seeds (grind them if they are too course or use nut butters) fish. Also try to reduce naturally inflammatory foods such as dairy, sugar and meats.
Try to consume at least 8 glasses of water a day and try to walk a little every day.
Back off on salt, pepper and spices and avoid overly-browning meat and over-reducing sauces
Sometimes, highly flavoured foods are too strong for chemo patients. Sometimes, it’s beneficial to serve hot foods cold or at room temperature because heat increases flavour.
Gelatin – used to set the Panna Cotta – in the diet can help reduce the effects of chemotherapy on the patient’s nails, which often splinter and can even turn black. Soy instead of dairy helps with nausea, and honey is always better than processed sugar due to its naturally antiseptic and hypo-allergenic qualities. Rehydrated dried fruits are often easier to digest than fresh.
(The picture is is of a panna cotta, but not Jim’s…. It an almond milk version which can be found on the FreeFromRecipesMatter site – but I thought it looked nice and cooling and also be useful for chemo sufferers.)
For the Panna Cotta:
250 ml soy milk
250 ml soy cream
2 level tbsp honey
1 vanilla pod, split down its length
3 level tsp gelatin
For the prunes:
24 no-soak prunes
2 tsp honey
250 ml strong cold tea
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
Put the milk and cream into a saucepan with the honey and vanilla pod and simmer for five minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to infuse while you deal with the gelatin; sprinkle the powder onto 3 tbsp. of hot water in a small saucepan and leave it alone for five minutes after which time the crystals will have softened and absorbed the liquid. You can now gently heat the gelatin to dissolve. Whisk in the still-hot cream. Remove the vanilla pod and pour the mixture into 6 ramekins or dariol moulds. Cool to room temperature then pop them into the fridge to set – about 2 hours.
Place the prunes in a saucepan with the other ingredients and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down and simmer very gently for 5 minutes. Cover and leave to steep in a cool place, preferably overnight, or for at least 6 hours.
Briefly dip the bases of the dariol moulds into hot water for about 2-3 seconds to loosen the sides, then carefully turn them out onto four cold plates. Pile some prunes alongside and pour on some extra juice.