When I learned I had breast cancer, I decided that I needed to find out as much as I could about how my diet might impact my health. I absorbed everything I would get my hands on that discussed the importance of nutrition in regaining health and preventing a recurrence of cancer. Shortly after I learned I had cancer, I also found out that I am allergic to dairy and eggs. I needed to make changes to my lifestyle – fast.
The first thing to go was dairy. All of the years that I was consuming massive amounts of cheese was taking a toll on my health. Almost immediately upon giving it up, the majority of my migraine headaches disappeared. Another astonishing revelation was when, just as quickly, I no longer needed the Afrin nasal spray I had come to depend on to clear my sinuses for 35 years! I couldn’t leave the house without it. Now my need for it had disappeared. I had no idea that all of these issues were being caused by dairy.
Suddenly it was obvious, but for years I went along consuming dairy and suffering side effects without ever putting the two together. To improve my health on all counts, I realized that I needed to get back to basic, simple foods. No more processed junk foods, no more saturated fats, and no more refined white flours and sugars. So, along with dairy, I cut them out of my life. I now eat a mostly plant-based diet that is rich in nutrients and full of vitamins.
I buy organic when possible to avoid the pesticide and herbicide residues that are so prevalent in conventionally grown produce. I cook my meals from scratch. No more cans, packages or boxes (with a few exceptions). I now use my creativity and Google savvy to put together healthy meal ideas that work for my family. I noticed an immediate improvement to my health. I not only started to lose weight, and ultimately slowly and steadily lost 50 pounds, but I started to feel like my younger self again. More energetic, less achy, clearer skin.
I found that by merging elements from a vegan diet and a raw food lifestyle I could satisfy my family’s needs of eating healthy. The elements that I incorporated from the raw food diet is not only eating more vegetables in their raw state, but also eating foods that are “pure”. In other words, foods that are not processed or otherwise adulterated. They don’t contain chemicals or additives as they are mostly freshly made and consumed. However, it was not feasible to prepare only non-cooked foods 100% or the time. Although, I do try to eat at least 50% raw each day.
I needed to include hot healthy foods into my diet as well. In the northeast the winters are cold and it is just not possible for me to cut out all warm food. As far as veganism, I have eliminated all animal products, with the exception of some fish on occasion for the omega 3 benefits.
My diet now focuses on a plant-based diet and includes whole grains, beans and nuts. With all of the changes I have incorporated into my life, I have reduced my risk of having a recurrence of cancer substantially. Consuming less saturated fat, including an exercise regime, cutting out alcoholic beverages and more leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables all cut my risk. But my new regime is not only one that is good for those who have cancer. It is a lifestyle that we should all incorporate elements of into our everyday lives. It is healthy and promotes optimal health. Healthy food is key to optimal health. Making small changes in lifestyle can add up to big benefits over time. The next time you consider picking up a loaded burger, consider your health!