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As a nutritionist, dietitian and trained chef, I can show you how to make delicious, appetizing meals that ensure you get the most from the foods you eat.
As the daylight hours lengthen and the first springtime shoots appear in the garden, we can feel a natural instinct to swap winter comfort foods such as casseroles and slow roasts for the zing of fresh juices, especially when you're living with the backdrop of cancer. Juices are a great way to increase your intake of antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables. I particularly love those based around beetroot, carrot, ginger, spinach and apple, with a little fresh turmeric if I want a bit of a kick to the taste buds.
You can find fresh turmeric root in greengrocers and some supermarkets. My trick is to grate the whole root and then freeze the pulp in ice cube trays, ready to throw into a juice whenever I want it. Otherwise, I tend to find the root looking a bit limp and shriveled at the back of my fridge. The same can be done for ginger, garlic and most herbs, too. Their texture can be a little less crunchy once they've been defrosted but you don't notice when you're mixing them into a juice or a soup. And as the freezing process doesn't reduce nutrient values, they will still be packed with vitamins and minerals.
A recent study from Imperial College London has suggested we should be eating 10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day to help our bodies stay healthy. We need every practical strategy to hand to achieve this, and juicing is one great way to make inroads. One thing to remember, especially when you're undergoing cancer treatments, is that your body also needs a plentiful supply of protein and other nutrients to provide you with calories to help you maintain strength and to support your immune system. The metabolism often goes into overdrive when the body is battling cancer, which means you burn up more calories and can lead to troublesome weight loss. One answer is to add calorie-rich ingredients to your fresh juices, to create wholesome, delicious smoothies.
Avocado, cow's milk and nondairy alternatives such as almond or coconut milk, coconut cream, nut butters such as peanut and almond, ground nuts and seeds and cacao nibs will all add valuable calories, protein and flavour. If you're not used to eating ingredients such as seeds and nuts, then don't be tempted to go overboard on them at first as they can be somewhat difficult to digest. That can help with constipation as they stimulate a sluggish gut, but I suggest starting with just a teaspoon of nuts and seeds in total in one juice and seeing how you get on. Take a look at my Green Juice and Smoothie recipe for inspiration.
Whizzing up a juice or smoothie can make you feel great emotionally as well as physically, as it's empowering to feel you're giving your body such great fuel. But don't feel disheartened if raw fruits and vegetables are too much for your body to handle right now; chemotherapy, for example, can often leave your gut feeling sore. In that case, soups might be a better option as they're also rich in many beneficial nutrients such as fibre, iron, calcium and vitamins (although levels of heat-sensitive vitamin C will be much lower than in juices). With my patients, I try to explain that there is little point having juices and then not holding on to any of the goodness because they make you go to the toilet too often. It's much better to turn to warming soups, such as my Beetroot and Sweet Potato Soup, which can sit more comfortably in a sensitive gut. To increase vitamin C levels in a soup, add some fresh lemon or lime juice just before serving, or whizz some fresh leaf spinach into the final soup. Last but not least, add some cream, a drizzle of olive oil, grated Parmesan cheese or crispy croutons if you need some extra calories to sustain you.
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Fantastic article Jane, love the tip to freeze grated turmeric ginger ect I too are fed up with finding limp produce lurching in the fridge. Love the beetroot and sweet pot soup.. Delicious ❤️️
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