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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.
My daughter Maya tells me that unlike her, I'm lucky not to have much of a sweet tooth – I am far more likely to crave some delicious salty olives than a bar of chocolate. Yet I couldn’t resist when Darina Allen of the renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland gave me one of her wonderful almond biscuits with my mint tea last weekend. I was there to speak at the Ballymaloe Litfest, a celebration of food and cookery, and that biscuit’s bite-sized, melt-in-the-mouth sweetness gave me just enough of an energy lift to get me through the afternoon. There was the emotional bonus, too, of sharing a simple pleasure – a cup of tea, a biscuit, and a chat – with a friend.
We all need a bit of a boost sometimes, especially when living with a condition such as cancer and the side effects of its treatment. But there are so many scare stories around sugar and cancer that I know many people are scared to let a morsel of sweetness pass their lips. Let me reassure you that sugar doesn’t make cancer grow faster. All cells, including cancer cells, depend on blood sugar (glucose) for energy, but giving more sugar to cancer cells doesn’t speed their growth. Likewise, depriving cancer cells of sugar doesn’t ‘starve’ them. This misconception may be based on a misunderstanding of PET scans. Before a PET scan you will be injected with a small amount of radioactive trace, typically a form of glucose. All tissues in your body absorb some of this tracer, but tissues that are using more energy - including cancer cells - absorb greater amounts, which allows them to be identified by the scan. For this reason, some people have concluded that cancer cells grow faster when we eat more sugar. This simply isn’t true.
Instead, let’s focus on the pros and cons of sugar generally. Sugar is a carbohydrate, which provides our body with essential energy. But too much sugar – particularly refined, processed sugar which simply provides ‘empty’ calories with no nutritional value – isn’t good for us for all sorts of reasons. It promotes insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes; it may be a factor in the development of heart disease; and it leads to tooth decay.
When we eat a sweet food the amount of sugar in our blood surges, giving us an initial surge of energy, followed by a horrible crash as our body naturally responds to get our levels back in balance. If we add protein or fibre to our sweet treat, it slows down the absorption of sugar by our body and helps to prevent this rollercoaster.
Get sugar savvy
Berries, citrus and stone fruits are naturally lower in sugar. In spring and summer, a delicious sorbet or ice cream will give you that sweet fix without lots of extra empty calories.
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Thanks for this cause my step mum gave me this book on sugar and cancer and I was like what the hell I've just been diagnosed and now your telling me I can't have ice cream or some berries what's that all about lol. So thank you
Gosh, that was cruel of your step mum - I hope it was just misplaced concern! There is so much misinformation out there about what can help/cure cancer and since my diagnosis I've been quite shocked at the ignorance - not people's fault as we are bombarded with so much information these days. I trust my medical team and a handful of well chosen websites like this one. Jane's advice is excellent.
I have been so horrified by the constant publicity about the MacMillan coffee mornings, that I feel compelled to post on line about it, something I never do. I can't imagine anyone would disagree that cakes with their refined flour and overdoses of sugar are something to be promoted, and in particular not in relation to a charity for cancer patients and their families. This is how I came across this post. After reading about Nobel prize winner Otto Warburg's research on cancer and others who make the link with fermentation of glucose maintaining cancer cells, I found another reason to reduce sugar to an absolute minimum. Could you please provide the source(s) that you base your article on? I would be very happy to be convinced that eating lots of cakes does not aggravate cancer.
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