To Eat or Not to Eat…That’s the Question….
We all need (and want to!) eat. Food keeps us alive, but more than that….the activity of using our senses (taste, smell, see, touch) and eating is important to our quality of life and a significant part of socialization with our loved ones and friends…..
It can be rather confusing to know which food products, combination of foods, and preparation methods to pursue that will result in not only improved health, but also, and more importantly, do no harm! Searching for recipes and trips to the grocery store may become a time-consuming process that you dread. This can be overwhelming if you have one, or perhaps even several medical conditions that require a special diet. Education to make more sense of food labels has been provided by e.g. FDA, NIH, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Your PCP may be able to connect you with a local (oncology) dietitian for advice (or you may be able to find a registered one here). Cancer centers may provide free access to a dietitian, and depending on the indication, your health insurance may also help in providing coverage.
Eating out can also become an adventure and a challenge. Fortunately, many restaurant menus are becoming more attuned to these dietary needs and are working to offer greater transparency by including nutritional content for calorie counters and those with food intolerances and allergies.
To put this into some perspective, although we have made great strides in the medical field, we still face the challenges of much that remains unknown, confusing, or even contradictory. New study results often raise more questions than they answer, which may be due to multiple problems.
- An early 2019 publication made headlines by stating that “among US adults, higher consumption of dietary cholesterol or eggs was significantly associated with higher risk of incident CVD and all-cause mortality in a dose-response manner”. This publication has been heavily criticized. Two articles may help provide perspective and allow you to make your own informed decisions. One is an article by the New York Times and another one by the American Heart Association (the latter predated the above mentioned publication, but nevertheless still provides valid points).
- The intake of vitamin supplements seems to have drastically increased, since popular trends suggest that they “may help, but do not harm’. However, this perception may need to be revised, since evidence has shown multivitamins can indeed harm and may actually help a tumor thrive rather than improve your overall health. As such, until we understand better, it may be wiser, to boost your vitamins in a more natural way, such as a balanced diet that healthfully includes a variety of vegetables and fruits. As always, trust your provider, especially if they specifically recommend and prescribe you to take certain supplements (e.g. when you are at risk for decreased absorption, or have been found to have low levels of vitamins B12 and D).
Another nutritional consideration may be whether or not to ‘go organic’. Organic foods are thought to contain more ‘of the good’ and less ‘of the bad’. But organic products can be less readily accessible and are often significantly costlier. You may want to prioritize your grocery list by investing in the organically produced dirty 12, and be less concerned about the clean 15.
My personal take on this is that there are many diets out there, and it is simply not possible to have a complete and accurate comparison of the benefits and flaws between them. Some diets can be expensive and may be restrictive by omitting certain food products or food groups. Until we understand more, it may be best to adopt a lifestyle that is ‘all things in moderation’. Don’t forget variety is the ‘spice of life’ and at the end of the day, we can only hope to have done our best. Our health outcomes are determined by many factors, and our diet is only one.
Allow yourself to enjoy – Bon Appetite!