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Cancer-friendly recipes: garlic, lycopene, Resveratrol


My father was just diagnosed with cancer. He needs to put on some weight and the doctors suggested a diet high in garlic, lycopene, Resveratrol. So they're having pasta with tomato sauce and chianti for dinner tonight.

Have any other recipes/menus to recommend? Ideally easy recipes and perhaps even ones that can be made in large quantities and frozen.


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  1. Did they advise you this out of the blue, or did you ask them what cancer-fighting foods you could feed your father? While these foods have been shown, when eaten in very large quantities, to reduce the frequency of cancer in a population (sometimes a population of mice or other lab animals, not people), I don't think there's any data showing that these are helpful for an individual who already has cancer. Feed him healthy food that he finds tasty, and don't worry about the rest of it.

    -GilaB, MPH in molecular epidemiology

    1. best keep up mega dosages of foods hi in anti-oxidants. leafy veg, the greener the better. do a whole bunch of dressings and have him sample them all and rotate his favorites.

      there's also some research about natural citric acid being helpful but results are inconclusive - yet it wouldn't cause any harm to buy citrus fruit in bulk and juice them for your dad. if he could substitute half his liquid intake with fresh citrus (great diuretic), his body can easier rid itself of waste and hopefully heal faster.

      you can also look into homeopathic therapies. there are sworn testimonials from the macro-biotic crowd that their cancers went into remission after adhering to their prescribed diets.

      good luck to you and your father.

      1 Reply
      1. re: epabella

        anti-oxidants are contra indicated if one is in chemotherapy as they disrupt the chemo as well as the cancer. Don't stay completely clear but don't go out of your way to dose or mega dose it

      2. I agree with some of the other posts; if they want your father to gain weight, feed him whatever he wants. Some people with cancer find that their taste buds change so you might have to keep at it with trial & error until you find things that he likes, which might change from day to day, but as long as he eats, that's the important thing. Best of luck to your father.

        1. That's interesting advice, because, as the other posters said, while there is some evidence that those things might prevent cancer, there isn't any evidence they'll "cure" cancer. What's more, before your father goes eating a lot of any one nutrient or antioxidant (and before he takes ANY supplements), he should check in w/the docs - depending on his treatment, they can interact with his meds in bad ways.

          That said, and speaking as a cancer survivor (lucky 8 years this month) who's done a ton of research on this stuff, once again, moderation is key. Your dad should be enjoying himself as much as possible right now - this is a blow to body and mind - and so if there are foods he loves, he should be eating those! Pretty much the same things goes as for the general population's good health - lots of fruits and vegetables, not as much meat, grilled meats might increase risk as do cured meats (and those treated with nitrates/nitrites are bad news.

          I'd get creative with vegetables, focusing on what he likes. As for putting on weight - does he eat dairy? Quiche with cheese and vegetables with whole eggs is a good one, whole grains (quinoa, whole wheat couscous, bulgur, etc.) topped with vegetables and some meats . . . and eating small, but frequent meals can help a lot.

          And it's true, during treatment, his tastes may change. Mine sure did. And depending on what kind of cancer (head & neck, GI), he may not be able to eat certain foods comfortably for a while. Maybe if you post his likes/dislikes and/or limitations, we can help you tailor meals/menus more specifically.

          Good luck to you, and to your dad - and what a nice thing that you're helping out in this way!


          3 Replies
          1. re: gansu girl

            All good advice gansu girl.

            RE: vegies and eggs, not so many calories in these, only 90 calories in a large egg.

            For weight gain
            Peanut butter and cheese are among the most calorie dense, calories per tablespoon that is. Carnation Instant Breakfast tastes a lot better than Ensure and is only a couple more onces

            1. re: Jack_

              Yes, you're right about veggies and eggs, but cheese has a ton of calories and fat, and there can be a lot of cheese in a quiche! And eggs are a great source of protein - something that someone who's underweight and/or weak from chemo can use, too.


              1. re: gansu girl

                Perhaps a cheese souffle! Light and easy to consume a lot!

                Omelettes are easy, and maybe fill with a tomato, eggplant and garlic caponata, topped with some parmesan or mozzarella cheese.

                Quesadilla made with a whole wheat tortilla and served with some salsa and sour cream.

                Hummus with pita with chopped tomato

                Baked Corn Chips topped with Black Beans, Cheese of choice, salsa, etc.

          2. Watermelon and grapefruit both are very high in lycopene, too.

            1 Reply
            1. re: PamelaD

              Grapefruit is verboten for most cancer patients due to drug interactions.

            2. I've heard cruciferous vegetables - broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, etc. - are good for preventing and maybe fighting cancer, though this may have as much validity as any other nutritional advice you get from the popular press (i.e., not much). If he likes them, though, it can't hurt.

              Broccoli, lightly steamed and then finished by sauteeing in olive oil with lots of fresh garlic, is one of my favorites. Optional: a squeeze of lemon and/or a bit of grated Parmesan.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Bat Guano

                Thank you so much. A friend also recommended this cookbook: http://rebeccakatz.com/books/cancer_f...

                I wasn't a part of the conversation with the doctor. I just heard this recommendation from my mother. My guess is that the doctor recommended it out of the blue or while talking about my dad's weight loss. The doctor was born and lived part of her life in mainland China so perhaps this is something she learned by being active in the Chinese medical community.

                Anyway, my father eats like he hasn't left the Ukraine + some Italian food thrown in. He doesn't like spicy foods and that includes very flavorful foods that might not be spicy like curries. He loves raw fruits and vegetables and loves soups -- borscht, of course, being his favorite. He eats dairy -- loves sour cream, hates yogurt -- and meat. He'll try some new foods as long as they're not spicy. My guess is that his favorite menu would be:

                herring in cream sauce
                borscht with some sour cream
                lamb chops
                mashed potatoes
                a big green salad
                warm fruit pie with ice cream

                The only foods I know he actively dislikes (besides spicy foods) are peanut butter, yogurt and eggplant. He can eat grapefruit by the box.

                It's really good to know his tastes might change.

                Thank you all for your help. As you know/can imagine, this is a hard time & all support is welcome and appreciated.

              2. I'm sorry for your dad's health challenge and hope for all the best for him and your whole family. I'm sure you're all overwhelmed with all that's come your way recently, as I was when those close to me were diagnosed with cancer.

                So here's the thing; high insulin levels are associated with signifant cancer risks, and high carbs cause high insulin secretion and cancer cells live on glucose, which is produced in excess from dietary carb meals. If you search PubMed for "hyperinsulinemia and cancer" you'll find in particular that breast, colon, prostate, pancreatic and ovarian have very high associations with insulin levels. Here's just one abstract describing the connection:

                Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Sep;86(3):s889-93.
                Prostate cancer prevention by nutritional means to alleviate metabolic syndrome.
                Barnard RJ.

                Department of Physiological Science, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90096-1606, USA. jbarnard@physci.ucla.edu

                In 1987 when Reaven introduced syndrome X (metabolic syndrome, or MS), we were studying skeletal muscle insulin resistance and found that when rodents were fed a high-fat, refined-sugar (HFS) diet, insulin resistance developed along with aspects of MS, including hyperinsulinemia, hypertension, hypertriglyceridemia, and obesity. MS was controlled in rodents by switching them to a low-fat, starch diet and was controlled in humans with a low-fat starch diet and daily exercise (Pritikin Program). Others reported inverse relations between serum insulin and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). When subjects were placed on the Pritikin Program, insulin fell and SHBG rose and it was suggested that prostate cancer might also be an aspect of MS. A bioassay was developed with tumor cell lines grown in culture and stimulated with serum before and after a diet and exercise intervention. Diet and exercise altered serum factors that slowed the growth rate and induced apoptosis in androgen-dependent prostate cancer cells. Changes in serum with diet and exercise that might be important include reductions in insulin, estradiol, insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I), and free testosterone with increases in SHBG and IGF binding protein-1. Hyperinsulinemia stimulates liver production of IGF-I, plays a role in the promotion of prostate cancer, and thus is the cornerstone for both MS and prostate cancer. Adopting a low-fat starch diet with daily exercise controls MS and should reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

                PMID: 18265484 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

                Dietary carbs convert to glucose; cancer cells consume more glucose than normal cells, and studies have shown that if you deprive them of glucose they grow slower or even shrink. Lower glycemic, high nutrient density eating is critical for fighting disease.

                If it were me, I'd be taking a high dose of vitamin D3 daily, along with IP6, or inositol hexaphosphate. Both of these are recommended, btw, by M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and have substantial peer reviewed support as cancer fighters, the IP6 at U of Maryland, notably.

                I would be sure to eat a diet of adequate protein, and healthy fats from nuts, fish, avocadoes, and loads of non starchy vegetables, fruits in small amounts limited to dark berries. I'd use or take plenty of turmeric and research the ORAC scores of foods and spices and get as much into the diet as possible, always with fat to enhance absorption and avoiding the high sugar fruit sources. Dark berries and turmeric are good sources.

                It' may be extremely difficult for your dad to maintain lean body mass because protein doesn't appeal when one feels ill, so it might be useful to make no sugar added shakes from frozen berries, whey protein powder and yogurt.

                Foods have profound hormonal and pro or anti inflammatory and immune effects that can make a huge difference in the course of disease, and don't ever believe anyone who tells you they don't.

                To simplify, if it's possible to do so, I'd skip pasta, and have tomato salad with olive oil and mozzarella, along with some chicken, maybe instead. I'd research ORAC scores of foods, and I'd want a lot of colors on his plate from fresh, organic, whole foods, and quality protein.

                1. Your dad's oncologist may have a dietician on staff you can consult with. Depending on the type of cancer and the therapy, some foods or nutrients may be contra-indicated.

                  Best wishes on your journey--find support where you can, and ask for whatever you think you need. You WILL get a response. Take care of yourself, too.

                  2 Replies
                    1. re: SarahKC

                      Happy Thanksgiving; your dad is lucky to have you looking out for him.

                  1. I understand that many Indian foods cooked with tumeric and curry powder are supposed to be anti cancer.

                    1. When my Dad had cancer, he had a really, really hard time eating. And the things he could eat one day would be disgusting the next. I would recommend cooking whatever your Dad thinks he can eat. Don't cook large amounts of anything, because he may not be able to eat it.

                      Best wishes to you and your father.