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Busting cancer myths: Superfoods - fact or fiction?

Published: 25 May 2017

If you’re fighting cancer, one thing you might find is that you’re inundated with well-meaning advice on everything from what to eat, radical new treatments, supplements that worked wonders on a friend of a friend to daily skin products to avoid at all costs!  It can be overwhelming but at the same time you’re left wondering – are they true or false? 

Cancer can leave people feeling isolated, vulnerable and scared.  Many will be looking for answers or desperate to find a miracle cure – and it’s precisely this reason that makes people susceptible to some of the more outlandish myths.  But that doesn’t mean you should discount everything you hear – many have a basis in truth!  

Over the next few months we’re going to be taking an open-minded look at some of the most common ‘myths or facts’ you might be told about.   First up, we’re looking at superfoods.  

Can superfoods cure cancer? 

You only have to complete a quick Google search to find hundreds of so-called ‘superfoods’, which are apparently packed with cancer-fighting properties. Among these magic ingredients are:

•    Broccoli
•    Citrus fruits 
•    Garlic
•    Goji berries 
•    Honey
•    Walnuts
•    Yoghurt

As part of a balanced diet these foods are great for your health, each with their own specific properties.  Unfortunately, what they’re not is a proven miracle cure for cancer. 
In reality, there is no such thing as a superfood – whether you’re fighting disease or just trying to stay well. The term has been used to describe foods containing a high level of nutrients and vitamins and is often used by marketers to grab the attention of today’s health-conscious consumer.

What should I eat when going through cancer treatment? 

All the foods we’ve listed above and many others have really good nutritional properties, and for most people should be consumed as part of a balanced diet. Citrus fruits, for example, are packed full of vitamins and antioxidants – there is a reason why nutritionists encourage people to ‘eat a rainbow’ every day. Live yoghurt, meanwhile, is full of gut-busting cultures, which help to strengthen the immune system.  

So, while there is a link between diet and health, there is currently no scientific evidence that has found a diet of goji berries and green tea is going to guarantee a cure or stop you from getting cancer in the first place. The best thing you can do is get a good mix of food groups and eat sensibly whenever possible. 

If you aren’t sure how to create healthy meal plans, talk to your doctor, who may be able to refer you to a nutritional expert for further support. Alternatively, there are a plethora of experts online offering diet plans and useful advice – but please, make sure you choose a reputable site. It’s worth noting that there may be some foods you should take particular care to limit, depending on your meds – so please check with your healthcare team.

And just as you shouldn’t rely on superfoods to provide a quick-fix cure, you shouldn’t worry too much about the occasional treat when you’re going through cancer treatment. If you feel like eating burger and fries every now and then it should be fine.  Sometimes you need a few simple pleasures to get you through – just remember ‘everything in moderation’.

Next time, we’re going to be discussing myths surrounding the use of smartphone technology and cancer. In the meantime, if you have your own cancer myth that you’d like to discuss, leave a comment on our Facebook page.