Foods are known to build and maintain a strong and healthy immune system. Foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cantaloupe, squashes, and tomatoes are rich in carotenoids converted to Vitamin A by the body. Bananas, baked potatoes, chickpeas, certain types of fish (e.g., tuna), and lean chicken are rich in Vitamin B6. Citrus fruits, strawberries, guava, leafy vegetables, bell peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, and spinach are a source of Vitamin C.
Cereals, milk, and fatty fish have high levels of Vitamin D. At the same time, almonds, broccoli, hazelnuts, spinach, and sunflower seeds are rich in Vitamin E. Beans, peas, and leafy green vegetables are rich in folic acid. In contrast, poultry, seafood, beans, broccoli, and kale are good sources of iron.
Selenium is found in barley, broccoli, garlic, sardines, tuna, and zinc in chickpeas, baked beans, lean meat, poultry, yogurt, and crabs. Vitamins and minerals are critical to building the immune system, which helps the body fight infections and diseases.
The demand for energy in cancer patients is particularly high. Cancer patients lose much weight due tomuscle loss and stored body fat. Patients must choose foods that are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. These are found in vegetable oils (such as olive, peanut, canola, safflower, sunflower, corn, and flaxseed) and seafood.
Saturated fats are to be avoided. These can raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease. Foods to avoid include meat, poultry, milk, cheese, butter, coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and palm oil. Trans-fat-containing foods such as margarine, hydrogenated vegetable oils, and animal products are not recommended. Trans fats increase the bad cholesterol and lower the good cholesterol.
Carbohydrates meet the immediate need for energy. The best source of carbohydrates are fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These also contain vitamins, fiber, and phytonutrients. Foods containing insoluble fiber are highly recommended. These help in easy stool evacuation, a problem often faced by cancer patients.
Ayurveda insists that dietary planning should be aligned with nature and environmental conditions. A natural diet should be in tune with the individual personality (Prakriti), adverse personality traits (Vikriti), dosha, and body type. Dietary supplements for the restoration of the body from the disease are also used in Ayurveda. Supplement treatment is called Rasayana therapy. Rasayanas are essential nutraceuticals. This help builds the immune system, maintain mineral bio balance, provide vital nutrients, and possess anti-aging properties.
Ayurvedic nutraceuticals or rasayanas could be tissue- and organ-specific. Thus, there are specific nutraceuticals for the heart, skin, brain, etc. They are also specific to the individual’s age and disease-specific. These are to be aligned with an individual’s digestive system and metabolism. Twelve food categories are listed in Ayurveda. These are corn, wines, pulses, water, meat, milk, milk products, vegetables, sugar cane and related products, fruits, cooked products, greens, and food adjuvants.
Diet planning is nature-based and holistic. The focus is on a natural diet. It considers an individual’s lifestyle, diet, exercise, medication, and mental state. Individuals are different. Recommendations are aligned to the body and personality type of the individual.
A diet should be appropriate to the climate, season, patient’s condition, and digestive power, palatable, in the right quantity, and follow prescribed restrictions. The food should be appropriately cooked and processed, adaptable and appropriate to individual requirements, adequately potent and rich, and per the patient’s bowel habits, and mealtimes should be followed. Diet is aligned with an individual’s dosha.
There are contradictory diets that are indicated in Ayurveda. For instance, fish and fish products and milk, milk or milk products and alcohol, radish with milk, lotus stem with honey, or honey with clarified butter are not recommended to be taken together. This is not an inclusive list, and I recommend that readers consult an Ayurveda nutrition specialist before self-administering a diet. A natural diet should be varied with the season. In spring, bitter, hot, and astringent diets are advised; salty, sour, and sweet food should be avoided during this season. Wheat, barley, honey, fruits (such as mango and jack fruit), and lean meat are recommended.
In summer, cooling foods and liquid, sweet, and oily foods are recommended, but the hot, spicy, sour, or salty diet should be avoided. Rice, milk, clarified butter, sugar, grapes, coconut water, and lean meat are recommended foods. During the rainy season, sweet, sour, and salty foods that are hot, dry, fatty, and easily digestible are recommended. Preserved rice, wheat, barley, and mutton are advised this season. In winter, the recommended food is hot, sweet, sour, and salty. Milk, sugarcane, rice, oils, and fats are commonly advised food. In autumn, clarified butter with bitter, pungent, and light diet is recommended. They also recommend purgation in this season.
Cancer is a debilitating disease. Nutrition management is an important part of cancer management. A natural diet that will help restore the body to a reasonable shape as soon as possible is recommended. Therefore, they recommend a low-fat but nutrition-rich diet. The focus is on fruit and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants. Cancer patients are advised to avoid refined sugars and foods containing additives. Organic food should be eaten, and the patient should avoid overeating.