Over the two years I’ve spent on a ketogenic diet in an effort to prevent progression in a grade two brain tumour, the top thing that has frustrated me is finding information and recipes specific to cancer management. We are fortunate that there is a great deal of information available focused on the ketogenic diet, but much of it is targeted to weight loss, or managing health issues such as diabetes and epilepsy. While that is useful information, there are concerns specific to using a therapeutic ketosis approach for cancer.
This book is a perfect example of that kind of specific information. It is focused on the use of a ketogenic diet to manage cancer, and, as the title promises, how to practically put the recommendations of research in this area into use on a daily basis.
My favourite things about this book begin with the fact that the author, Patricia Daly, is not only a certified and registered nutritional therapist, but a cancer survivor herself. She lives the same challenges we all face every day. She eats this way. She knows the challenges of balancing a career, family, and a therapeutic diet, alongside the pressures of knowing that if you “fall off the wagon”, the consequence is not that the number on the scale won’t go down this week, but that you fear your tumour will grow, or come back, or metastasize.
What will you find in this book? First and foremost, you’ll find 14 days of meal plans that guide the reader how to eat less than 12 grams of carbohydrates in total, per day. Why is this important? Briefly, the only published and peer reviewed research on the use of the ketogenic diet to manage cancer, currently, is in animal models, though human clinical trials are underway. Presently, most experts recommend less than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day for cancer management, and upwards of 80% of daily calories sourced from fat. This is one of the key differences between using this dietary approach for cancer management and for other applications, such as weight loss. Many people eating keto for weight loss are advised to simply lower carbohydrate consumption to 50 or 100 grams per day, then use blood or urine monitoring of ketones to assess how many carbs they can tolerate and still lose weight. Consider now that if you are using keto for cancer, you need to be on guard when reading recipes that are “ketogenic”, because they may be targeted at a population eating ten times more carbs per day than you want to. Seeing 14 days of what would be considered “VLCHF” (VERY low carbohydrate, high fat) menus is invaluable to really appreciate how the cancer diet looks in real life.
Patricia starts off by relating her personal story and success with the ketogenic diet. She then includes a brief section outlining the idea behind using it to manage cancer, relying on strong references and some of my other favourite resources in this area. She includes a very nice outline of “how to use the book”, showing you how daily meal plans are set out, and what features are included on each meal plan and recipe. There is a nice “at a glance” quick reference table of ketogenic foods included.
My favourite features in the book:
- Each day, as well as each meal for the day, includes a macronutrient analysis that shows both percentages and grams carbs, protein and fat. This is so valuable, and is often information that is only available using commercial software.
- Variety in recipes, helpful for people who’ve become bored with the diet, or who are afraid to start out because they think there aren’t enough interesting options.
- Different breakfast every day – I find breakfast a hard meal, don’t believe anyone who tells you it’s impossible to get tired of bacon and eggs!
- Versions of recipes I’ve seen elsewhere that are modified here to be the lowest carb possible, such as chia puddings, granola bars, breakfast granola and porridge; these are good examples of recipes you can find on keto sites that might take up your whole day’s carb allotment if you’re not careful, but Patricia has given you a VLCHF version here.
- Excellent references section that includes books, websites, podcasts and also (cheers!) scientific references.
- Great section of snacks and suggestions for “buffer” foods to fill a fat or protein requirement for a day where you may be short – this happens more often than you might think!
Reading through this book and experimenting with some of the recipes really reminded me, even after two years of working on living this way, of some important points:
- This diet is likely forever for me; I need to make sure it’s interesting and varied enough to stick to.
- While it doesn’t have to be impossible, it’s still a commitment; there are no cutting corners or tricks, and there is not someone else who can do it for me that will make it the same as a lifestyle of “pick up processed” foods. This is about time in the kitchen, and preparing your own food. You can’t deceive yourself about that.
- It’s easy to overeat carbs if you’re targeting as low as 12 grams per day – I noticed how even veggies are limited to leafy greens in many cases; there is a good example of a green juice included so that you can see how many carbs can be drunk up in something most people would think might not even “count”.
- I need to eat more fish. And try organ meats.
Some of my favourite recipes, after a few weeks of experimentation, include a lovely turmeric dressing, protein biscuits, filled coconut crepes, mushroom with salmon tapenade, a manchego pizza, olive & artichoke pate, and a nice miso soup. My favourite cooking instruction was to combine, mix, etc, “and whizz”. Makes it sound so fun and easy. That’s my new favourite kitchen verb.
This book is available in eBook format from Patricia’s website. If you are using a therapeutic ketosis approach for cancer, or have a loved one you want to introduce to this diet, it belongs on your bookshelf.