By Rebecca Katz with Mat Edelson
Ten Speed Press (2009)
Reviewed by Sarah Krieger, MPH, RD, LDN
With The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen, cancer patients who were once disconnected from food are enticed to be nourished with meals that cater to the unique issues of cancer treatment.
Synopsis of the Diet Plan
As a chef with a master's degree in nutrition, Rebecca Katz refers to herself as a culinary translator with a passion for delicious, whole-food, nutrient-rich foods. She is a trained chef who went back to school to obtain a master's in nutrition after working as a nutrition educator at a cancer wellness center. With 150 recipes presented including beautiful, appetite-stimulating pictures, patients and caregivers will be encouraged to try any of the recipes that cater to the specific side effects, treatment types and phases of cancer.
The book begins with a synopsis of what a person may feel like going through the beginning stages of cancer diagnosis. Katz has worked with cancer patients for 10 years and understands what a patient is going through with taste and appetite changes. She also has dealt with it personally with her father. There are a few pages of how nutrition science relates to her recipes; however, the studies are not provided with this section and are instead listed alphabetically by author in the bibliography at the end.
The first chapter is the most valuable because Katz provides useful sections listing which recipes are appropriate for specific side effects, how to menu plan before, during and after chemotherapy and how to deal with taste changes. She then provides a section on how a person can identify his/her food and culinary preferences, which is especially helpful for the caregivers who may be preparing meals. Next is the 11½-page Culinary Pharmacy section, which lists alphabetically foods that have cancer-fighting properties. Katz details specific reasons to eat the foods, which are impressive and a great inspiration for readers. There is a brief section on the importance of exercise and food safety and then the recipe section begins.
The recipes are broken down into categories of soups/broths, vegetables, protein-building foods, anytime foods, tonics, sauces/condiments to perk up meals and sweet bites. All recipes include whole-foods and she includes ideas for eliminating dairy and gluten. What's nice about each recipe is that Katz gives a little story before she dives into the recipe. She uses gentle humor and candidness about each recipe, which makes you feel like she really took the time to develop each recipe.
Katz lives in California and suggests that fresh foods, especially organic produce and meat, be your diet's mainstay. This may be perceived as bias by a reader who may not want to try a recipe because of a lack of local foods. There is a list of resources at the end for the entire specialty ingredients needed for the recipes.
Nutritional Pros and Cons
Katz's scientific nutrition advice is not directly linked to the studies, but there is a bibliography at the end. All 150 recipes contain nutrition facts for calories, total fat, monounsaturated fat and saturated fat per gram, carbohydrates, protein, fiber and sodium. Each recipe also has prep and cook time listed, which is always helpful for the reader to plan ahead. Another bonus is each recipe contains storage information for the prepared dish. This is very useful for anyone with a compromised immune system. There is no mention of using frozen or no-salt-added vegetables, which is somewhat narrow-minded since these foods are available year-round and can be just as nutritious as fresh produce.
I would recommend this book to a person who is going through any form of cancer treatment, including children who would find many recipes soothing and tasty. Caregivers of the patient would also find this book a useful resource when planning and preparing meals for their loved one.