Nutrition: Back to Basics step 6  All about protein

Tuesday 08 May 2018

And so on to step 6 in the basic outline of what make up a good healthy eating programme. It is worth remembering that research tells us that if we can eat as well as we can while we have cancer that the prognosis is general better, people tend to cope with treatment better, seem to have fewer side effects and seem to recover more quickly. All very strong reasons to try and eat well.

And so onto step 6…………..

All about Protein.

Let us remind ourselves


why are the protein foods are important (i.e. Fish, Eggs, chicken, turkey, game, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils and meats)

·       Protein helps the body to fight infection by supporting the immune system particularly the white blood cells.

·       It is needed for repair and healing of tissues which especially important after surgery or radiotherapy.

·       It supplies us with vital energy.

·       It helps us to sustain and even blood sugar which was emphasised in the blogs on sugar (step3)

·       Protein is necessary for the body to be able to make hormones and enzymes. By hormones I do not just mean the sex hormones like oestrogen and progesterone but all hormones of the body like insulin, adrenaline and thyroxine etc. The body literally cannot function without enzymes as these form the catalysts for many reactions that happen in the body.

·       The raw material that makes up cartilage, skin and hair are made from protein.

·       Sufficient protein is required to prevent loss of muscle mass which can so easily happen during treatment as appetites may diminish.


So we can see why it is essential and although I have left it until step 5 protein is so vital.


Meat and cancer

For years scientists have been debating the role of meat and cancer. As a result most of the recommendations made about diet and cancer seem to give an emphasis on including the vegetable proteins regularly and appear to agree that red meat and processed preserved meats should be kept to a minimum. This may for several reasons.

1.     Red meat is hard to digest and this can take up valuable energy. Energy that could be used for healing.

2.     Unless the meat is organic or field/grass reared it can be contaminated with anti-biotics, growth hormones and oestrogen. The trick seems to be buy from a reputable butcher and if purse strings are tight to eat a small amount of good quality meat rather than a lot mass produced meat. I may be wrong here but personally I do feel that some people need meet constitutionally, I call them the hunter gather types, so for these people it may be difficult to cut meat out altogether.

3.     It does not seem to be good quality meat eaten in moderation that is the problem but more to do with the way that meat is processed and cooked.

4.     Vegetable forms of protein are rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals are fat free and very inexpensive to buy. Foods like lentils, beans and peas are vegetable proteins. Almonds and cashew nuts are also very useful sources of protein



Tips on ways to include some protein in the diet

·       Try to have some form of protein at every meal and snack. The reasons for this are covered above in the bit I wrote on the benefits of protein.
Ideal protein rich snack foods are foods like unsalted almonds, cashew nuts and seeds and the butters that they are made from. A few nuts with some fresh fruit or some nut butter spread on an oat cake or rice cake etc. are easy and whole some.


·       Mix nuts with soya sauce or tamari very Moorish way to serve nuts and seeds is to put a selection in a bowl and sprinkle over a generous amount of soya sauce or tamari. Mix to coat the nuts and seeds and bake in a moderate oven for 10-15 mins or until the nuts and seeds are sticky and a little crisp. Cool and keep in an airtight tin.

·        Adding nuts to recipies some recipes I replace flour and cream with ground almonds and cashew nut cream  (see recipe below) which boosts the protein power of the dish.

·       OIly fish I am a great fan of eating oily types of fish because of their essential fatty acid content as well as for their protein. To open a tin of sardines or tuna to have on toast or in a jacket potato is so easy.

·        Protein powders Many people I meet who are undergoing treatment can experience a diminished appetite or because of the nature of the cancer find it difficult to eat regular meals or may have difficulty swallowing, which naturally can be a concern. In these instances I do recommend the use of protein powders. They can be bought in most good health food shops. Either pure whey protein or pea protein or hemp protein. They dissolve very easily into other foods and liquids and can be used in sweet or savoury foods. They are light and easy to digest. I suggest that they get put into smoothies or soups to boost the protein power. (See  back to basics blog 6 for more details on protein powders)

·       Tinned beans and lentils are great store cupboard foods to boost the protein power of a meal. I always drain them then rinse them before I use them. Some simple examples; are a tin of chick peas or butter beans added to a soup or casserole. Some chick peas or kidney beans or aduki beans thrown over a salad. Us them as a meat extender, by this I mean using less meat in a dish and replace it with beans or lentils. This is much cheaper as it make the meat go further. Mash some butterbeans or Haricot beans with some mashed potato, use as a topping on a pie or simply as a side dish.




Recipe for cashew cream

I particularly like this recipe because it is energy dense, contains protein and essential fats and can be used by

people who for whatever reason cannot eat whole nuts, or have a reduced appetite and need the calories or for

those who have difficulty swallowing. It is worth noting that the amount of water that you add can vary depending

on how thin or thick that you want it. The basic recipe would be excellent for thickening a casserole rather than

using flour. This would boost the protein power.


You will need; 250g of unsalted cashew nuts, 250mls of water. Simply blitz together until it is smooth and creamy. To this you can add many different flavours. My favourite Is to simply blend in some vanilla or almond essence to taste. The zest of a lemon or even some turmeric and ginger.

I certainly hope that you will have found the back to basic points 1-6 useful. Please do contact me if you have any questions at all about the blogs.


 see also Back to basics blog 6  part 2 protein powders  

Blog originally written by Caroline March 2014

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