Nutrition Book review : The living well with cancer cookbook

Tuesday 08 May 2018

This month I wanted to bring your attention to a new book. The book is called, ‘The Living Well With Cancer Cookbook’ by Fran Ward and Catherine Zabilowicz. Fran is an acclaimed food writer and food stylist and has a very good pedigree for working with food. Catherine is a Nutritional Therapist who is the nutritional advisor for Maggie’s West London at Charring Cross Hospital.

Eating right with cancer is very close to Catherine’s heart as her son had leukaemia, which motivated her to work in nutrition. Fran and Catherine met at Maggie’s West London when Fran became a volunteer after the sudden loss of her mother. Once they had met, they soon realised that they had a great deal in common i.e. interest in good food nutritiously prepared. My initial feeling when I saw the book was that the quality of the book felt good to hold and I was impressed by the illustrations when I flicked through. The title ‘living well with cancer cookbook’, is a little misleading as the first half of the book is dedicated to information about nutrition and cancer, making it far more than just a cookery book.

The aim of the book is to empower the reader with an intuition for those foods that can help you be as strong and as healthy as possible through your cancer journey and beyond. Catherine feels that if we can understand the power and importance of nutritious food and where it fits into the life cycle of a cancer cell we can start to see food in a new light. To help with this, chapter 1, called ‘Why Food Matters’, explains that the biochemistry of the body is governed to a large extent by how it is fuelled and she focuses very much on a natural plant based diet, which is research based. 

Chapter 2 outlines the basic science of cancer covering many topics from epigenetics to inflammation, the role of the immune system, and hormones as some examples. This is followed by a Chapter called ‘Nourish your Body’, with hints and tips for those just about to undertake chemotherapy and eating beyond. 

A very useful chapter (4) looks at the effects of treatment and how to support yourself. Problems are covered like fatigue, poor appetite, weight loss and weight gain, digestive problems, mouth sores etc. There are practical tips that may help. Another interesting chapter has been called, ’Outside The Box Approaches to Cancer’. Looking at complementary and alternative approaches to cancer that are available. Some of these will complement conventional treatment and others ‘stand alone’. Catherine has made it clear that these are choices and to remember that there is not a clear cure for cancer and the information in the book is simply that: to make you aware and informed, and not to direct or suggest anything else. Subjects include homeopathy, hyperthermia, hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) and others. 

The chapter on life after treatment covers well researched topics like coping with stress, and the importance of exercise, meditation etc. All of this has been written very clearly. it is easy to understand and is very comprehensive.

The research where Catherine has sourced her work from is recorded in the back of the book. The second half of the book is called ‘The Nutritional Kitchen’, and begins with information on how to get your kitchen organised, looking at what to buy for the basic store cupboard and what to throw out! It also looks at useful tools and equipment to make the cooking experience smooth and successful.

The chapters have been divided up into:

  • Starting the Day
  • Energising Snacks
  • Vegetarian Rainbow
  • Fabulous Fish
  • Satisfying Meat
  • Something Sweet
  • and Super Staples

Each recipe begins with easy to understand, practical, nutritional information, suggesting when it may help, how many people it will serve and how long it takes to prepare. 

Examples of some of the recipes are:

  • Pancakes with fruit, yogurt and honey
  • Super-boost Kale and Pineapple Juice
  • Roasted Beetroot and goat’s Cheese Salad
  • Black Bean and Mackerel Salad
  • Fragrant herb and Almond Chicken with Quinoa
  • Oats and dry berry bars

The recipes are well laid out and the illustrations very attractive.

I am slowly trying many of them out and so far the recipes have been easy to follow and the results very tasty. It is well worth noting that the royalties from the book go to Maggie’s. I would recommend the book for its clear comprehensive approach to a very complex subject and its practical advice and recipes.

You can tell it is written by two people who have a great passion for what they do and of course by buying the book you would also be supporting Maggie’s. Here is a recipe from the book that you might like to try.

Chocolate and walnut Brownies

Good quality chocolate is actually beneficial as it contains polyphenols (plant chemicals that have been shown to kill cancer cells in the labs). Fibre from the wholegrain products has the important benefits of keeping the bowels regular. Excess toxins, cholesterol and hormones attach to the fibre in the gut and are naturally eliminated from the body.


  • 150g butter
  • 200g of dark chocolate (75% plus)
  • 100g molasses
  • 3 eggs
  • 100g desiccated coconut or coconut flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 110g of chopped walnuts.

1. Preheat the oven - gas 4, electric 160’C. Line a 20cmx18cm tin with baking parchment. 2. Melt butter in a pan and add the chocolate broken into pieces. Melt gently. 3. Add the molasses and mix gently over the heat to loosen. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. 4. Beat the eggs and add to the chocolate mix and add coconut, baking powder and walnuts. Mix well. Put in the baking tray and bake for 20 mins. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 mins before removing and cutting into slices.

Blog originally written by Caroline - June 2016 - checked March 2021

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