A Cancer Survivor Reviews the Canada Food Guide

The new Canada Food Guide was released in January 2019. It replaced outdated food guidelines that were highly criticized. But how healthy is this new food guide? Let’s explore this from the perspective of a cancer survivor.

Before my cancer diagnosis, I was a typical working mother. I worked 2 part-time jobs and was raising 2 children. Unhealthy foods were comforting. Processed foods and prepared meals were easier to feed my family. I ate when I became tired and stressed and that was pretty much all the time. Doctors and support counselors told me it wasn’t my fault that I had cancer, but I couldn’t help blaming myself for the condition I was in. After all, I chose what I put in my mouth.

The old food guide needed updating

I never liked the old Canada food guide. It was heavy with breads and pastas, complex carbohydrates that fuel cravings and stimulate fat storage. The diagrams all pictured less nutritious choices, such as white bread, white rice, boxes of cereal. Vegetables and fruits did come next, followed heavily by dairy then meats. Recommended servings for each food group were too large and did not support a calorie reduced diet for weight loss.

The new food guide is much better

Now, the new Canada’s Food Guide is something I can get behind. When I went through my cancer treatments, I read as much as I could on how to fight breast cancer. I wanted to know what I could eat that would give me the best chance for fighting this retched disease.

Sugars are unhealthy

I learned that sugars feed cancer cells and that sugar is notorious for making us fat and has addictive properties. Some experts compare sugar to a drug. I can tell you, from personal experience, sugar withdrawal symptoms do exist. It took about 3 or 4 months for the cravings to dissipate, but they eventually did. I was able to kick my sugar habit.

The more vegetables the better

I learned that vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and dark leafy greens were great at fighting cancers. Colorful veggies, like bell peppers, carrots and beets are also great choices. The more vegetables the better. In fact, a multitude of scientific research has attempted to harness the cancer fighting properties of certain vegetables. While I appreciate and value the research, I would rather enjoy eating a bowl of steamed broccoli than choke down a pill of broccoli’s superpower.

Fruits are healthy too

I learned that fruits can be powerful tools against cancer. Pure pomegranate juice can help fight against breast cancer cells. There are many studies suggesting this. Another interesting fruit finding was watermelon and its damaging effect on prostate cancer cells, but you should eat some of the white part of the rind too. Apples also seem like good choices. Many fruits contain compounds like lycopene, beta carotene, vitamin C and other antioxidants that help protect against and fight cancer cells.

The new food guide says 1/2 of your plate should consist of these vitamin, mineral and antioxidant rich vegetables and fruits. That is good news!

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away”

Dairy is less important

It is interesting that the new food guide has removed dairy as a prominent food group and lumped it into proteins. Dairy has long been reported as a good source of calcium. But there is conflicting data in the scientific literature with respect to cancers. It seems that dairy helps with certain types of cancers, but may increase the risk with other types.

Fish and plant based proteins are best

Other proteins promoted in the new guide are mostly plant and fish based. Eating more of these types of proteins may lower the risk of cancer. Red meats, such as beef, pork or wild game are minimized on the list of protein recommendations. Red meat is a probable cause of cancer, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Cooking methods, such as grilling and smoking, can contribute to the production of chemicals in red meat that increase cancer risk.

The new food guide tells us to be mindful

The new food guide is also unique in reminding us to be mindful of our eating habits, to cook more often, eat meals with others and enjoy our food. All these concepts support a positive holistic view and experience surrounding the food we eat. Life is too short not to be mindful and enjoy what we eat.

In this cancer survivor’s opinion, the new Canada’s Food Guide is a good place to start for those wanting to lower their risk of cancer and cancer recurrence through nutrition.

What do you think of the new Canada Food Guide? Tell us in the comments below.


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  1. My mom is having breast cancer and treatment is going on. I would like to know if you have any links for nutrition part.

    1. I am sorry to hear that your mom has breast cancer. Good nutrition can help. The best place to start is with a diet of lots of vegetables. Dark leafy greens and bright colored vegetables. There is a link to the Canada’s Food Guide in my review article. This is the best place to start. If she is going through treatments now, she will need lots of protein too. Does your cancer center have a nutritionist? Another great resource.

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