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The Bristol Approach to Nutrition

Leading experts now agree that eating a healthy balanced diet with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit is one of the best possible ways to prevent cancer. The World Health Organisation�s 2003 World Cancer Report has identified that one third of all new cancer cases worldwide are preventable through healthy eating and lifestyle.

Healthy eating can also be helpful following a cancer diagnosis, when it can be especially important to help strengthen our body�s immune and repair functions that may be weakened by the rigours of the disease and possible side effects of some necessary medical treatments.

Seeing the Bigger Picture

Following the shock of a cancer diagnosis, try not to feel guilty about your eating patterns, but instead to find the information and support you need on nutrition. These recommendations offer some practical suggestions on how to add healthy foods high in anti-cancer agents into your meals, while gradually cutting down on or avoiding those foods that may be high in toxins and the body has to work harder to digest.

Although what you eat and drink is important, there are also many other changes that you can make to improve quality of life and support the immune system. Common reactions to the news you have cancer can include fear, anger, shock and grief, and in this situation it is often very important to find help to reduce your stress levels, and regain some sense of control over life.

The Bristol Approach to cancer care provides a unique combination of physical, emotional and spiritual support, through gentle complementary therapies such as massage, practical advice on nutrition and teaching calming self-help techniques such as relaxation and meditation. This Approach works hand-in-hand with medical treatment to help you to change the way you live with cancer, and to more easily manage the daily challenges a cancer diagnosis brings.

Recommended Foods

  • Organic foods � use organic foods whenever availability and budget allow in order to limit exposure to potentially toxic pesticides and hormones.
  • Whole foods � whole foods are those with as little added or taken away as possible. Stick to foods that are unprocessed i.e. no �ready meals�, and unrefined i.e. use whole grain products such as wholemeal bread or pasta rather than the white variety.
  • Whole grains � include whole grains and whole grain products in the diet on a regular basis. Use the more unusual grains such as quinoa, millet, barley, amaranth and rye as well as the more common wheat, rice and oats.
  • Pulses � include a variety of cooked and sprouted beans, peas and lentils.
  • Healthy fats � use cold pressed oils for salad dressings and extra virgin olive oil for cooking. Olive oil can be used on bread or toast in place of spreads, if this is not acceptable use non-dairy margarine free from hydrogenated fats. Nuts and seeds plus oily fish are good sources of the essential fatty acids.
  • Juices - freshly prepared juices are a great way of boosting nutrient intake. Use mainly vegetables with a little fruit to sweeten.
  • Water - drink lots of water aiming for around 2 litres per day. Aim to use spring or mineral water or water that has been purified in some other way.

Foods to Eat in Moderation

  • Poultry and game � e.g. chicken, turkey, pheasant, rabbit, venison organic if possible
  • Eggs � chicken, duck, quail � free range and organic if possible.
  • Fish � choose non-farmed deep-sea white fish such as cod, haddock, plaice and the smaller oily fish such as sardines and pilchards.

Please note: we suggest people consume animal products no more than 3-4 times per week. We also strongly recommend buying the best quality products whenever possible.

Foods to Avoid or Consume in Minimal Amounts

  • Red meat � e.g. beef, pork, lamb.
  • Dairy products milk, cheese, cream and yoghurt (non-dairy alternatives are available)
  • Smoked and salt cured foods
  • Refined sugars � avoid all sugary foods and use fruit to add sweetness to the diet. Honey or maple syrup can be used in small amounts if necessary.
  • Refined sugars� avoid all sugary foods and use fruit to add sweetness to the diet. Honey or maple syrup can be used in small amounts if necessary.
  • Alcohol
  • Table salt � use small amounts of rock or sea salt instead.

How to Introduce Change to Your Diet

Pleasure - the most important thing to remember is that food should always be a pleasure. The way we feel emotionally as we eat has a significant impact on the way we digest and absorb the food and we should aim to eat while we are relaxed and happy. Feelings of stress due to a dislike of the food will undermine the nourishment we are receiving and it is therefore important not to feel too pressured by thoughts of what should and should not be eaten.

Experiment � at the same time that it is important to enjoy the diet, it is vital to include as many of the healthiest foods as possible on a regular basis. For those people who are not familiar with some of these foods or this way of eating it is about experimenting and finding ways of preparing and cooking the foods that is healthy and delicious.

Step-by-step changes- when introducing changes to the diet do so in a step-wise fashion. It is important not to make lots of changes at once as it is easy to become overwhelmed which can lead to helplessness and a desire to give up on the healthy eating plan altogether.

Variety � it is essential to eat a varied diet not only to ensure a balanced intake of all essential nutrients but also to avoid becoming bored with the eating plan.It is worth remembering that food should always be a pleasure, so try not to be stressed by thinking, what can I eat? If your diet becomes stressful you can actually be undoing some of the good that you are trying to achieve.

Hints and Tips

  • Start by adding a variety of fresh, organic fruit and vegetables so that these, along with cereals and wholegrain, make up a larger percentage of your diet.
  • A good way to shop for a variety of fruit and vegetables is by colour. Colour often represents a different nutrient or mineral, so if you�re missing a red or a purple in your basket, go back and get one.
  • Grow your own sprouts. Sprouting pulses (lentils, peas and beans) and seeds is cheap and easy to do. Sprouts are also highly nutritious and can be eaten raw or lightly fried.
  • Gradually replace dairy products with alternatives such as soya, rice or oat milk. It does not mean that you have to do without creamy food - soya is actually easier to cook with and nut based products are also good for creams and puddings. See our �Reducing Dairy Consumption� and �Soya as Part of the Diet� fact sheets.
  • Juicing is a great way of getting the goodness and nutrients from a wide variety of fruit and vegetables into your diet. Nutrients in fresh juices are easily absorbed and therefore juicing is useful for those with poor digestion. To avoid high levels of fruit sugars use more vegetables with fruit to sweeten.
  • If you are unable to cut out all meat start by cutting down on portion size. Choose white meat or fish and if affordable and available buy organic.
  • Main meals can take a little planning, especially if you are cooking for a family who may not be happy with change. You might like to get a no meat or dairy cookbook and try some recipes. Aim to cook a meal without meat and dairy a few times a week, gradually building up your repertoire. This is also a good way of building up your store cupboard with things you may not currently use

Meal Planning

Meal planning
Any change may feel a bit daunting at first, especially if you are feeling unwell. Here are some suggestions to help you plan your meals for the day:

Breakfast - fruit salads using fresh or cooked dried fruits; wholegrain toast with sugar free fruit preserve, scrambled egg, tomatoes or mushrooms; porridge or muesli with fruit and nuts and seeds, made using non-dairy milk

Lunch - mixed salad using a variety of fresh raw vegetables and fruit; fresh soups, jacket potato or wholegrain sandwich with beans, hummus, lentil pate, sardines; cooked grain salad using barley, millet, bulgar wheat etc.

Evening meal - vegetable casserole; vegetable curry; lentil cottage pie; tofu stir-fry, fish or organic chicken with vegetables

Snacks � nuts and seeds; fresh or dried fruit; chopped raw vegetables plus hummous or avocado dip; oatcakes, rye crackers, rice cakes or wholegrain toast plus lentil pate.


Weight loss
Weight loss can be a particular problem for people with cancer and some people are concerned that a healthy diet will exacerbate the problem. Weight loss is not a reason to eat lots of sugary, fatty foods such as cakes and biscuits as there are many high-calorie health foods. These include: bananas, avocados, dried fruit, nuts and seeds, olive oil.

Helpful Products

For recipes there are several helpful books and videos on the Bristol Approach to nutrition written by and presented by food writer Jane Sen, the Centre�s Executive Chef:

  • Healing Foods, paperback �12.99
  • More Healing Foods, paperback �12.99
  • Sweet but Unrefined video �10.00
  • Sweet but Unrefined video �10.00
  • Delicious and Dairy Free video �10.00

These are available by mail order via:
Website: www.canhelpnow.com
Or 24 hour order line: 0117 980 9522
For product enquiries: 0117 980 9504

"It has been a great satisfaction to me to see how strongly the approach pioneered at Bristol has influenced the development and improvement of cancer services all over Britain."

HRH The Prince of Wales

Patron of the Bristol Cancer Help Centre.