The Essential Cancer Treatment Nutrition Guide & Cookbook: A Book Review

The Essential Cancer Treatment Nutrition Book
by Jean LaMantia, RD with Dr. Neil Berinstein, MD
Robert Rose, 2012, 320 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7788-0298-3

Understanding how food and nutrition can complement treatment options for people with cancer is not easy. When first diagnosed, one is overwhelmed with emotions, concerned about which treatment to follow, and may not be thinking about side effects and how to deal with them. Amongst the sea of information on the subject, Jean LaMantia’s The Essential Cancer Treatment Nutrition Guide & Cookbook is an indispensable guide to the stages of treatment and recovery from cancer in a straightforward and easy-to-understand format.

LaMantia brings a unique perspective to the topic of cancer and nutrition. She is a registered dietitian who has worked at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto alongside researcher and oncologist Dr. Neil Berinstein. As a family member of a cancer patient and a cancer survivor herself, LaMantia is very familiar with the experiences of both a person with cancer and his or her caregiver. LaMantia still works in the field of cancer prevention and management, and personally lives her life in a way that reduces the risk of recurrence.

The first part of the book helps the reader understand the various cancer therapies available, from surgery to radiation and chemotherapy. It then describes the side effects of the different therapies, with a focus on the nutritional concerns. Practical ways to deal with each area of concern are addressed in detail, with specific interventions to use in each case. Beneficial foods such as anti-inflammatory foods, antioxidants and phytonutrients, therapeutic nutrients are included, as well as foods to avoid. Helpful FAQs can be found on almost every page to highlight particular topics. What really stands out with this book is that nutrition is considered a vital part of the cancer treatment, not just an adjunct to care.

About half of the book consists of menu planning, with individual sample menus for different nutritional needs, shopping lists, food safety, and recipes. Many of the recipes are courtesy of others, but LaMantia has taken each of the recipes and highlighted the side effects of cancer treatment for which the recipe is recommended. For example, she points out that the Chunky Vegetable Lentil Soup can be helpful in dealing with constipation. She has noted which recipes are easy to prepare, portable, or can be made ahead of time. If a recipe is for one symptom in particular, LaMantia also shows how to adjust a recipe to help with other symptoms. Recipes include reviving breakfasts, restorative soups and light meals, and nurturing desserts. Of utmost importance, the recipes are of high nutritional value and call for fresh ingredients that will aid in healing.

By providing the knowledge and the skills needed to deal with any problem or concern that might arise, this book is like having your own personal dietitian coaching you, a family member or friend through the illness and recovery process.

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