Jean LaMantia was only 27 years old when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. Since then, the registered dietitian, cancer survivor and food blogger has completely overhauled her diet to focus on the plants, vegetables and nutrients best suited for cancer prevention.
One of her goals is to ingest a lot of antioxidants, such as beta-carotene, lycopene and the vitamins A, C and E. It is thought that these antioxidants — eaten in plant-based foods, rather than as supplements — may help to neutralize free radicals, cell-damaging chemicals that are made by our bodies and can contribute to the development of cancer.
Here’s a day in LaMantia’s dietary life:
LaMantia starts every day with a piece of sprouted flax bread, toasted, with almond butter, jam and cinnamon. Some very early research shows that flaxseed may help slow the growth of breast and colorectal cancers. LaMantia pairs that with a cup of organic green tea before dropping her kids off at school. Green tea contains antioxidants, which help prevent cell damage, and which some believe may help protect against cancer.
Next, she heads straight to the gym for a daily workout to help her immune system, relieve stress and control her weight — just some of the physical and mental health benefits of exercise.
Lunch is usually leftovers from dinner the night before, followed by an afternoon snack of a green apple or a small amount of nuts for some antioxidant-rich plant protein.
LaMantia considers herself a pescatarian, which means she eats fish, but not other meat. About twice a week, dinner at her house includes fish, usually salmon, which is filled with protein and omega-3 fats, thought to cut down on inflammation in the body and thus to potentially reduce cancer risk, although studies on this have shown mixed results. LaMantia also likes to include dark, leafy vegetables such as kale or brussel sprouts. These cruciferous vegetables are very high in antioxidants as well as in fiber, which some evidence suggests is protective against several kinds of cancer. On other nights, her dinner might include whole-grain pasta in tomato sauce with lentils, all of which contain antioxidants and fiber. An alternative meal would be organic tofu with brown rice, since soy has been shown to help protect against breast and colon cancers. And alongside every meal of the day is a large glass of water, which has been shown to help prevent bladder cancer.
After dinner, her family doesn’t eat again until morning. If she needs a taste of something sweet, LaMantia will treat herself to one or two squares of dark chocolate, which is packed with flavonoids that act as antioxidants. She makes sure to get enough sleep and gets up the next morning to start all over again.
She’s been cancer-free for 20 years, but says she is always looking for ways to eat healthier, and for research that may help her in that effort.
“I feel pretty confident in my diet, but I’m always thinking I can do better,” LaMantia says.