A Super Simple Maitake Mushroom Recipe for Cancer Thrivers

I’ve been up to my eyeballs in fungus!

What I mean by that is, I’ve been researching edible fungus (mushrooms) and the documented health benefits so that I am able to share this information with you.

Health Benefits of Edible Fungus (Mushrooms)

Recently, I did a series of blog posts called Nutrients for Immune Function. One the posts in this series (The Link Between Mushrooms and Immune Function) provides an overview of the components of mushrooms and the health benefits mushrooms can provide for us as cancer thrivers! Also, I have covered this topic in even more depth during an online training for the Thriving After Cancer Coaching and Support Program. You can learn more about the program and how you can access a recording of this training in the archives of my Thriving After Cancer Coaching and Support Program by clicking here.

This post is about finding and eating mushrooms! While I am usually adventurous when it comes to trying new foods, I must admit I was a little hesitant when it came to mushrooms. Maybe it was the thought of eating fungus, but after being swayed by the very compelling evidence-based research, I set out on my quest to find some immune boosting mushrooms.

Immune Boosting Mushrooms
Maitake Mushroom

Maitake Mushroom

Specifically, I was after Maitake mushrooms. Like most mushrooms, Maitake has several names—keep this in mind when you are shopping! Maitake is also called:

  • Sheep’s head
  • Ram’s head
  • Hen-of-the-woods
  • Dancing Mushroom.

Its botanical name is Grifola frondosa and it’s one of the major culinary mushrooms used in Japan.

Turns out, I am not alone in my interest in Maitake mushrooms. The Maitake mushroom is a top 10 food trend in both North America and France this year. I suspect that Maitake’s popularity is not just based on a culinary trend but also because people are interested in Maitake mushrooms for the same reasons I was—nutrition, effect on the body’s immune function and its use in cancer research.

(Are you (like many other cancer thrivers!) trying to support your immune system by eating immune boosting foods? Check out my Thriving After Cancer Coaching and Support Program where you can access archived and live trainings on immune boosting diet and lifestyle changes you can make to support your immune system, reduce inflammation and attack cancer cells directly. Also, get answers to your questions and advice on how to deal with the challenges you are facing.)

Support your immune system, reduce inflammation, attack cancer cells directly

Maitake Mushroom Extract

Extracts of the Maitake mushroom have been used as part of cancer treatment in combination with chemotherapy by introperitoneal, intravenous or oral routes. Published research shows that extracts of the Maitake mushroom can enhance the effects of the chemotherapy and help stimulate immune system cells.

This of course makes me wonder—if taking Maitake mushroom extracts as a supplement is beneficial—is eating Maitake mushrooms also beneficial?

The type of study that would address this question would be an epidemiological study.

There haven’t been many of these done but the few that have show that as mushroom intake increases, cancer risk decreases, but none of them break down the type of mushroom consumed, only the total amount.

So, for now, my question remains partially unanswered. However, I was still on a mission to find and eat some Maitake mushrooms. Based on the evidence that is available, I believe it’s reasonable to assume that including these mushrooms in the diet of a cancer survivor will be another tool to help reduce cancer risk.

Where to Find Maitake Mushrooms

My first stop to find some Maitake was a farmers market. I did find two mushroom vendors. One had the usual cultivated mushrooms—button, Portobello, and oyster but there was no Maitake. The second had more exotic foraged mushrooms including chanterelles, lobster mushrooms, and shiitake.

The best selection of mushrooms I've seen

The best selection of mushrooms I’ve seen!

I struck it rich when I visited a local independent grocery store (Yeah! For the independents!). For those of you in Toronto, Fiesta Farms has the best mushroom selection I have seen in Toronto.

Sure enough, Fiesta Farms had Maitake mushrooms, as well as several other exotic mushroom types. I selected some fresh looking Maitake and some other varieties I had never tried before.

Then, I went home and cooked the mushrooms! The recipe is super simple:

Pan Fried Maitake Mushrooms


  • Maitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • Extra Virgin Olive oil
  • Salt


  • Heat some olive oil on a fry pan on low-medium heat.
  • Add the mushrooms and pan fry.
  • Add salt and serve hot.
Pan Fried Maitake Mushrooms

Pan Fried Maitake Mushrooms

The Maitake were delicious! I will be going back for more and won’t be afraid to try other new mushrooms in future.

If you are fearful of your cancer coming back, remember there are incremental changes you can make in your diet and lifestyle to help support your immune system, reduce inflammation and attack cancer cells directly. I believe including a variety of mushrooms, which are known to support the immune system, is an excellent way to take control of your eating habits and diet, and in turn take back your power that your cancer has taken from you.

Do you have a favourite mushroom or mushroom recipe? Please share it in the comments below.


Want to Learn More About Food, Nutrition and Lifestyle Choices to Reduce Your Risk of Cancer?

The Thriving After Cancer Coaching and Support Program provides you with advice and answers to your questions based on evidence-based, scientific research and connects you with a community of cancer thrivers just like you! Learn more here.

Support your immune system, reduce inflammation, attack cancer cells directly


Further Reading on Food Trends:




Edible mushrooms: improving human health and promoting quality life. Int J Microbiol. 2015;2015:376387. Valverde ME1, Hernández-Pérez T1, Paredes-López O1.

Dietary mushroom intake and the risk of breast cancer based on hormone receptor status. Shin A, Kim J, Lim SY, Kim G, Sung MK, Lee ES, Ro J. Nutr Cancer. 2010;62(4):476-83.

β-Glucans and their applications in cancer therapy: focus on human studies. Aleem E1.Anticancer Agents Med Chem. 2013 Jun;13(5):709-19.




Matcha Green Tea Powder (& a cancer-thriver smoothie recipe!)

Last week, I wrote briefly on the benefits of green tea. When it comes to increasing your intake of cancer-fighting catechins, doctors Richard Béliveau and Denis Gingras (authors of the book Foods that Fight Cancer) recommend that you choose Japanese green tea over Chinese. This is because the evidence indicates that Japanese green tea has higher amounts of beneficial cancer-fighting catechins.

Making the small change to Japanese green tea can have a big impact on your journey towards becoming a cancer thriver.


What if you haven’t yet acquired a taste for green tea yet?

Well, I suggest you start with this recipe from Toronto’s much-loved vegetarian restaurant, Fresh (www.freshrestaruants.ca). They have kindly given me permission to share their recipe with you!

Shamrock Smoothie

Ingredients:banana, agave, peppermint oil, Matcha green tea powder, vanilla soy milk

  • 1 banana
  • 1 tsp agave
  • ½ tsp peppermint oil (or less if you use full strength oil)
  • 1 T Matcha green tea powder
  • 12 oz vanilla soy milk


  • Put the ingredients into a blender, blend and enjoy.

(Want to transform your diet to one that supports your goal to be cancer free? Get monthly trainings on the key elements of a thriving after cancer diet and lifestyle, complete with tips to get you started right away. Join here.)

thriving after cancer coaching and support program with jean lamantiaWhy Should Cancer Thrivers Try This Recipe?

Let’s take a look at the cancer-fighting potential of the ingredients in this delicious smoothie!

Banana—Banana is a source of prebiotic fibre. This is a type of fibre that provides fuel to the healthy bacteria that live in your intestines and helps to keep your immune system strong. A strong immune system is absolutely critical to a thriving after cancer lifestyle. Remember all prebiotics are fibre but not all fibres are prebiotic.organic blue agave syrup

Agave—While there is a lot of fear of sugar in the cancer community, the 1 tsp of agave in this recipe is a very small amount. And, it comes with a lot of other beneficial nutrition contained in this recipe. Agave is a sweetener made from the agave plant. Is there an advantage to using agave over other sugars? Check out “Added Sugar” below. If you want to avoid all added sugars, then you can leave this out of the recipe all together.

matcha green tea powder and peppermint oilPeppermint Oil—Like many spices, peppermint has a long history of medicinal uses, which continue to be studied and documented. In the case of peppermint oil, it is known for helping indigestion, reducing stress and anxiety, and even has been shown in test tube and animal studies to combat a variety of cancers. The ½ tsp in this recipe is a small amount but it is nice to know that most of the ingredients in the recipes have positive health properties. When you are learning to thrive after cancer, every small step helps! They can really add up and transform into a healthy lifestyle.

Matcha Green Tea Powder—Matcha is made from shade-grown tea leaves. The tea bushes are covered to prevent direct sunlight several weeks before harvest. The dried leaves are de-veined and de-stemmed, and stone ground to the fine, bright green powder known as matcha. When you consume matcha, you are consuming the entire leaf—so you don’t use a tea bag or diffuser. Because of this, matcha is thought to be higher in beneficial cancer fighting compounds than steeped tea. To use the powder, just add it to the smoothie (or hot water if you are making a cup of tea). You can find it in tea shops and health food stores.

Vanilla Soy Milk – While I still come across cancer patients and survivors who have sworn off soy products (either on their own or recommended by a health professional), I am a promoter of soy. I’ve looked at the scientific evidence relating to soy and cancer and I feel very comfortable consuming organic whole soy foods. This is because the evidence has shown that consuming organic whole soy foods can help to reduce cancer risk due to soy’s many beneficial plant compounds. If you choose to avoid it, then substitute your favorite milk/milk-like beverage. I would love to hear how it turns out! Also, I should mention that this recipe calls for vanilla soy beverage, which will most likely contain added sugar. If you prefer no-sugar-added version, then get an unsweetened soy beverage. (See “How to Choose a Soy Beverage” below.)

How to Choose a Soy Beverage

It is recommended you choose whole soy foods and not processed soy foods. In order to choose whole soy foods, it’s important to read the ingredient list on the product. You want to choose those products that contain “organic soy beans” and not “soy protein isolate”. Organic soy beans will give you a higher level of isoflavones, which are a group of compounds shown to protect again cancer.

organic soy beans

organic soy beans

soy protein isolate

soy protein isolate

Is Agave Better than Table Sugar?

According to research scientists and dietitians at the University of Sydney (www.glycemicindex.com), the glycemic index of agave ranges from 10-19, whereas the glycemic index of sugar (sucrose) is 60-65. When it comes to glycemic index, the lower the number, the better. Agave has 20 kcal per tsp compared to sugar, which has less at 15 kcal. However, agave is also sweeter so you may find yourself using less. With these two advantages in mind, you may prefer to use agave over sugar. Keep in mind though that you should limit your added sugars to 25 g per day (See “Added Sugar” below.) Alos, stay tuned for my upcoming series on the relationship between sugar and cancer.

Added Sugar

Let’s add up the added sugar in this Shamrock Smoothie recipe:

  • ½ tsp agave = 2.6 g
  • 12 oz of vanilla soy beverage = 12 g
  • Total = 14.6 g

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) recommends you limit added sugar to 25 g per day for women and 28 g per day for men. If you consume the Shamrock Smoothie, you will still be left with over 15 g for the remainder of the day. The natural sugar in the banana is not counted because only ‘added sugar’ is limited.

More Than Ingredients

Finally, this recipe provides more than the healthy ingredients and what they do for your body on a cellular level, it also provides you with positive energy and feelings from eating something you know is good for you. You feel you are part of your health care team. You feel you have the power to make a difference in your survivorship. To me, this is an important part of being a cancer-thriver—knowing you are making a contribution to reducing your cancer risk. I believe food, diet and lifestyle choices can make a difference in boosting your immune system, reducing chronic inflammation, and directly fighting cancer cells. Your everyday choices matter!

(Want to transform your diet to one that supports your goal to be cancer free? Get monthly trainings on the key elements of a thriving after cancer diet and lifestyle, complete with tips to get you started right away. Join here.)

thriving after cancer coaching and support program with jean lamantia

Let me know if you make the Shamrock Smoothie recipe and how you like it in the comments below!

Additional Reading

Matcha Madness What’s Old is New and Here to Stay

Other Green Tea Recipes

Matcha Tea Waffles

Matcha-Ginger Oatmeal Cups



How to Improve Your Tea Routine

green teaGreen Tea and Thriving After Cancer

When reading about healthy eating for cancer survivors, it is common to see green tea ranking high on the list of recommended foods. The reason for this is that green tea contains a high level of cancer-fighting compounds called catechins. In their book, Foods to Fight Cancer, doctors Richard Béliveau and Denis Gingras devote an entire chapter to discussing the cancer-fighting benefits of green tea. These doctors and other evidence-based research suggest that green tea can be an important part of thriving after cancer!

The Important Difference Between Black Tea and Green Tea

While green tea and black tea come from the same plant (Camellia sinensis), green tea is not fermented. The plant contains naturally occurring enzymes that start the fermentation process soon after the leaf is harvested. In order to prevent the fermentation that would lead to black tea, the green tea leaves are heated. The Chinese method for doing this is to roast the leaves, while the Japanese method is to steam them.

Why Should Cancer Thrivers Consider Japanese Green Tea?

The Chinese method of roasting the leaves results in a tea that is sweeter—having flavour notes of orchid, green bean, chestnut and honey. Japanese green tea flavour notes are described as grassy, asparagus, marine, vegetal and spinach. However, Japanese green tea is much higher in beneficial catechins. So, while it may take your palate some time to acquire the taste for Japanese green tea, the evidence indicates it will be worth it, as the amount of beneficial cancer-fighting components is significantly higher!

So, will you make the switch to Japanese green tea? Maybe you are thinking “I don’t like tea at all!” If so, stay tuned for next week’s blog when I will share a yummy green tea recipe for the non-tea lover.


Book Review – The Calories In Calories Out Cookbook

The Calories In Calories Out CookbookThe Calories In Calories Out Cookbook…Plus, the Exercise it Takes to Burn Them Off is by Catherine Jones and Elaine Trujillo (The Experiment, 2014). Catherine Jones, the recipe developer on the project, said that the idea for the book came to her after a conversation with her brother who said:

“All I want is a cookbook with really good recipes that won’t make me fat. And, I want to know how many calories I’m eating, so I can burn them off in the gym.”

Inspired by his need, she has created just that—a cookbook designed to take the guesswork out of counting calories.

The Calories In Calories Out Cookbook organizes the recipes into sections based on the calorie level: 0-199 calories, 200-299 calories and 300-399 calories. Each section contains a variety of recipes for each meal of the day.

The result is 400 very appealing recipes with nutritional breakdown and an estimate of the number of minutes of walking or jogging it would take to burn off these calories.

Should A Cancer Survivor Read This Book (and try the recipes!)?

If you are interested in losing weight by tracking your calories in and calories out, I don’t know of a better resource then this one! The book also begins with an explanation of calories by Malden Nesheim, a professor of nutrition at Cornell University.

Weight loss is a proven strategy that can help you to lower chronic inflammation, support your immune system and reduce cancer risk. Controlling your weight and getting the right amount of exercise are essential to a cancer-thriver lifestyle!

However, I should warn you about a couple of things with this book. If you like to preview recipes by reading a cookbook at night before you go to bed, holding this book up with be a workout! The 412 pages combined with the paper stock make this a really heavy read…literally.

A Sample of the Calories In for this recipe and the Calories Out.

A sample of the “calories in” for a recipe and the “calories out”.

Also, if you are far sighted and need glasses to read, get them polished up because you will need them. The recipe font and layout are not the most reader friendly that I have encountered.

Besides these physical limitations, if you are looking for a cookbook with really great recipes, nutritional breakdown and a quick glance guide for how to burn off the calories then this book is for you.

If you already have a copy, I’d love to hear about your favourite recipes in the comments below or let me know what your favourite cookbook is.





Get The Calories In Calories Out Cookbook on Amazon

A Cancer Thriver’s Salmon Recipe

Salmon with Grainy Mustard and Wheat Germ Topping
  • 4 – 1” pieces of salmon
  • ¼ cup wheat germ toasted
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4 Tbsp grainy mustard
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 °F.
  2. Rinse the salmon and place on parchment paper lined baking sheet.pieces of salmon
  3. Toast the wheat germ by heating in non-stick fry pan over medium heat. Remove from heat when a medium brown colour is achieved.Toast wheat germ
  4. Cover the top and sides of the salmon fillet with grainy mustard.grainy mustard
  5. Mix the garlic powder, cayenne pepper and toasted wheat germ and apply over the mustard.garlic powder, cayenne pepper and toasted wheat germgrainy mustard and toasted wheat germ
  6. Place the salmon into the preheated oven and cook until you see the white fat appear on the fish. You can test it with a fork. When the salmon flakes, it is done. Do not overcook it or it will be dry! It should be about 10 minutes depending on the thickness.cooked salmon
  7. Separate the salmon from the skin and dark fat (keep reading to find out why I suggest this!).
  8. Serve with your favourite vegetable and grain!salmon with vegetable and grain

This is an original recipe by Jean LaMantia at www.jeanlamantia.com. It is adapted from a recipe from this blog Wheat Germ Crusted Salmon. Please share with credit to www.jeanlamantia.com.


Why should a cancer survivor enjoy Salmon with Grainy Mustard and Wheat Germ Topping?

Let me explain…

In a recent blog series, I reviewed the Top Nutrients For Immune Function that were recently highlighted in a webinar by the National Cancer Institute. (You can see the links to the blogs in the notes section below). One of the top nutrients for immune function discussed was omega-3 fatty acid. This make omega-3 fatty acid a MUST for cancer thrivers!

Omega-3 Fatty Acid

Omega-3 fatty acid is found in cold water fish including salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, anchovies and trout. It is important for you as a cancer survivor (and thriver!) to include these types of fish in your diet regularly (about two times per week). This is because omega-3 is a strong anti-inflammatory (the strongest in fact) and it can also support the immune system. A strong immune system can mean a better defense against cancer cells!

There is a Catch!

There is indeed a catch at the end of the salmon line. The catch is that researchers discovered that omega-3 could reduce T-cell mediated immune function. This means that it can actually reduce the functioning of this part of the immune system. Yikes!! But I just said that omega-3 was immune boosting, right? It is immune boosting, BUT you have to combine omega-3 with other foods properly to achieve this immune boosting effect.

Food Combining to The Rescue

The solution to overcoming the immune weakening effect of omega-3 is to include an antioxidant along with the fish oil. In the research (referenced below), a supplement of 100 and 200 IU of vitamin E (an antioxidant) was used. While the research on this used a vitamin E supplement, you can also get your antioxidants from food.

Antioxidants Plus Omega-3

Antioxidants include vitamins E and C, as well as beta-carotene, flavonoids and selenium. A wheat germ crust (wheat germ is high in vitamin E) with salmon is an example of combining an antioxidant with omega-3. And it’s delicious!

Other Food Combining Examples

Combine your favourite omega-3 rich fish plus:

  • Citrus glaze
  • Side salad with almonds and strawberries
  • Tropical fruit salad (papaya, kiwi, guava, mango)
  • Guacamole
  • Green tea
  • Berries
  • Bean salad
  • Brazil nuts

Do you have a favourite combination of omega-3 rich fish and an antioxidant? Please share your idea below!

Why Remove the Fish Skin and Dark Fat?

While there is a big health benefit to consuming fish for its omega-3 content, because of environmental contamination, fish can contain contaminants such as PCBs. Many contaminants are bound in the fat and the skin of the fish, so by removing these parts of the fish, you will reduce your exposure!





Nutrients for Immune Function Blog Series

What Foods Boost My Immune System?

Vitamin E and Your Immune System

Do Low Vitamin B6 Levels Harm My Immune System?

Is Fish Oil Beneficial or Detrimental?

Probiotics and Prebiotics

The Link between Mushrooms and Immune Function

Soy Foods and Cancer Risk

National Cancer Institute Webinar: Cancer Prevention Through Immunomodulation: Does Diet Play a Role?

Fish Oil and Vitamin E Study

J Am Coll Nutr. 2006 Aug;25(4):300-6.


Cancer-Smart Salad Dressing

cancer-smart salad dressing recipe

Enjoy this recipe with your favourite greens or vegetables!

I first encountered this salad dressing when I was attending a weekend retreat and I asked for the recipe right away! After getting a copy of the recipe, I made my own tweaks to improve its nutritional quality and its cancer-fighting ability but keep the same great taste. Yum! I hope you like it.


Ingredients for Cancer-Smart Salad Dressing

Ingredients for Cancer-Smart Salad Dressing

Cancer-Smart Salad Dressing
  • 2 cloves of garlic (crushed)
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • 3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp of Light Tamari
  • ¾ cup flax oil
  • black pepper (to taste)

Mix all ingredients in a jar and stir or shake. Keep refrigerated. Be careful with spills, as the turmeric powder will stain.

The Finished Product, Cancer-Smart Salad Dressing

The Finished Product!


Why Should Cancer Thrivers Enjoy this Recipe?

Let me answer this, one ingredient at a time…

Garlic – There is evidence that the compounds formed after garlic is cut or crushed are able to stop cancer cells. In addition to this, garlic is also anti-inflammatory and an important part of the traditional Mediterranean diet, which shows good evidence for fighting against cancer.

Turmeric – Turmeric is part of the traditional Indian cuisine. The Indian people have much lower rates of cancers that are more common in the west, such as breast, prostrate and colorectal. Turmeric is the strongest anti-inflammatory of all the spices, so it plays an important role in boosting your immune system and helping you to thrive after cancer.

Flax oil – There are not very many ways to incorporate flax oil into your diet since it can’t be cooked, so using it in a salad dressing might just be the best way to consume it! Flax is highest in the plant version of omega-3. Omega-3 is one of my top 4 essential foods for fighting chronic inflammation! Minimizing chronic inflammation helps keep your immune system strong so it can protect you from cancer. Look for flax oil in the refrigerated section of your grocery or health food store and make sure to keep it in the fridge!

Nutritional Yeast

The package on the left contains 200% of the Daily Value for vitamin B12 (meaning it is fortified with vitamin B12). The package on the right does not contain vitamin B12.

Nutritional yeast – This type of yeast is different from the yeast used to make bread. Nutritional yeast is deactivated by heating and so, will not rise. Despite internet claims to the contrary, not all nutritional yeast is a good source of vitamin B12. It is only a source of vitamin B12 when it has been fortified. I recommend you use the vitamin B12 fortified version of nutritional yeast for this recipe. Animal products are the only source of vitamin B12 and since many cancer survivors focus on plant-based diets, their diets may be low in vitamin B12. Low B12 levels puts you at risk for anemia. So, I suggest you use vitamin B12 fortified nutritional yeast.

Black Pepper – Black pepper should always be included in recipes using turmeric. The peperine in black pepper will help your body to absorb the active ingredient in turmeric called curcumin. Curcumin is an anti-cancer compound as well as an anti-inflammatory. You don’t need a lot of black pepper; so, I will leave it up to you how much you want to add.

Apple Cider Vinegar – The internet is full of claims about apple cider vinegar! It turns out there may be some truth to the claims that it helps with weight loss. In one study, participants who consumed 1 Tbsp per day of apple cider vinegar lost an additional 1 lb over 12 weeks. While weight loss is important for cancer thrivers because it reduces inflammation and strengthens the immune system, the apple cider vinegar’s effect is very small. It is included in this salad dressing because of the flavour and acidity it imparts in the recipe and not for it’s “fat busting”.

Tamari – Tamari is a Japanese form of soy sauce. Unlike soy sauce, it is made without wheat (or much less) and it is described as having a darker colour and richer flavour than Chinese soy sauce. I use “light” tamari as it is lower in sodium (salt). I was unable to find any published health benefits of tamari. So, it is included in the recipe for its flavour. Yum!

Want Some Additional Reading on This Topic?

I suggest you check out this article from The Kitchn, The difference between soy sauce and tamari http://www.thekitchn.com/the-difference-between-tamari-and-soy-sauce-ingredient-intelligence-174139

Recipe Credit:

This is an original recipe by Jean LaMantia at www.jeanlamantia.com. It is adapted from a recipe from Hollyhock retreat. Please share with credit to www.jeanlamantia.com.





Evidence to Support Apple Cider Vinegar http://examine.com/faq/does-vinegar-increase-metabolism.html

Book Review: Radical Remission, The Nine Key Factors That Can Make a Real Difference

Radical RemissionKelly Turner is a psychotherapist who specializes in integrative oncology. She has a master’s degree in social work in the field of counseling for cancer patients. During her PhD work, she studied spontaneous healing, which she calls “radical remission”.

Her book, Radical Remission, The Nine Key Factors That Can Make a Real Difference, is a summary of the findings from her PhD work (and beyond). It outlines the nine key factors that all of the radical remission patients had in common. She defines “radical remission” as any cancer remission that is statistically unexpected. This can occur when;

  • a cancer goes away without any conventional treatment;
  • a patient begins with conventional treatment, then abandons this for alternative;
  • or a patient uses both conventional and alternative at the same time

One thing I would like to note is that I take issue with Turner’s use of the term alternative. In my mind, an alternative treatment is one that is used in place of (or as an alternative to) conventional medicine. When it is used alongside conventional treatment, I believe it should be called complimentary or integrative.

During the course of her dissertation research, she focused her attention on two groups. The first group was radical remission survivors. She asked the radical remission survivors this question: “why do you think you healed?” The second group she interviewed was alternative healers who treat cancer.

From her research she found 75 factors could account for the healing. Nine of these factors occurred with the greatest frequency. Her book outlines these nine factors, which are:

  1. Changing your diet
  2. Taking control of your health
  3. Following your intuition
  4. Using herbs and supplements
  5. Releasing suppressed emotions
  6. Increasing positive emotions
  7. Embracing social support
  8. Deepening your spiritual connection
  9. Having strong reasons for living

Regarding the first factor (changing your diet), the majority of people Turner studied greatly reduced or eliminated sugar, meat, dairy, and refined foods, and greatly increased fruit and vegetable intake, choose organic food, and drink filtered water.

Based on my experience in teaching people how to thrive after cancer, these findings are all in alignment with my recommendations. Reading this section of the book was reassuring that the published evidence I use to guide my nutrition recommendations is being confirmed in Turner’s work. If you are not already following these recommendations, then I would suggest that you work towards these goals.

Turner’s overarching goal for her research is to spur on further study of these radical remission cases in the hopes of learning more about the body’s ability to heal itself. I too focus my Thriving After Cancer Coaching and Support Program on uncovering the connections between the immune system, inflammation and cancer. My goal is to help you support your immune system and allow your body to maximize its own healing potential.

Are There Shortcomings in the Research?

I’m not convinced of Turner’s thoroughness in interviewing her subjects. I would have liked more detail about how much investigation she did into the stories of the survivors. In her introduction she states she “conducted over a hundred direct interviews and analyzed over a thousand written cases… after analyzing all these cases carefully and repeatedly using qualitative research methods I identified more than seventy-five different factors that may hypothetically play a role…”

There is nothing in this description to satisfy some nagging questions such as:

  • Did she confirm that the patient had a cancer diagnosis?
  • Did she rule out that the remission was due to the conventional treatment as opposed to one of the nine key factors?

I think these questions are especially nagging for me, because prior to reading Radical Remission, I read Cancer is a Word, Not A Sentence by the late Dr. Robert Buckman, a well-respected oncologist.

In his book, Dr. Robert Buckman describes how he spent two and a half years investigating “miraculous responses”. He states that “in all of the stories that I investigated, I found everyday explanations that had not been considered, and I think it is important to be aware of the more mundane explanations in order to avoid having hopes falsely raised and then suffering deep disappointment.”

You might accuse Dr. Buckman for being overly scrupulous in his debunking of miraculous claims and at the same time Kelly Turner may be guilty of not looking for “everyday explanations” in her enthusiasm to count her subject among one of her radical remissions. I only wish she had been more detailed in her book to tell me the extent to which she validated the patients claims. She also never mentions whether any of the interviewees were excluded from her analysis as their remission was found to be due to their conventional treatment.

Bottom Line for Cancer Thrivers

Despite the fact I am not completely satisfied with the detailing of her research method and the extent to which she ruled out other possible cures, I would still recommend this book. I think many of the suggestions included in the nine factors that could account for the healing are good ones—I think they open up cancer patients to new possibilities.

I especially relate to the Chapter 5 Releasing Suppressed Emotions. In my personal experience with cancer, I believe my deep shame was a major contributor to my cancer. I agree with Turner that releasing these harmful emotions is key. I don’t want to just survive after cancer, I want to thrive and for me that means many things including living my life in integrity with who I really am. I would encourage you to explore this as well. Releasing negative emotions such as fear, trauma, regret, anger or sadness is an important part of thriving after cancer. I encourage you to begin this journey. If you want to hear more about my journey with releasing my shame, you can listen to my interview with Tom Coccanga here.

Should A Cancer Survivor Read This Book?

I think so. It is uplifting to read about others who have survived cancer against the odds. Reading this book will provide a boost to your optimism and in turn, this can boost your immune system and help you to really thrive. For more on how optimism can help boost your immune system, read my blog on the subject here.

Since seven of the nine key factors Turner outlines in the book are emotional or spiritual in nature, you can implement all of these without interfering with conventional cancer treatments. The other two key factors (changing your diet and taking herbs and supplements) will require more individualized care plan. You should seek guidance from a nutritional professional with expertise in oncology. But don’t let that scare you into inaction—making these changes in your life can be easy and fun! Especially when you are supported by a group of other cancer thrivers who are working toward the same goals! Check out how my Thriving After Cancer Coaching and Support Program can help you achieve your goals here.

Want to do some additional reading on this topic?

I suggest you take a look at my blog post, Book Review: Cancer is a word not a Sentence here.





Radical Remission, The Nine Key Factors That Can Make a Real Difference. Kelly A. Turner, HarperOne, 2014.

Cancer is a Word, Not A Sentence. Dr. Robert Buckman. Collins, 2007.

Living With Podcast with Host Tom Coccagna

Podcasts for Cancer Thrivers Series Heading

This is the second in my series of introducing you to my favourite cancer specific podcasts. I highly recommend that you check these out! If you aren’t familiar with podcasts or how to listen on the go, check out my post about the top 10 podcasts for cancer thrivers. You can find the post HERE.

The first podcast I reviewed and recommend is The Cancer Warrior with Mel Majoros. You can read my review and listen to the episode that I was featured on here.

This second podcast review is for a podcast called Living With… with host Tom Coccagna. When I first heard Tom Coccagna speak, he reminded me of Mr. Rogers. Do you remember that children’s show? It went like this…Mr. Rogers would come into the house and change from his outside shoes to his inside ones and his light jacket to a sweater. Then he would talk to kids, have guests and do a craft.

Living WithTom’s voice brought me back to that show and I instantly felt that his voice was one I could trust. Tom is a gentle soul who has been put on this earth to help others. He is an amazing listener. I can’t stand so-called “professional interviewers” who constantly interrupt their guests. Tom doesn’t interrupt. He listens. He lets his guests tell their whole story. And the stories are amazing!

Tom interviews people who have done inspiring things as a result of their cancer. Some have written books, started charities and began donor registry drives. Despite their illnesses, these people put their heart and soul into helping others. The kind of people whose shoulders new patients stand on. They have seen where deficiencies lie and are committed to making things easier for the patients who come after them.

Tom himself lives with a form of myelodysplastic syndrome and will often share parts of his personal experience as he relates to his guest. His podcast is relatively new as it only started in February 2015, and I hope it continues. I think the stories people share on his podcast need to be heard by cancer patients and survivors because they provide hope and inspiration! I encourage you to listen!

The interview I did with Tom was released in June. You can listen to the episode on Tom’s website HERE or access the episode through iTunes HERE. This episode is the only place where I have made public the very stressful events surrounding my cancer diagnosis. Anyone who has had a cancer diagnosis on the heels of a stressful life event will relate to my story. I shared my story because I want you to realize how stress can leave your immune system vulnerable and also because I want you to know how important it is for you to love and accept yourself unconditionally.







The Cancer Warrior—Mel Majoros

Podcasts for Cancer Thrivers Series Heading

I want to introduce you to my favourite podcasts that are hosted by other cancer thrivers (just like you!). Turns out you are not alone—it is great to hear how some cancer thrivers are using their cancer as a springboard to help others. I highly recommend that you subscribe to these podcasts and become a regular listener.

The Cancer Warrior SquareThe first in this series is Mel Majoros. Mel has a top-rated blog, The Cancer Warrior and she hosts her own podcast, The Cancer Warrior on Empower Radio. Mel says a positive mental attitude got her through her cancer and she wants to share this with her listeners. And she does a great job of this!

She began her podcast in April 2013 and it is still going strong. She interviews cancer survivors and draws inspiration from their stories to share with her listeners.

Mel is definitely a team player when it comes to sharing lessons from her cancer experience, providing information and sharing her positive energy with her listeners, who I suspect are predominately cancer patients and survivors.

She is very down to earth and her style is open and honest. She is passionate about hockey and often brings up the subject. I had the opportunity to be interviewed on her podcast and we had instant rapport—I think our shared history of hockey playing had a lot to do with that!

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN to Mel and I talk about nausea, nutrition, the immune system and where my approach to cancer nutrition fits on the continuum. The episode on Mel’s podcast is called “Boosting Your Immune System with Jean LaMantia”.

Maybe some day Mel and I can hit the ice together, until then this interview will serve as our hat trick 😉

>> Here is the link to check out the podcast <<

Go have a listen! Let me know what you think of the episode in the comments section below.

If you aren’t familiar with podcasts or how to listen on the go using your smart phone, then check out my blog post about podcasting and my top 10 list for cancer thrivers! CLICK HERE to learn more!







Soy Foods and Cancer Risk

nutrients for immune function series

Throughout this Nutrients for Immune Function blog series, my goal has been to inform you about nutrition choices you can make to thrive after cancer. For me, nutrition to thrive after cancer means foods that contain nutrients that can help to boost the immune system or foods that contain nutrients that can attack cancer cells. However, sometimes this useful, action-oriented information is buried within complicated scientific research studies or the available information is contradictory! This is why I have been studying the information provided in a presentation National Cancer Institute (NCI), called Cancer Prevention Through Immunomodulation: Does Diet Play a Role? and giving you actionable tips that you can implement right away. No studying on your part needed! (However, you can listen to the entire presentation here if you wish!)

This is the seventh and final blog in my Nutrients for Immune Function series. If you missed reading the first six you can check them out here.

Part 1: “What Foods Boost My Immune System?”

Part 2: “Vitamin E and Your Immune System”

Part 3: “Do Low Vitamin B6 Levels Harm My Immune System?”

Part 4: “Is Fish Oil Beneficial or Detrimental?”

Part 5: “Probiotics and Prebiotics”

Part 6: “The Link Between Mushrooms and Immune Function”

The speaker for the portion of the NCI presentation covering soy foods and immune function was Dr. Leena Hilakivi-Clarke, a professor of oncology at Georgetown University.

The Soy Roller-Coaster

Soy has had an up and down relationship in the cancer community. First up because of the observational studies showing low rates of cancer in Asian women who consume large amounts of soy, then down because cell culture and nude mice studies regarding soy showed increased cancer. Then up again when observational studies on cancer survivors consuming soy showed reduced recurrence of cancer. I hope to explain the importance of this scientific history of the relationship between soy and cancer and then, I hope to enter new territory by showing you the connection between soy and the immune system. Most importantly, I want to provide you with my bottom line on soy for cancer thrivers.

Not All Soy Foods Are Soy-Full

Some soy products are made in traditional ways beginning with mature soy foods. These traditional products are tofu, soymilk, tempeh, and edamame (green immature soybeans). Western soy foods are often made from soy protein isolate and soy protein concentrates. This means that western soy foods do not have the same concentrations of soy as that of traditional soy foods that contain plant components.

What Is In Soy Foods?

Soy contains isoflavones. Isoflavones are often referred to as phytoestrogens, or in other words, plant estrogens. They are plant derived compounds with estrogenic activity. There are two main types of isoflavones—daidzein and genistein. The research presented in the NCI presentation was performed using genistein. As you can see from the chart below, different types of soy foods have different isoflavone content. Some contain more daidzein and others, more genistein.

Isoflavone (soy) content in foods

Source: Dr. Leena Hilakivi-Clarke Cancer Prevention Through Immunomodulation: Does Diet Play a Role? Webinar, National Cancer Institute, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8FUWHHO2O0


This chart also shows that traditional soy foods like 1 cup of tofu has 53 mg of total isoflavones, whereas 3 links of soy sausage have only 3 mg. The isoflavone content of soy protein concentrates vary from 12-102 mg depending on their preparation method. Because of the varying levels of isoflavones in foods, researchers will tend to report the isoflavone intake and not the soy food intake. Presenting the isoflavone content helps to make the results more valid.

A High Intake of Soy Is Directly Related To A Low Incidence of Breast Cancer

The relationship between soy intake and cancer incidence is referred to as an inverse correlation. An inverse correlation means when one factor is high (soy intake) the other factor is low (breast cancer incidence). These patterns have been observed when researchers examine soy intake and breast cancer incidence in various countries around the world.

For example, in Asia, soy intake is very high, and the breast cancer incidence is very low. In contrast, in North American and Europe, soy intake is very low and breast cancer incidence is high. This inverse correlation between soy intake and breast cancer has been ruled out as a genetic one because when Asian women relocate to the U.S. their daughters and granddaughters acquire the same cancer incidence as other Americans.

What Are The Health Benefits Of Soy Foods?

These are some of the proposed health benefits of soy, which Dr. Hilakivi-Clarke outlined. All of which, she points out, remain controversial:

  • Prevention of breast cancer and recurrence
  • Promotion of cardiovascular health
  • Prevention of osteoporosis
  • Prevention of menopausal symptoms
  • Cognitive benefits
Why Is There Fear That Soy Increases Breast Cancer?

As I mentioned, genistein is one of the phytoestrogens (isoflavones) found in soy foods. The chemical structure of genistein is similar to ovarian estradiol that women produce naturally. Studies with human breast cancer cells (in culture or in nude mice) show that as concentrations of genistein are increased, the growth of human breast cancer cells also increase. This is why for years cancer patients and survivors (and the general population) were told to avoid soy foods. There was a fear that soy would increase breast cancer, despite studies showing low rates of breast cancer in Asian women who eat large amounts of soy. The good news is that in recent years, soy is no longer feared and studies have shown that it could actually be a benefit for those concerned about cancer.

High Intake In America is Very Low Intake in Asia

Observational human studies have been done to better understand soy. An observational study observes what happens when women eat their usual diets. This is different from intervention studies in which women would be randomly assigned to either a high soy or low soy diet (studies like this have not been done). The observational human studies have shown that soy intake reduces the risk of breast cancer by about 30%. In the Asian observational studies, a high intake of soy was over 20 mg per day (low intake is 5 mg per day). In Western woman, high intake of soy is only 0.8 mg per day or more (and low intake is less than 0.5 mg per day). Not surprisingly, there is no effect of ‘high’ soy intake in American women…and you can see why! American women have very low soy intake (only 0.8 mg per day, which well below the ‘low’ intake in Asian women of 5 mg per day).

Soy Consumed Throughout Life

As we see in the studies described above, the amount of soy consumed can help to explain the difference in breast cancer incidence between Asian women and American women. The other variable to consider is the time in life when soy is consumed. In Asian cuisine, soy is introduced to the diet of young children and they continue to consume soy throughout their lives. In contrast to this, women in the western world tend to introduce soy into their diet only late in life—usually when they are trying to treat their menopausal symptoms with food.

Soy Intake, Breast Cancer Patients and Survival

The observational studies give us information about incidence of breast cancer, but what about survival from breast cancer? After I looked at several studies that examined this relationship, the overall finding is that soy food intake after breast cancer diagnosis does not have a significant effect on survival. Although, one of the studies did show a reduced mortality with high intake of soy foods. The studies did agree though that there is no negative effect, in other words, there was not a reduction in survival when the patient consumed soy.

Breast Cancer Recurrence and Soy Food Intake

What about recurrence of breast cancer, does soy intake make a difference?

In this case, there is a benefit. The higher the intake of soy after a breast cancer diagnosis, the lower the risk of recurrence. This relationship was true for both Asian and Western women. However, it was pointed out by Dr. Hilakivi-Clarke the women were consuming soy before they got breast cancer.

If I Didn’t Consume Soy Before My Breast Cancer Diagnosis, Should I Start Now?

This is a common question of many western woman confronted with a breast cancer diagnosis. This question has not been investigated, so it isn’t known what the effect would be.

How Does Soy Impact My Immune System?

Genistein, one of the isoflavones in soy, has been shown to have a positive impact on the immune system. It can enhance both cytotoxic T cells and Natural Killer cells. Cytotoxic T cells and Natural Killer cells are immune cells that can attack cancer. Genistein has been shown to inhibit IL-6 and TNF alpha, which are known to promote cancer cell growth. Genistein is also anti-inflammatory. Its anti-inflammatory property is protective against cancer as inflammation can drive the cancer process.

Soy During Cancer Treatment

Chemotherapy and radiation can create inflammation. This inflammation can have negative effects by impairing the effect of the treatment. The genistein in soy foods can prevent therapy-induced inflammation and stimulate anti-tumor activity. The overall effect of genistein can be an improved response to the cancer therapy.

Genistein Needs A Functioning Immune System To Fight Cancer

In order for genistein to have beneficial effects, an immune system is required. This can explain why studies that use only human breast cancer cells (in culture or in nude mice) showed that soy increased the cancer cell growth. A nude mouse doesn’t have a functioning immune system, neither do the isolated cancer cell cultures. So, genistein is not directly helping to fight cancer cells. The benefit from soy (genistein) comes from how it supports our immune systems.

What Should I Do as a Cancer Thriver?

Soy foods

Based on the information in the NCI presentation, I would recommend that you continue to include whole traditional soy foods in your diet. This would include edamame, soybeans, tofu, soymilk (made from whole soy beans) miso and tempeh among others.

How Much Soy Should I Eat?

Dr. Hilakivi-Clarke recommends 2-3 servings per day of soy foods. No studies have been done yet to shown whether fermented or non-fermented is better. Also no information on the benefit of beginning soy foods after a breast cancer diagnosis have been published. But based on the many benefits of genistein on the immune system, I would suggest that even if soy wasn’t part of your diet before your cancer, it could be a benefit. But until further research is done, this will remain an educated recommendation on my part.

Examples of Healthy Servings of Soy Foods
  1. 3 oz of tempeh—tempeh is fermented tofu and it is popular in Indonesian cuisine. If you aren’t familiar with it, I encourage you to buy a block and slice it, marinate it in an Asian dressing and grill it on your sandwich grill. It’s great in sandwiches and salads!
  1. Organic Tofu Cutlets—extra firm tofu can be sliced about ¼ inch thick and prepared like a cutlet of meat. It can be dipped in scrambled egg, then a bread crumb/ground flax seed herb mixture and pan-fried.
  1. Soy Beverage—this can be used in place of dairy. I suggest that you read the label closely to make sure you are getting an unsweetened version made from whole soy beans and not soy protein concentrate.

Note: I recommend organic soy products, because soy has been approved for genetic modification (GM). You can find out more about GM foods in my blog post, GMO or GM-No?

Want to do some additional reading on this topic?

I suggest you take a look at this resource: Oregon State University Soy Isoflavones






Soy Presentation Begins at 1:04 in the presentation: Cancer Prevention Through Immunomodulation


J. Nutr 140 Supplement, 2010: Soy- Exploration of the Nutrition and Health Effect of Whole soy


Warri A. et al The role of early life genistein exposures in modifying breast cancer risk.” Br. J Cancer. 2008 May 6;98(9):1485-93.

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