Educational Information

Kitchen Scents

Why herbs and spices?

Herbs and spices come strait from the plant whether it's the leaves, bark, fruit, seed, or root, so naturally they contain many similar antioxidants and phytonutrients that are in fruits and vegetables. These antioxidants and phytonutrients are what make herbs and spices so great and help fight free radicals in the body to prevent cancer formation and growth. Herbs and spices are also a great and natural way to add flavor without packing on the salt and/or calories.

What are some examples?

Many of us are familiar with the different herbs and spices that are often used but many may not know about the cancer fighting protection they contain. One example is oregano. Oregano is found to have high levels of antioxidants both fresh and dry and is also a great source of Vitamin C (Oregano nutrition facts, 2012.) Another great root spice is ginger. Not only does it have high antioxidant levels but it contains a compound called gingerol, which can help ease an upset stomach. In the same family as ginger is a spice called turmeric. Turmeric has been shown to have cancer prevention effects on colon, breast, lung, stomach, skin and prostate cancer. Other examples of high antioxidant sources can be found in cloves, allspice, cinnamon, basil, peppermint, rosemary, and even more.

How to use them

Fresh is best. Although dried herbs and spices are still a great source of nutrients and antioxidants, some of their nutritional benefit can be lost in the drying process. Try to use fresh herbs and spices when you can, but dried are still a great source of flavor and are very beneficial.

When to use them

Herbs and spices are great to liven up any meal. Here are links to some easy recipes and tips for your spice rack. *Baked tomatoes and oregano: -Tomatoes are still in season and it's a low fat, flavor packed dish! *Cumin Curried Hummus: -Three spices in one great dish. Try it with pita chips and it's a great snack anytime of the year. *Cinnamon is always good to add on your oatmeal in the morning or with your yogurt for a snack. Try baked apples with cinnamon for something sweet and wholesome. *Add fresh dill to any sandwich to give it a kick of flavor. * Whenever you have pasta, cut up some fresh basil to mix in the sauce. It not only gives the dish a fresh flavor but a pop of color to make it more appealing!


Liu M.D., S., McManus M.S. R.D., K., & Carlino CEC, J. A. (2006). Healing gourmet eat to fight cancer. New York: McGraw-Hill. Oregano nutrition facts. (2012). Retrieved from

Cancer and Constipation

While staying on the topic of symptoms that can occur with cancer, constipation could also be included on that list. Constipation can be defined as fewer than three bowel movements a week or a bowel movement that is hard and difficult to expel. Although there are laxatives and medications that can be used to relieve these symptoms, food and physical activity can be an easy and assessable way to do the same. Here's how:

Increase fiber intake. Fiber, which goes through the body undigested, acts as a bulky agent to help push food through the colon. Fruit, vegetables, and whole grains are packed with fiber and are all good choices to eat when experiencing constipation. Beans are also a great fiber packed food with at least 4 grams of fiber per serving. A can of Bush's Black Beans contains 6 grams of fiber for 1/2 cup of beans.

Try this easy black bean soup for a quick fiber packed meal.

  • 1 can black beans (rinsed)

  • 1 1/2 cup chicken of vegetable broth

  • 2 tsp. cumin

  • 1 cup salsa

  • Cook together until warm and then blend together for a creamy soup.

Drink plenty of water and increase physical activity. Water will help lubricate the food and intestine to make the passage of food through the colon easier and physical activity helps moves things along more quickly through the intestine.

What is constipation? Constipation is often thought lack of a bowel movement, but it is much more than that. Constipation can be defined as fewer than three bowel movements a week but also can be defined as difficulty of passing a stool or a stool that is hard. (Nelms, 2011)

Why is this a symptom for cancer patients? As mentioned in previous information, cancer treatments can often lead to a lack of consumption of food and water. With the lack of fiber and lack of water in the diet, constipation can increase. A decrease in physical activity can be a factor for cancer patients due to low energy or desire to work out. This lack of movement may lead to constipation. Many medications can also lead to constipation symptoms. Morphine based drugs, which are taken for pain relief, may reduce bowel activity. Although constipation does occur in non-cancer patients, it is important to be aware, especially during treatment, to fuel the body with anti constipation remedies.

Fiber. Fiber is often the first thing doctors, dieticians, and nurses recommend when there is a problem with bowel movements, but what exactly does it do? First, fiber is found naturally in food and is undigested as it moved through the body. There are two types of fibers: soluble and insoluble. Soluble gets its name because it dissolves in water. As it attracts water and "bulks up" it slows down the digestive process given your belly a fuller effect. This is often the fiber that is wanting for weight control, because it keeps you feeling fuller longer. Examples of this are oatmeal, lentils, apples, oat bran, flaxseed and many more. Insoluble fiber does the opposite. It does not dissolve in water and instead pushing waste and food more quickly through the colon. These types of fibers have more of a laxative effect (which can help relieve constipation.) Examples of this type of fiber are carrots, broccoli, onions, wheat bran, whole wheat and grains, grapes, fruit and many skins on vegetables. Although insoluble fiber may provide quicker relief, it is still important to get both types of fibers in your diet. It is good to get at least an average of 15 grams of fiber each day, however many recommendations are higher with women at 25 grams a day and men 30-38 grams a day. However, if fiber is just being added to the diet, start slow by added a couple of extra grams a day and make 25 grams a long-term goal. (Zelman, 2010)

Fluids. Drinking plenty of fluids is usually the second recommendation made along with increased fiber intake. Water is essential for our bodies for many reasons but also to avoid constipation. As your food waste makes its way through the intestines, if a person is dehydrated, the intestine will soak up water from the food waste and this will result in the hard stools. Water will also act as a lubricant for the intestine, to make the passage of food and waste easier. A general rule of thumb is to drink 8 to 10 glasses a day (8 oz.) Water would be considered an ideal option, however any other beverage or clear soup can be counted towards your goal. Fluids that contain caffeine, such as coffee, tea, soda, should not be counted in your goal of 8 to 10 glasses a day because they are a "diuretic" which does the opposite and dehydrates the body. (Seibert, 2012)

Physical Activity. Being physically active will help speed up the digestive process and move food more quickly through the intestine. However, do give the body some time to do its digestive process before diving into activity. As you eat, blood flows to the stomach and intestines, but if physical activity is taken place right after eating, the blood will flow to the heart and muscles instead. This can delay the digestive process and can cause constipation. Try to give the body about an hour, or until you feel less pressure in the stomach, before you start in on your exercise. (Seibert, 2011)

Some recipes. Getting healthy fiber into your diet can be as easy as wash, eat. Grab an apple, some broccoli, carrots, pears, grapes, pretty much any fruit or vegetable wash and eat. Depending on the size of the fruit or veggie, this could yield at least 1 to 3 grams of easy healthy fiber. But if you are looking for more delicious fiber packed meals here are some examples.

LinkFor breakfast try...

Slow cooker maple berry oatmeal- this yields 3 grams of fiber per serving.

LinkFor lunch try...

Easy Black Bean Soup- this yields about 6 grams fiber per 1/2 cup serving

LinkFor a snack try...

Snackin' Popcorn- this yields about 6 grams fiber per serving and its as easy as pop, chop, mix, enjoy!

LinkFor dinner try...

Herbed quinoa- this dish provides not only 5 grams of fiber per serving but also 13 grams of protein!

LinkAnother dinner option...

Pasta Primavera- don't let the lengthy ingredient list scare you, this dish provides 10 grams of fiber, and can be great for multiple nights

Sources: Nelms M., Sucher K.P., Lacey K., Roth S.L. (2011). Nutrition therapy and pathophysiology 2nd edition. California: Wadsworth cengage learning. Seibert, MD, A. (2012). Water: A fluid way to manage constipation. Retrieved from Seibert, MD, A. (2011). Exercise to ease constipation. Retrieved from Zelman MPH, RD, LD, K. M. (2010). Dietary fiber: insoluble vs. soluble. Retrieved from

Other Relevant Reading:

DocumentChemo Brain (click here!)
DocumentTaste Changes (click here!)
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