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What To Eat When You’re Recovering From Cancer

Stewed coconut, tomato, and chickpeas Image by The Living Kitchen

In 2018, an estimated 1,735,350 people were diagnosed with cancer, making it one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Chances are someone you know or will know in your lifetime will have cancer. Sarah Grossman and Tamara Green, both experts in cancer-care cooking, are familiar with these statistics. The two holistic nutritionists embarked on a quest to create an unusual kind of cookbook, one with recipes dedicated to cancer patients or people living with them, both during and post-treatment.

“When we were younger, friends of ours in their twenties were diagnosed with cancer,” says Green. “We thought cancer was for other people, for older people.” In their position as nutritionists and chefs, the two started to wonder if there was anything they could do to help, and they began to research, delving into the world of phytonutrients and bone broths. Ginger plays a big part in many of the recipes in the book because of its role in easing nausea. Broths feature prominently because clients have told them broths are easy to eat.

Tamara Green and Sarah Grossman, authors of “The Living Kitchen” Image by Jen Stark

Grossman and Green have an 8-year-old company called the Living Kitchen, a meal delivery and private chef service. 25-30% of their clients at The Living Kitchen are cancer patients, and the recipes in the cookbook were inspired, created for, and tweaked with their help.

“We really wanted the book to be comforting, to help people feel a little less overwhelmed. With cancer, a lot of people don’t know what to eat or where to start. We really tried to make things as simple as possible,” says Grossman.

“When we find out someone has cancer, all we want to do is help, but we’re not sure what would make an impact,” says Green. “People bring comfort food like lasagnas, which are delicious but not helpful. This book is a way to walk people through the process of taking care of their loved ones.”

Here are their big three tips for feeding cancer patients, followed by one of their signature recipes below:

  1. Reduce or eliminate all refined sugar or refined grain, because of how negatively it affects the immune system.

  2. Eat the rainbow. Load up on all the colorful vegetables and fruits as you possibly can, because of all the amazing vitamins and phytonutrients.

  3. Add in healing broth, whether its a bone broth or a veggie broth. Its one of the best things you can drink during a cancer treatment, because it provides hydration, calories and nutrients.

Stewed Coconut, Tomato and Chickpeas

When you need to feel cozy and toasty, make this recipe. A stew is the perfect dish to cook when you need something filling, quick, and comforting. This is a great recipe to freeze and reheat after a day at the hospital, when you need a warming meal to pick you up. Tomatoes and coconut are a classic duo and when married with South Asian spices, a really tasty stew comes to life. Chickpeas, carrots, and sweet potatoes thicken the dish and add to the already gorgeous orange-reddish color. Garnish with cilantro and spinach for an extra oomph of freshness.

Makes 4 servings

Freeze: 2-3 months

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 35 minutes


2 tsp virgin coconut oil

½ cup diced yellow onion

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp minced peeled ginger root

2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp coriander

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp sea salt

Pinch of pepper

1 sweet potato, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes

2 carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch thick circles

15oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed, or 1½ cups cooked chickpeas

14.5oz can diced tomatoes

½ cup full-fat coconut milk

2 cups baby spinach

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Optional: 1 cup cooked quinoa, millet, or rice


  1. Place a medium-sized pot on the stove over medium heat. Add the coconut oil and sauté the onions for 3 minutes. Then add the garlic, ginger, turmeric, coriander, cinnamon, salt, and pepper and sauté for another minute.

  2. Add the sweet potatoes, carrots, and chickpeas and toss around so they get coated in the spices.

  3. Pour in the diced tomatoes and coconut milk.

  4. Bring to a boil, cover, and allow to simmer for 30 minutes. You don’t need to stir it; just let it do its thing.

  5. At the 30-minute mark, drop the spinach into the pot and turn off the heat.

  6. Serve hot, garnished with fresh cilantro. If you like, serve over quinoa, rice, or millet.

  7. Place in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for 2–3 months.

We like to pair this with a grain, although it’s not necessary. Quinoa, brown rice, or millet work remarkably well. Cook these grains separately at the same time as the stew so they can be ready together.

Excerpted from The Living Kitchen by Tamara Green & Sarah Grossman. Copyright © 2019 Tamara Green & Sarah Grossman. Photography by Daniel Alexander. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Shira Feder is a writer. She’s at [email protected] and @shirafeder

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