Diet, Genetics and Making a Difference

A gift for cancer survivors - Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen

We continue to hear that our book, Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen, makes a wonderful gift for women facing cancer (or even if cancer isn’t on the table). This is something we love to hear, because when we wrote it, our goal was to get this book into the hands of as many women as possible after a cancer diagnosis – because it’s exactly what we wanted when we first heard the words “you have cancer,” but couldn’t find anywhere. We felt like if we had been given this book, we may not have felt so alone, confused and lost. We also realized, as we wrote the book, that it was also fitting for any woman trying to prevent disease and be healthy and happy.

In light of all the buzz about Angelina Jolie’s surgery after discovering she carries the BRCA-1 gene mutation (making her a cancer previvor), it’s important to note that diet and lifestyle does affect genetics – crazy, right? And this is why The Kicking Kitchen’s, Annette Ramke, as a breast and ovarian cancer survivor and carrier of a mutation to the BRCA-1 gene, chooses to eat well and use food as a tool in her cancer-kicking toolbox. No matter what personal decisions are made around preventative surgery and other treatment options, what we put into our bodies either supports or hurts overall health.

In quoting David Katz, MD, the amazing voice behind the foreword for our book: “We can, in fact, nurture nature.” He refers to a study in which 30 men with prostate cancer had major lifestyle and diet intervention – they ate a plant-based, whole food diet, included moderate activity and addressed stress management. Katz says they found “roughly 50 cancer suppressor genes became more active, and nearly 500 cancer promoter genes became less so. This, and other studies like it, go so far as to indicate that the long-standing debate over the relative power of nature versus nurture is something of a boondoggle, for there is no true dichotomy.”

So while many factors contribute to cancer and our health, including genetic makeup, diet can indeed play a role, even if you carry a genetic mutation, such as one on the BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 genes. As we always say, it may help a little, or it may help a lot, but food will make a difference.

The information and recipes in Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen are designed to help the person in cancer treatment, dealing with side effects like nausea, mouth sores, fatigue, healing from surgery, etc., but they also support the the immune system and offer cancer-fighting foods. The recipes are simple, healthy, so yummy, and an enjoyable way to take back a bit of control in your health.

If you are looking for a gift for a loved one, perhaps a gal pal or woman you know who is dealing with Cancer World, we hope you’ll consider Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen. Please help us spread the word and get this book into the hands of those women who need the support, information and recipes, from two gals who have been through it and want more than anything to make a difference for the next person. Cancer sucks, but we don’t need to sit back and just let the doctors do their (important!) jobs – what we do makes a difference. The food we eat, how we live every day, affects our health more than many of us realize.

The Secret Ingredient : Love


By Annette Ramke, CHHC

It’s mealtime.

Maybe you’re cooking an old favorite.

Or you found a new recipe you can’t wait to try.

In either case you’ve been to the store, picked up everything the recipe calls for and are all set to make your chosen dish.

Food is washed, diced, chopped, mixed together, cooked, baked, tossed, or blended. All according to the directions on paper or in your head.

But something’s likely missing. Something to make your meal complete and your food more delicious than you can imagine.

It’s a secret ingredient. One that you’ll rarely find listed in a recipe.

What is it, you ask?

Photo: Fangol

Photo: Fangol

It’s love.

While that may sound a little “fluffy” to some, I am pretty darn serious.

Because when we “get” the fact that what we put into our body matters, then that means all of it.

And so it matters – the conditions under which are food is grown or raised. It matters the care given, how the plants and animals are treated and, in turn, our earth.

Think of the kind of energy you are taking into your body from an animal raised in factory farm conditions and, under stress, transported and butchered in a huge “processing facility” versus the animal raised and lovingly cared for according to its natural ways on a family farm and which is not forced into trucks at the end of its life before it reaches our plates.

Think of the energy of produce grown from genetically-modified seeds, fungicide and pesticide-laden as compared to fruits and vegetables that are grown organically, using nature’s tools for pest management and for protecting our environment.

Our body not only takes in the protein, fat, carbohydrates and vitamins of our food, it takes in the whole essence of it — from the way it was grown, to the manner in which it is prepared.

You can test this by seeing how you feel after eating certain foods. There may be more aggression, more sadness, more unsettledness. But also more joy, contentment and wellbeing.

Beyond how our food is grown there is the atmosphere in which it was prepared. Can you notice the difference in how you feel between eating, say, a fast food meal versus a home-cooked meal made with care and love? Or a home-cooked meal made under feelings of stress, anger and resentment compared with a restaurant meal made by a chef passionate about real food and her work?

I am going to venture to say that there is a light bulb going off for some right now. Maybe you had never stopped to reflect on this.

So when we shop for our food, when we get in the kitchen, we have a lot of power, actually!

First, the act of showing up in the kitchen, of placing a priority on food, is an act of radical self-love. This comes from realizing that your meal is not just there to fill a hole in your stomach, but rather to nourish and support your body. When you bring your presence, care and love to preparing your food, you are not just making dinner, you are caring for your body and your life.

So….grow the love.

Grow the love inside you.

Our tips:

Choose food grown with love.

Make self-care (self-love!) a priority – one aspect of which is preparing healthy meals for yourself.

And when you are in the kitchen, treat this time as a scared time as much as possible. Feel the gratitude for your food. Your health or the path toward health you are on. For the people you will share the food with, whether yourself or a whole group. Really feeling the gratitude, the love, as you are preparing and eating a meal makes all the difference between food that merely pacifies a hungry stomach and food that helps us create a life full of meaning and well-being.

Love your food. Love yourself. Love your life.


Food is Love

Kendall: Friday’s tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School has affected so many of us, Annette and I included. We are moms: Annette’s beautiful daughter is 13. My little guy is 15 months. And at the moment, it’s difficult to find the motivation to talk about food, post a recipe or schedule another book signing. I only want to hold my baby, focus on my family, send love and peace to those stricken with grief in Newtown and try to figure out what to take away from something so unbelievably heartbreaking.

In the last few days, I’ve thought about how much I want to offer kindness and compassion to every person, everyday, myself included. I’ve realized how disconnected we often are from the people around us, be it loved ones or complete strangers. I’ve felt relief and peace by immersing myself in love from my munchkin, my hubby, family and friends. I’ve considered what protecting my child and my family means to me. I’ve contemplated what it means to be a parent and what a parent’s job really is. And I’ve realized how important it is to me to get away from the cell phone and computer, turn off the tv and just be present with myself and the people around me.

So those things aren’t about food, cooking, or the kitchen necessarily, but they are connected. And in fact, preparing and eating food can be the center of most of what I mentioned above.

As a mom, I prepare food for my family with love. I put together healthy and tasty meals and snacks for my kiddo, knowing that he will grow and thrive in large part because of it. He’s so interested in watching me chop, stir, season, and he often gets his own spoon and pot to stir on the kitchen floor (which keeps him occupied for about 30 seconds).

Food is a way to express love, to help balance and heal, to promote strength and renewal.

Loved ones come together over meals, providing an opportunity to be kind and compassionate, to connect, share, laugh and just be present.

Last night over a simple dinner of lentils, roasted root veggies, rice and kale, my little family talked about the things in our lives for which we are grateful. My baby is a little over a year old, and I swear as I explained what it means to be thankful and my hubby and I shared what we are thankful for, he listened intently and understood it on some level. He then babbled away, surely sharing with us the things for which he’s grateful.

So while I’m not inspired to keep up with food tips, recipes and kitchen talk right now, I’ve rediscovered that food is a catalyst for so much beyond fueling and supporting our bodies. Food is compassion. Food is kindness. Food is tradition. Food is healing. Food is connection. Food is gratitude. Food is love. And those are things on which I do want to focus – now and always.


7 Steps to Finding Your Food Groove

Making the decision to begin changing your diet can feel overwhelming and confusing – possibly so much so that you end up making no changes at all! And that’s not what we want to see happen. Once you’ve decided you’re ready to begin eating better (which is really the first step!), then take on the rest in baby steps. Go one day at a time and one goal at a time.

Perhaps you decide to begin eating a leafy green vegetable every day or 4 days of the week. Maybe you want to try drinking more water or eating more whole grains (like brown rice) instead of processed grains (breads, pastas – especially the white flour ones!). Start small and add on as you go.

Here are 7 general steps to finding your groove with food. These are great areas to start with, and you may want to break down your steps and goals even more. Remember to be realistic, but also push yourself to see just what you can do! You’d be surprised!

1.) Drink more water: There is no right amount of water to drink, but generally the bigger and more active you are, the more you should drink. A good rule of thumb is a 1/2 ounce of water per pound of weight. So a 160 pound person might start with 80 ounces of water (or 10 eight-ounce cups). Staying hydrated is imperative during cancer treatment! This will help to increase your energy, support your immune system, reduce nausea and other treatment and cancer side effects.

2.) Practice cooking: Cooking is a fundamental step to healthier living. By making your own meals you know what’s going into them. Meals don’t need to take hours to prepare and involve multiple ingredients. Pick a healthy recipe or two a week to add in to your routine. 

3.) Increase leafy green vegetables: These are seriously lacking in the American diet and they are most essential for creating long-lasting health. More specifically they help eliminate depression, improve liver, gallbladder and kidney function, increase energy and boost your blood. Try kale, collards, mustard greens, dandelion greens, spinach, and chard.

4.) Increase whole grains: It’s not these types of carbohydrates that have led to the obesity epidemic, but rather the processed goods like doughnuts. Whole grains are some of the best sources of nutritional support and provide long-lasting energy. Try brown rice, quinoa, oats, and millet. 

5.) Increase sweet vegetables: People forget that these exist and they are the perfect medicine for the sweet tooth. Instead of depending on processed sugar, you can add more naturally sweet flavors to your diet and dramatically reduce sweet cravings and better support your body. Try sweet potatoes, beets, carrots and squash.

6.) Experiment with protein: The majority of Americans eat way too much protein and mostly in the form of animal meat. Pay attention to how different types of protein make you feel. Try other forms like beans, lentils, nuts or fermented soy (tempeh, miso).

7.) Eat less meat, dairy, sugar and processed foods; consume less coffee, alcohol and tobacco: Did you notice we said eat less instead of don’t eat? If we told you not to drink coffee or eat sweets you would want them even more. By increasing your whole grains, vegetables and water you will naturally crowd out the more processed items, so this step often comes naturally (and it’s much easier to add in good food than try to restrict yourself from the not-so-good foods).


Adapted from 10 Steps to Boost Your Health for Life, Joshua Rosenthal,