It’s easy to take for granted during our busy routines, but food plays such an important part of our lives. It nourishes us, it comforts us, it connects us to our culture… and it can help heal us, too. 

Cancer is a serious illness that affects millions of people around the world. While there is no guaranteed way to prevent cancer, there are some foods that have been shown to help fight it off. (Of course, there’s more to it than that, and you should always consult with a physician.)

My guest on this podcast episode is Judy Witts Francini. Besides all the aforementioned roles of food in our lives, for Judy, it’s also her livelihood. She’s been involved with the procurement, preparation, and most importantly, the enjoyment of food at every level. Better still, not “just” food, but the traditional regional dishes of Italy.

Her primary domain is none other than the celebrated region of Tuscany where she conducts market tours, cooking classes, and organizes bespoke foodie excursions in the Chianti area. 

But like many of us, the Covid pandemic disrupted her life in many ways. And if that wasn’t enough, her doctor dropped the big “C-bomb” on her right in the middle of it all.

Fortunately, she had access to great healthcare. What’s more, she also knew enough about the direct relationship between food and health to look for ways that she could be actively involved with her own recovery.

Of course, she consulted with dietary professionals and did so under the supervision of her doctor. So in the end, she found a path that worked for her. 

She explains it better during our conversation, but I’ll call it a “Modified Keto” plan, or maybe “Keto alternating with the Mediterranean Diet,” with some time-restricted eating mixed in. Naturally, everyone’s exact “prescription” will be a little different.

Beyond discussing the role of dietary modifications in her cancer recovery, we also talked about Italian food culture, and how it’s woven into the culture at large. 

We talked about a few specific food regions. Besides Tuscany, we also visited Western Sicily and the Modena area of Emilia Romagna (where they eat very fatty foods, yet nobody is fat).

We discussed the joys of a tasting menu, where you sit back and let the chef make all the decisions.

We chatted about the Italian aperitivo, which is NOT to be confused with Happy Hour, even if they more or less occur at the same time of day.

Finally we agreed on the importance of daily movement and being active. A simple, yet powerful takeaway she gave me: everyday, just walk and drink lots of water. Sounds so easy, yet in our busy lives we can forget to do both. They’re free and will have important effects on your wellbeing, both short-term and long-term. 

Foods That Help Fight Cancer Naturally 

If you look around the web, there is no shortage of advice on specifically which foods you should incorporate into your daily diet to help fight cancer. Read three or four of these websites and you’ll notice the same recommendations being mentioned frequently.

Foods that contain antioxidants

Antioxidants are substances that can protect cells from damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals. Free radicals are generated during normal metabolism, but they can also be triggered by external factors like pollution, UV radiation, cigarette smoke, and a poor diet. When free radicals build up in the body, they can cause cell damage, leading to various health problems.

Many foods contain antioxidants, including fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices. Some of the most popular antioxidant-rich foods include blueberries, raspberries, kale, dark chocolate, nuts, and garlic. Including these foods in your diet can help to protect your cells from free radical damage and promote overall health.

Foods that contain phytochemicals

Phytochemicals are substances that are found in plants. Some of them have been shown to have health benefits, such as reducing the risk of cancer or heart disease. There are many different types of phytochemicals, and they are found in a variety of foods. Here are a few examples of foods that contain phytochemicals:

  • Fruits and vegetables: Phytochemicals are found in all types of fruits and vegetables, particularly apples, berries, broccoli, and carrots.
  • Nuts and seeds: Phytochemicals are also found in nuts and seeds, such as almonds, flaxseeds, and pumpkin seeds.
  • Tea: Tea is a good source of phytochemicals, especially green and white tea.
  • Chocolate: Chocolate contains a type of phytochemical called flavonoids.

Foods that are high in fiber

There are many benefits to eating foods that are high in fiber, including promoting regularity, preventing constipation, and lowering cholesterol levels. Fiber is found in plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Here are some examples of high-fiber foods that you can add to your diet:

  • Fruits: apples, bananas, berries, oranges, pears
  • Vegetables: artichokes, Brussels sprouts, carrots, green peas, broccoli
  • Whole grains: oats, barley, brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread
  • Legumes: black beans, lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas, hummus

Foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that are essential to human health. They can be found in a variety of food sources, including fish, nuts, and seeds. Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for heart health, brain development, and joint function. They can also help to reduce inflammation throughout the body.

Some of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, herring, and anchovies. omega-3 fatty acids are also found in flaxseeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds. You can also get omega-3 fatty acids from supplements, but it’s always best to get them from food sources.

Grazie a Judy Witts Fancini!

Originally from California,Tuscany has been Judy’s home since 1984. She had found that the city of Florence held all her passions for food, wine, and art in one place. She shares these passions in her week-long culinary programs, food market tours, and on her blog. When she’s not in Tuscany, she’s often found in Sicily, and always searching for recipes to share.

You can have a look at her tour offerings on her website: Divina Cucina

If you can’t make it to Italy this year, consider accessing her considerable knowledge base via her Patreon page.

Or at the very least, follow her on Facebook for some wonderful photos of her latest creations. 

Rick Zullo

Former doctor, current science teacher, and life-long food lover, Rick's passion for Mediterranean cuisine was ignited while living as an expat in Rome, Italy. 


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