system, making people more vulnerable to infection and illness from viruses, bacteria, and the like. I’ve noted the foods that have antiviral and antimicrobial properties, such as rosemary, cloves, and mustard seed, which may offer protective benefits. One final point about my benchmark for all these citations, namely peer-reviewed scientific studies. You’ll see a lot of qualifiers in how I describe the medicinal activity of foods—lots of ‘may’s and ‘could’s, as in ‘this may help reduce the risk of colon cancer.’ There’s a reason for this. While the number of studies looking at the food/cancer-fighting connection has exploded over the past ten years, much of the work has been done in the lab or on animals. Promising? Yes. But it’s too early in many cases to definitively say that something that works in a mouse will work in humans. Similarly, when studies of human diet show a particular population to be less prone to a certain cancer, it often takes a long time to tease what particular food—and what compound in that food—is responsible. Generally, the greatest amount of study in humans has come with research that looks at antioxidants and beta-carotene and how they affect cancer rates. The newer research, more limited to the lab and animals at this point, looks at phytochemicals—the properties that make up everything in a plant from its pigment to its enzymes—and how they interact when consumed. All this research is, in my opinion, great news. But the fact that the jury is still out in many areas argues—and my medical experts concur—for playing the odds when it comes to eating by consuming a wide-ranging diet. That way, you’ll consume more potentially beneficial nutrients, which is really the name of the game. I like to think of the culinary pharmacy as a shop that’s open 24/7, with something in every aisle that can help people thrive during treatment. It’s one of my favorite tools in the tool kit. To find recipes that include each ingredient, consult the index. Cancer-Fighting Ingredients Agave Nectar: Anti-inflammatory. For all its sweetness, agave nectar actually has a lower glycemic index (in other words, sugar content) than many other sweeteners. This makes it an excellent substitute for folks worried about their blood sugar levels during chemotherapy, especially if they’re also receiving steroids that affect blood sugar. Allspice/Allspice Berries: Digestion aid, antimicrobial. Allspice is great if you’re feeling bloated or gassy, as it relieves indigestion and soothes discomfort, especially in the upper intestines. Its volatile oil component is also a weak antimicrobial agent. Almonds: Anti-inflammatory. Almonds are a fantastic source of fiber, which may help prevent colon cancer. They have twice the antioxidant power with their skins on. They’re also good blood sugar regulators, important if you’re on chemo or steroids that can elevate blood sugar.