By Ray Klerck
Each morning you’re blinded by a rising ball of cancer. Lurk in the shadows. Slap on sunscreen with Zuckerberg-like vigour. Disobey and it’s death by a thousand scalpel cuts. But wait, humans haven’t always suffered these technical issues with the sun and the skin cancer it causes. Curiously, you’re designed to thrive on sunshine’s ability to take that heart-clogging cholesterol and create vitamin D.
Why do you need vitamin D? Longevity. Disease fighting. Immunity. Cardio health. Bone strength. Teeth. Weight loss. Decreases heart disease. The benefit list fills phone books. Yet, you’re medically advised that a tan and smoking are same-same. Use SPF 50. Take vitamin D supplements. The long-term results of this mean we’re fatter, unhealthier, and unhappier. Huh!
Is It Just a Freckle?
Six years ago, I was diagnosed with skin cancer. Scary? Yeah, not really a big deal considering 1 in 3 Australians get it. Some expire thanks to it; others live to tell the tale. The memes laughing about how Australia is a place where everything wants to kill you, leave out the sun’s considerable contribution to the death toll. It executes 1, 174 Australians yearly.
My prognosis was standard. Get dermal carcinomas hacked off my meatsuit twice a year. Flame haired, freckle faced and Australian, my future’s forecast was swelteringly heroic pain with a chance of Deadpool’s complexion. This inspired me to investigate how food might spare my bark from the blade. Fortunately, with six years of all clear test results, I uncovered an inexplicable ally: bitter foods.
Your Time in The Sun!
Before we talk food, you may wonder if my scalpel prone skin is relevant to you now? Yes! Non-melanoma remains the world’s most common cancer. It impacts people of every skin type. You’re told to cover up. Throw shade upon yourself. This outdated advice may have caused certain health problems. Up to 40% of Europeans are vitamin D deficient. As many as 1 in 4 people worldwide are projected to be vitamin D deficient by 2050.
Your vitamin D levels are even more applicable in the wake of the pandemic. Over 80% of COVID-19 patients are reported to have a vitamin D deficiency. And a ‘Big D’ deficiency makes you 14 times more likely to get the severest case of this disease. Yet, taking vitamin D as dietary supplement can’t treat or prevent the disease. Perhaps we need it from the sun, but in our quest to deploy evasive tactics against skin cancer, we’ve invited an unwelcome chink into our armory. So, too little, and too much sun makes you unhealthy. Confused yet?
A Fresh Insight
We once had a healthy tolerance for the sunshine, so what changed? Your food, for one. Today, we only eat the stuff we like. Prime cuts. Sweet delights. Processed goodness. Dinner plates have lost a taste we once ate with every meal. Bitterness. We know this because your body is teaming with both sweet and bitter receptor sites within your organs that are designed to taste then trigger responses to food. These receptors are everywhere. Your nasal cavity. Your airways. Your pancreas. Your gut.
These communicate with your brain subconsciously. Directing hormones. Mounting immune responses. Controlling your weight. Sweet foods are the villains. No secrets there. Bitter foods are the heroes, even though you may not enjoy them. Broccoli. Leafy greens. Walnuts. On your tongue, your conscious mind may relish certain bitter flavors. Coffee. Olives. Whiskey. Yes, you do get some pleasure some of them, but tend to tolerate their taste in mini amounts.
Back to my skin cancer. I wanted to heal mine from the inside. Revert my body to its factory setting. Prevention. Anticipation. Healing. I investigated natural methods used for treating cancer. After several decades of working in the health and wellness publishing sector I have the skills to decipher boring and complicated scientific papers. I picked apart the research protocols and redid the lab-coat’s math to triple check everything.
My imagination went to the first guy who discovered you could drink milk probably ate a lot of other weird stuff too. I needed to eat strange, so I disregarded the macronutrient approach and instead looked at foods that tasted repulsive. If it made me pull a face like a bulldog licking piss off a thistle, it was on the money. This was my turning point. If I hated it, I would have avoided it in the past, so it offered a clue into a deficiency.
Foods considered ripe for the trash can were first on the list. These may offer comparatively disgusting flavors, much like the very first medicines. While they taste bad, they offer a lot of good. In fact, many natural medicines taste revoltingly bitter. Much like poison. One heals. The other harms. It’s a fine line between self-care and self-destruction and bitterness offered my first aha-moment.
I sought the bitter foods in my pantry. Sprouts. Turmeric. Chocolate. Naturally, I started with chocolate. Chocolate in its raw form (cacao) is rich in the flavonoids that help protect people against sun damage, found a paper in The Journal of Nutrition. It’s truely edible edible sunscreen. Further research suggests raw cacao isn’t a one trick pony. It’s a healing stallion that over delivers. Stress relief. Immunity boosting. Gut health. Reduced inflammation. Brain protection. Mood booster. Increased energy. You name it. Cacao crushes it.
Taking Nutrition Action
I mixed 20g of cacao into my post workout protein smoothies. After decades of sickeningly sweet whey protein shakes, this novel bitterness turned me an Olympic level gurning champ. After a month, something changed. My taste buds recalibrated. I found joy in bitterness, the way a connoisseur cuddles a Johnny Walker in front of an open fire. This flavor was everywhere but mostly in my food scraps bin. Avocado seeds. Apple cores and seeds. Broccoli stalks. This untapped goodness was being squandered. Now, years after embracing all it, I’ve changed forever.
It’s been six years since my first skin cancer surgery, and I’ve achieved my goal. I’ve had a cancer check-up twice a year and enjoy a clean sheet that leaves my doc surprised. Sure, I could be wrong. I’m not claiming to have cured cancer so I’m not foolish enough to imagine I may have another run-in with the scalpel. If that happens, I’m still ahead of the curve. Six years is a lot in the skin cancer game.
Skin in the Game
My new perspective on flavor helps me eat the way our ancestors did. They treasured all foods. Nothing was wasted. This cost-effective approach may have safeguarded prior generations from modern-day diseases. Are our modernized taste buds to blame for obesity and other preventable killers like diabetes and heart disease? Maybe so and this alternative viewpoint on flavor holds the key. Stop paying attention to your macros and start paying attention to the flavors you’re eating.
A crucial dietary upgrade will be delivered to you by bitter foods. They offer you the keys to a forgotten toolkit packed with a lifetime of rewards. Improved health. Better digestion. More muscle. Less body fat. Preventing disease. Improved sleep. Increased energy. A happier outlook. And better skin. All you need to do is open wide and say aww to avoid the long term aargh. Forget the whole food diet, bitterness is the whole taste diet that gives you everything.
This was just step one in my skin cancer fighting journey. Bitter foods offer incredible health benefits that nobody is talking about. For more like this, visit my Substack to get insights about what you could be gaining from the foods you’re undoubtedly throwing away. It will give you the ammo you need to build more muscle while being leaner and happier.
Bittersweet Tip: Make a Real Chocolate Smoothie
You don’t have to curse your body and taste buds with the sickeningly sweet protein smoothies. These are a mainstay for anyone who works out and possibly poisons your perception of chocolate forever. Here’s the recipe for the ultimate smoothie for your health and skin.
1 x banana
½ x avocado
30g x protein of your choice
20g x raw cacao
10g x chai seeds
10ml egg whites (or 2-3 egg whites)
20g ground walnuts
200ml coconut water
Throw that into the blender and grind until smooth. You may have to crunch up the walnuts in your hands before you put them in there or they may not blend properly. Will it taste bad? Kind of! Think of it as a burpee for your taste buds that is resetting them properly. That said, if you really can’t stomach it, add a little manuka honey to make it a little more kid friendly.