Former researcher takes his experiments to the kitchen to bake cancer-diet desserts

This former cancer researcher has taken his experiments from the lab to the oven, baking desserts designed to meet the nutrition requirements of people with cancer

February 04, 2019 01:58 pm | Updated 01:58 pm IST

Through his brand Wholesome Rhapsody, former cancer researcher Senthil Kumar Balu, 33, makes cakes, brownies, cookies and other desserts out of somewhat unusual — and very specific — ingredients. Every component of his desserts is chosen according to his customer’s prescribed cancer diet.

“I have customised cakes for people with breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer and kidney cancer.” He asks his clients what stage of cancer they are fighting, what treatments they are undergoing, what dos and don’ts they have been told to follow. “If someone has oestrogen-positive subtype of breast cancer, I use cartenoid-rich foods like soy millet-based carrot cake,” he says. His Mammary Love brownie has basil nut and almonds that are low on oestrogen.

Back in 2013, he was a visiting academic at Curtin University, Perth, and working at its stem cell research centre. From experimenting in laboratories, he moved to experiments in the kitchen, and one of the results was Wholesome Rhapsody. What started out as a healthy dessert idea using low glycaemic foods, today deals with more specific requirements, for people with cancer and other long-term conditions such as diabetes, even allergies such as lactose intolerance.

“In the case of prostate cancer, you are supposed to eat more flax seeds and soy, for their oestrogen content,” he says. So his prostate-friendly brownie contains both, in addition to chick pea, aquafaba, prunes, apricot, dry ginger, cocoa powder, home-made dark chocolate and a range of nuts that have natural oestrogen. The ingredients are listed out extensively on each product. Tomato has also found its way into this list of ingredients, because it has a pigment called lycopene which helps with recovery.

Senthil is careful to use ingredients that don’t cause spikes in blood sugar levels, and complex fibres that break down gradually. For those with fatty livers, he has a fat-free brownie with turmeric and green tea. But there are some needs that he hasn’t been able to address just yet.

“I was approached by a relative of a throat cancer patient once. She couldn’t eat solids at all, and wanted smoothies that were pleasant to taste. The problem was, whatever I gave had to be completely liquid, and yet retain the rich taste of a dessert like she wanted. It’s something I’m still working on,” he says.

Senthil is quick to point out that his desserts are not therapeutic: they are not meant to add to or take away from the treatment. “I’m not prescribing any herb; just using ingredients that are part of your diet.” Therapeutic desserts are his final goal, and though he still has a long way to go, he’s determined to get there.

Orders can be placed on Instagram, at his page @wholesomerhapsody, or contact 9176728176

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