Meet Senthil Kumar Balu, A Researcher Who Is Making Healthy, Diet Desserts For Cancer Patients
- IWB Post
- February 13, 2019
A healthy diet is not about strict dietary limitations and depriving yourself of the food you love, rather it’s about feeling great, improving your health, and boosting your mood by taking food which is healthy and guilt free.
To change the narrative around desserts, former Chennai-based cancer researcher Senthil Kumar Balu is creating a totally win-win situation for your well-being and taste buds by creating a healthy version of our favourite desserts, which doesn’t compromise on the flavour, through his brand Wholesome Rhapsody.
Senthil’s entrepreneurial venture started in 2016 as a result of experimenting with healthier alternatives for every ingredient as he comes from a research background. He once baked a chocolate cake for a competition for which he received a lot of compliments and since then there has been no looking back. “When I received a good response for the cake, I thought about the potential to combine my expertise to bring healthier options for people fighting with medical conditions such as cancer and I started pushing myself in terms of how much could I change the flour, sugar, and fat that goes into the making of these desserts.”
For Senthil, dietary needs of people are the topmost priority when it comes to selecting ingredients for his desserts and he has multiple options for patients suffering from breast cancer, prostate cancer, kidney cancer, diabetes and people with lactose intolerance. “I don’t use artificial colours, flavours or preservatives in my kitchen. Even if I get orders to make fondant cakes I suggest them alternatives but absolutely refrain from using ingredients that are not healthy.”
Senthil’s cakes are not alternatives to medicines but they can help in improving the condition of patients if taken along with them.
“When it comes to cakes or any desserts, it’s not just about choosing the right millet; sugar, fat and other ingredients are equally important factors that should be taken into consideration. My desserts differ from all the other healthy bakes from around the world because I feel that when people talk about their products being healthy, they only talk about the flour or sugar and end up using colours which are not good for health, however, other ingredients are an important part of the output.”
“My cakes have a low glycemic index and I customize the ingredients according to the dietary needs of patients. In terms of flavouring my desserts, I choose seasonal fruits such as jackfruit, mango, custard apple, pineapple and I don’t use too much sugar as the fruit already contains it in natural form. Apart from this I also incorporate ingredients such as dry ginger, green tea, turmeric which are cancer-fighting. So when you consume the product the ultimate flavour is of the fruit that goes in it but the other ingredients have their added benefits.”
The process of customizing the bakes for Senthil starts with getting to know about the condition and the treatment that the patients are undergoing and he keeps varying the quantities of the ingredients that go in the desserts according to the permissible limits that he keeps researching about. Talking about one of his customers, who was a breast cancer patient, Senthil explained about the cancer-friendly brownies he made for her. “I received an order for a lady who was taking therapy for breast cancer in the US and wasn’t feeling good eating most of the food items. So, a relative of hers contacted me to make something sweet for her which was at the same time to be compatible with her diet. Hence I came up with a chocolate brownie called ‘Mammary Love’ made of ragi, almond flour, coconut flour, chia seeds and brazil nuts which are ingredients of low glycemic content. As for the fat I used coconut and olive oil which makes it healthy as compared to other substitutes such as margarine, which are not good for health.”
Adding to it, Senthil even shared how the ingredients of different desserts vary for fighting out different cancers. “For this lady, I made sure that this brownie has a low estrogen content because in breast cancer most of the times estrogen is overproduced. However, for prostate cancer patients I make brownies with ingredients high in estrogen content such as pistachios and walnuts as the treatment requires them to take in food rich in estrogen.”
Suggesting a diet for breast cancer patients that we should keep in mind, Senthil said, “When it comes to a person suffering from breast cancer, patients are supposed to consume a lot of healthy fat, which can be derived from millets or nuts which are complex carbs along with a list of other cancer-fighting ingredients such as green tea, dry ginger, garlic cloves, pepper because it helps in the therapy and also strengthens the body. But most often dieticians ask the patients to take a regular diet which is not right because someone who’s recovering from therapy or undergoing a treatment needs a balanced diet as the entire body gets imbalanced due to its effect.”
Coming to the diet of patients battling cervical cancer, Senthil recommends, “A standard diet which pretty much anyone can follow applies for cervical cancer patients too. Just like breast and prostate cancer have involvement of growth hormone, same is the case with ovaries, for which consumption of healthy probiotics like sweet potatoes, carrot, millets, flax seeds is preferable and foods with less estrogen such as almonds, hazelnuts, almond flour, coconut flour, and a healthy mixture of spices should also be taken.”
With the general notion of desserts being unhealthy, we asked Senthil the ways to upgrade a generic cake to a more healthy option and this is what he had to say, “You can replace refined flour with any of the millets like buckwheat, finger millet, pearl millet etc. For sugar, coconut sugar can be substituted for refined as it has added benefits. Coming to the fat content, butter is not a bad option however, you should check that it’s not grass fed because, with antibiotics and preservatives added to milk these days, milk products aren’t really healthy enough to consume. You can use olive oil or coconut oil as a substitute for it and the usage of artificial colours and flavours should be avoided.”
While Senthil whips up his delectable bakes packed with healthy alternatives, he will soon be coming out with a book that elaborates on the food that cancer patients can consume.
Check out this recipe by Senthil of vegan and gluten-free chickpea cookies that is beneficial for both breast and prostate health and is also a sugar-free option for diabetic people.
150 gm Chickpea flour
50 gm Foxtail millet flour
40 ml Olive oil
10 ml Coconut oil
20 ml Coconut cream
10 gm Cumin seed
15 gm Black pepper
1/2 tsp/2.5 gm Turmeric
1/2 tsp/2.5 gm Baking powder
1/4 tsp/1.25 gm Asafoetida
1/4 tsp/1.25 gm rock salt
1) Add, olive oil, coconut oil, coconut cream, baking powder, turmeric, asafoetida, and rock salt into a bowl and mix using a whisker.
2) Add chickpea, foxtail millet, cumin, and black pepper into another bowl and keep it aside.
3) Slowly add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until just combined.
4) Refrigerate the cookie dough for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven for 10 min at 150 deg C.
5) Roll the cookie dough into walnut size ball or cut into circular shape using a cookie cutter.
6) Bake for 10 to 12 minutes for a crispy texture until the edges are golden.