TORAL SHAH : SCIENTIST - MSC NUTRITIONAL MEDICINE, WRITER & CHEF

Toral Shah is a scientist and chef - she has a BSc in Cell Biology from UCL and an MSc in Nutritional Medicine from University of Surrey. Her MSc thesis focussed on the importance of diet and nutrition in the prevention of breast cancer recurrence. Toral is now working on her first book explaining the science behind cancer preventing foods and sharing some of her delicious recipes.

Whilst at university, she completed several courses at Le Cordon Bleu school in London along with classes from feted chefs such as Mehernosh Mody (La Porte des Indes), Ursula Ferrigno & Rachel Green (Flying Cook).

Toral is passionate about breast cancer and cancer charities. She often commentates and speaks for charities such as Breast Cancer Now and The Haven. She is an ambassador for international chancer charity, World Cancer Research Fund and recently wrote about cancer prevention in The Telegraph.

My story

"I’ve been passionate about people’s health and well-being since I was a child and have always wanted people to lead happy and healthy lives. I went to medical school as I wanted to be an oncologist but it just wasn’t for me - I’m too much of a softie! 

I began experimenting in the kitchen at university when I left medical school and found that I suddenly had more free time with fewer lectures in my BSc Cell Biology course. I specialised in studying cancer during the day, and cooking for my friends and family in my spare time. Food became a huge passion so I studied at Le Cordon Bleu during the evenings and holiday. I probably was one of the best fed students at UCL! Still rather obsessed with cancer, I won a prestigious six-month studentship from the Royal Society researching oncogenes at UCL.

At the same time, my amazing mum was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Nursing my mother through her breast cancer made me realise that medicine or research were not careers for me. But  I nurtured my mum through her treatment and I encouraged her to eat lots of the food that had been epidemiologically shown to help reduce her risk of recurrence of breast cancer and its metastasis. 19 years later, she's going super strong and in great shape!

I had the idea for a healthy meal company 14 years ago, when I worked in the City. Whilst I was  working, training, travelling and partying hard and realised that nutrition made a huge difference to my health and well-being. I knew I needed to learn more about nutrition so left my job and went back to university, studying for an MSc in Nutritional Medicine.

However, 2 years later, near the end of the course, I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the tender age of 29. My whole world was falling down around me and my plans were way-laid whilst I came to terms with what was happening to me and recovered from bouts of treatment and surgery, including a mastectomy which I found incredibly emotionally hard to accept. I had started training for triathlons pre diagnosis and was determined to continue training throughout my treatment. I completed London Triathlon Olympic distance for the first time in 2007 in between various surgical treatments including the mastectomy, which was a huge achievement for me.

My doctors at the Royal Marsden (Mr Gerald Gui and Mr Adam Searle) acknowledged my fast recovery to early diagnosis through my own self examination, positive attitude,  general good health from regular training and healthy diet, which helped me to recover quickly from the mastectomy and all the various surgery that I had. Whilst having cancer or recurrence is a bit of a lottery, optimising my own health by focusing on a healthy diet and knowledge of how food, exercise, rest and sleep can help, along with personal development and positive mental attitude has supported my ongoing remission. This knowledge inspired me to start The Urban Kitchen, linking my passions: nutrition, science and food. I  love having this opportunity to continue my learning and share my intense passion, my incredible experiences and my in depth nutrition knowledge."

Watercress, butternut squash and arame salad

My ethos 

Real food

I'm passionate about real food which is delicious and nutrient dense; using seasonal and quality ingredients and helping people to enjoy incredible food and flavours everyday. Wherever possible, I use locally sourced, organic or free-range produce. I create recipes for all dietary requirements including dairy, gluten and wheat-free options and am highly experienced in preparing inspiring vegetarian & vegan dishes.

Balanced yet innovative

The majority of meals which mostly people commonly eat from high street restaurants and supermarkets do not fulfil recommended daily allowances of vitamins, minerals and micronutrients. Many 'healthy' take away meals also do not balance your macronutrient or micronutrient requirements with your lifestyle – this means that you will be lacking in the protein, good fats, slow-release carbohydrates  and vitamins and minerals which your diet needs to cater for a busy lifestyle.

I take pride in preparing recipes and food that is tailored to your needs exactly, yet tastes delicious. I believe that healthy food should never taste like 'diet' food, yet should be full of flavour. I use spices, herbs, and high quality food to satisfy taste buds and nourish your body and mind from the inside out. 

I don't believe in using food replacements or packing it full of extra protein in the form of supplements. A balanced diet full of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and beans, fish, and a little meat, dairy and some treats should contain all the macronutrients and micronutrients to ensure that you have all the nutrients required for optimal health for most people. This type of healthy diet in combination with exercise, quality sleep and mental and emotional support, including stress relief, should help reduce your risk of disease and help you to be happy and healthy.