A healthy diet as one rich in plant foods and low in processed foods and red meats.
Specific guidelines include the following:
- Eat at least 2.5 cups of fruits and vegetables every day. These foods should be included with every meal and also eaten for snacks. Consume a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and avoid fruit juices that aren’t 100 percent juice.
- Choose whole grains over refined grains. Whole grain foods are those made from the entire grain seed. Compared to refined grains, whole grains are lower in calorie density and higher in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Foods to Limit
- Limit processed meat and red meat consumption. Processed meats include products like bacon, sausage, and hot dogs, while beef, pork, and lamb are considered red meats.
- Substitute processed and red meats with fish, poultry, and high-protein non-meats such as beans.
- Limit alcohol consumption to 2 drinks per day (men) and 1 drink per day (women).
- One standard drink is the equivalent of 12 fluid ounce of beer, 5 fluid ounces of wine, or 1.5 fluid ounces of 80-proof spirits.
- In addition to these specific guidelines, the ACS advises more generally recommends choosing foods that help you maintain a healthy weight.
This requires familiarizing yourself with food labels and portion sizes. For example, a “low fat” food isn’t necessarily a “low calorie” food. High-calorie foods can cause overweight and obesity, conditions that contribute to up to 1/5 of all cancer-related mortality.
Common Cancer Eating Problems and How to Deal With Them
You may experience these and other eating problems caused by your cancer treatment. Speak with a healthcare professional about any problems that affect you.
The problem: Loss of appetite.
The solutions: The timing and duration of your appetite loss should decide how you manage it. Possible solutions include eating a large meal when you feel up to it (no matter the time), eating liquid meal replacements, and eating several, small meals rather than fewer, large ones. Exercise can also stimulate appetite.
The problem: Nausea.
The solutions: Even if you feel nauseous, it’s a good idea to eat something, as an empty stomach can make nausea worse. Try foods like white toast and plain yogurt that are easy on your stomach. Minimize liquids during mealtime to keep from feeling bloated.
The problem: Diarrhea. The solutions: Drink lots of fluids to replace those lost from diarrhea. Replace sodium and potassium with foods and drinks high in these minerals. Avoid high-fiber foods, greasy foods,milk products, and alcohol.
The problem: Dry mouth
The solutions: Always keep a water bottle by your side to sip throughout the day. Sweet or tart foods and drinks, which stimulate saliva production, can also help. Chew gum or popsicles and avoid alcohol.
The problem: Weight loss
The solutions: Eat at mealtimes even if you don’t feel hungry. Eat foods like peanut butter that are high in calories. Milkshakes and smoothies can be easier to get down if you don’t feel hungry.
Tomatoes, carrots, peas, pumpkin and turnips for vitamins and fibre
Tomatoes, tomato puree and parsley (especially good for prostate cancer patients)
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage contain plant chemicals that can convert bad oestrogen into good oestrogen, and hence reduce cancer risk as well as the risk of a relapse
Asparagus and Brussel sprouts for their rich antioxidants
Bitter gourd for lowering blood sugar levels
Green leafy vegetables for calcium and iron
- Oranges provide vitamin C
- Bananas, kiwi, peaches, mangoes, pears and strawberries for vitamins and fibre
- Avocadoes, guava, apricots, figs, prunes and raisins for energy
- Lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, tauhu and taukwa
- Dairy products, nuts, dried beans, dhals and chickpeas
- Fish and soy foods (especially good for prostate cancer patients)
- Rice, noodles, chapatti, wholegrain bread and pasta
- Wholegrain crackers, oats, corn, potatoes, beans and dairy products
- Honey, consumed in moderation for its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties which may help in preventing infections
Foods to avoid as a cancer patient
- Deep fried, grilled, barbequed, baked meats since subjecting animal protein to high heat creates carcinogenic by products called heterocyclic amines
- Excessive intake of salt, sugar, and oily foods
- Red meat and processed meats such as bacon, ham, sausages
- Preserved foods like pickles, jams, kiam chye (salted mustard green), and century eggs as they contain nitrites which are carcinogenic
- Minimise alcohol
Best Foods to Eat During Radiation & Chemotherapy
- Carrots give chemo a boost Carrots are common in every diet for cancer patients. Certain plant compounds, which are also found in parsley, can make chemotherapy more effective by stopping a mechanism in the body that can sometimes interfere with cancer treatment, according to a 2014 study by the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research. Researchers hope these foods “could be used to complement conventional treatments to potentially deliver better results for patients,” says senior scientist Arjan Scheepens, PhD. Here are more astounding health benefits of carrots you never knew.
- Gravy combats dry mouth
If your dry mouth—a common side effect of chemo—makes swallowing difficult, try moistening your food by covering it with sauces, gravies, or even low fat milk. Liquefying foods in a blender will also help your meal go down a little easier.
- Rice and bananas for diarrhea Bland foods like rice, bananas, cooked apples, and dry toast will help bind your stool if you have diarrhea from chemotherapy. Avoid fatty foods, raw fruits, and whole grain products, which can make diarrhea worse. You can also try these home remedies for diarrhea.
- Whole grains battle constipation
On the other hand, if you are constipated, drinking plenty of fluids and eating foods high in insoluble fiber, such as whole-grain breads or cereals, dried fruits, and dried beans or peas, will aid your digestive system. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) recommends drinking eight to 12 cups of liquid a day for those undergoing cancer treatment. Here are other sneaky ways you might be making yourself dehydrated.
- Small meals help with appetite loss
Loss of appetite is a common side effect of chemotherapy, but instead of forcing yourself to eat three big meals, eat five or six smaller meals throughout the day to stay properly nourished and energized. Adding protein supplements and higher-calorie foods to your diet will help you sustain a healthy weight. However, every diet for cancer patients looks different, so consult your doctor to personalize your meals according to your condition, diagnosis, and needs.
- Ginger candy eases nausea Chemo often leaves you with a queasy stomach, but ginger candy and lemon drops work like a charm. Suck on them before eating, or sip on some flat ginger ale or cola during your meal. This will help ease your dizziness and settle your stomach. These are more natural remedies for an upset stomach.
- Custard for mouth sores Mouth sores can make it painful to eat even the softest of foods. If treatment has left your mouth in pain, try pureed foods that are easy to swallow, such as custards, rice, eggs, porridge, and soups. The blander the better, since salt or spices can make sores even more painful. Avoid sharp or crunchy foods like crackers, chips, and raw vegetables, as well as spicy foods like hot sauces, curry dishes, salsa, and chili peppers, which also irritate sores.
- Orange juice prevents dry mouth Ward off dry mouth before it takes hold by filling your diet with plenty of sweet and tart foods. According to the NCI, drinking liquids like lemonade and orange juice will help you produce more saliva because their tartness stimulates your saliva glands. However, do not eat or drink these foods if your treatment has left you with a sore mouth or throat, as they will make your symptoms worse. These are other fruit juices that are healthier than you thought.
- Onion and garlic boost your immune system
A healthy diet for cancer patients always includes onions and garlic. Grilled, cooked, or raw, these cancer fighters contain high levels of antioxidants, which have been shown to stimulate the immune system’s natural defenses against cancer. In fact, Cornell researchers found that strong-flavored onions could even inhibit the growth of some cancer cells. Here are more foods with cancer-fighting abilities.
- Lean protein maintains energy and muscle
Its recommended eating more protein when undergoing chemotherapy to give you energy and keep your muscles strong when treatment is draining. Opt for lean proteins like eggs, fish, tofu, and chicken.
- Selenium-rich foods fight cancer
Brazil nuts, seafood, oats, and brown rice are all great sources of selenium, a cancer-fighting mineral. A study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry found that selenium compounds boost the immune system, allowing it to fight certain cancers like leukemia and melanoma. However, avoid eating shellfish and raw fish—they can put you at a higher risk of food-borne illnesses during treatment. Stick to freshwater fish like salmon and catfish, and always make sure it’s fully cooked.
- Tomato paste or sauce
Not only are tomato-based sauces high in vitamin C, but tomatoes help mask the unpleasant mouth taste some cancer patients get while undergoing chemotherapy, says Carolyn Lammersfeld, RD, certified specialist in oncology nutrition and vice president of integrative medicine at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Go for plain sauces without spices, which are easier to get down and keep down. (Avoid tomato products if you have mouth sores.)
- Fatty fish
Salmon, tuna, and sardines are not only stellar sources of fatigue-fighting protein but nutritional powerhouses, too. They provide omega-3 fatty acids, which can help keep your muscles strong; vitamin B12, which your body depends on to make red blood cells; and vitamin D, a crucial component of bone health
- Trail mix
When your energy and appetite are low, turning to nutrient-dense foods can help you take in the calories you need as well as key vitamins and minerals and good fats. Smart options: a couple of handfuls of trail mix, plain nuts, or even a spoonful of nut butter.
- Dairy products
The calcium, vitamin D, and protein found in foods from the dairy aisle will contribute to healthy bones. (Choose yogurt or kefir and you’ll replenish your good gut bacteria as well.) Vegan or just don’t like the taste of milk? Sip calcium-fortified orange juice, rice milk, or soy milk.
- Lean chicken and turkey
Because they’re bland, they’re easy to eat and digest, but they still pack plenty of protein. Lean poultry is a better choice than red meat, which may increase inflammation and contribute to chronic conditions such as heart disease.
- Dark green leafy veggies
Broccoli, kale, romaine lettuce, spinach, watercress, and other greens offer calcium to strengthen your bones, folate and iron to pump up your blood cell production, and magnesium, which is essential for many bodily functions but often becomes low during treatment.
- Chickpeas and beans
These mighty legumes contain high levels of protein, which protect your muscles while supplying you with steady energy so you stave off exhaustion
It’s not a myth: Ginger really does help fight nausea, a side effect of chemotherapy and some medications. Adding grated ginger to foods or tea may help ease
- Olive Oil
Olive oil is loaded with health benefits, so it’s no wonder it’s one of the staples of the Mediterranean diet.Several studies have even found that a higher intake of olive oil may help protect against cancer.One massive review made up of 19 studies showed that people who consumed the greatest amount of olive oil had a lower risk of developing breast cancer and cancer of the digestive system than those with the lowest intake. You can drizzle it over salads and cooked vegetables, or try using it in your marinades for meat, fish or poultry.
Berries are high in anthocyanins, plant pigments that have antioxidant properties and may be associated with a reduced risk of cancer.
- Citrus Fruits
Eating citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, grapefruits and oranges has been associated with a lower risk of cancer in some studies.One large study found that participants who ate a higher amount of citrus fruits had a lower risk of developing cancers of the digestive and upper respiratory tracts A review looking at nine studies also found that a greater intake of citrus fruits was linked to a reduced risk of pancreatic cancer .
- Finally, a review of 14 studies showed that a high intake, or at least three servings per week, of citrus fruit reduced the risk of stomach cancer by 28%.These studies suggest that including a few servings of citrus fruits in your diet each week may lower your risk of developing certain types of cancer.
- Flaxseed High in fiber as well as heart-healthy fats, flaxseed can be a healthy addition to your diet. Some research has shown that it may even help decrease cancer growth and help kill off cancer cells.In one study, 32 women with breast cancer received either a flaxseed muffin daily or a placebo for over a month.At the end of the study, the flaxseed group had decreased levels of specific markers that measure tumor growth, as well as an increase in cancer cell death In another study, 161 men with prostate cancer were treated with flaxseed, which was found to reduce the growth and spread of cancer cells .Flaxseed is high in fiber, which other studies have found to be protective against colorectal cancer .Try adding one tablespoon (10 grams) of ground flaxseed into your diet each day by mixing it into smoothies, sprinkling it over cereal and yogurt, or adding it to your favorite baked goods