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Benefits of good nutrition during cancer treatment

Taking care of ourselves is imperative when facing a cancer diagnosis. Let's look at recommended foods, eating patterns and available nutrition resources during cancer treatment.

December 13, 2023

Proper nutrition is important in maintaining our overall health and well-being. When faced with a cancer diagnosis, the significance of excellent nutrition becomes clear. As we combat this disease, our bodies need every possible advantage to fight cancer cells and endure the rigorous treatments that accompany it.

Taking care of our diet affects our physical strength and our emotional resilience. Let’s look at the invaluable benefits of good nutrition during cancer treatment and how it can profoundly impact our recovery journey.

Recommended foods for cancer patients and those in treatment

Proper nutrition plays a crucial role in cancer treatment. Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and healthy fats strengthens the body's natural defenses, enhances energy levels and provides the vital nutrients needed for recovery.

  • Fruits and vegetables, packed with antioxidants, aid in neutralizing harmful free radicals that can harm cells and trigger diseases.
  • Lean proteins help repair body tissues — a critical process, particularly after intensive treatments like surgery or chemotherapy.
  • Whole grains, rich in fiber, promote gut health and support regular digestion, contributing to overall well-being.
  • Healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids, boost the immune system and aid in reducing inflammation, a common side effect of many cancer treatments.
  • Adequate hydration is another vital aspect of nutrition. Water aids digestion, helps maintain your body temperature and ensures the effective transport of nutrients.

However, the relationship between nutrition and cancer treatment goes beyond eating the right foods. It's also about eating at the correct times and in the right quantities. This approach helps manage side effects, maintain healthy body weight and strength and improve the body's ability to heal and recover.

That’s why a personalized nutrition plan tailored to the individual's unique needs and circumstances can increase the effectiveness of cancer treatments, promoting faster recovery and improved quality of life.

What does a healthy eating pattern include?

  • Foods high in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients
  • Foods that help you reach and/or maintain a healthy body weight
  • Colorful vegetables — dark green, red and orange
  • Fiber-rich beans and peas
  • Colorful fruits
  • Whole grains (in bread, pasta, etc.) and brown rice

What does a healthy eating pattern limit or not include?

  • Red meats like beef, pork, and lamb
  • Processed meats like bacon, sausage, luncheon meats, and hot dogs
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages, including soft drinks, sports drinks, and fruit drinks
  • Highly processed foods and refined grain products

Foods and drinks cancer patients should avoid

According to the American Cancer Society, there are certain foods and beverages that you may want to avoid during cancer treatment.

Alcohol, for example, can heighten the risk of certain forms of cancer and might also interfere with the efficacy of your treatment. Processed meats are linked to an increased risk of various types of cancer.

Food and drinks high in sugar should also be limited; these can lead to weight gain, thereby hindering recovery. Additionally, refrain from consuming undercooked or raw foods, including fish and shellfish, eggs, unpasteurized dairy and juice and raw sprouts, as they may contain harmful bacteria that the immune system is not equipped to handle during this time.

Lastly and most importantly, it's imperative to remember that every person's body and condition are unique; therefore, it's always best to consult your healthcare provider before making significant dietary changes.

Available resources

  • American Cancer Society (ACS): The American Cancer Society plays a vital role in supporting individuals with cancer, offering a wide range of services. These include providing research insights, outlining treatment options and offering recovery support. In addition, they also promote counseling services to enhance emotional resilience throughout the challenging journey. ACS recognizes the importance of cancer nutrition and its impact on overall well-being.
  • Oncology Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group (ON DPG): A part of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, ON DPG offers extensive resources on nutrition to optimize the health of those affected by cancer.
  • American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR): AICR provides practical tools and advice that help people harness the power of lifestyle changes to prevent and survive cancer. Their focus on cancer nutrition research and education helps patients understand food’s critical role in cancer prevention and survival.
  • Cancer Nutrition Consortium: This organization is dedicated to enhancing the health and well-being of cancer patients by providing helpful resources on nutrition, including recipes specifically designed for individuals undergoing cancer treatment.

Have additional questions?

When facing a diagnosis as challenging as cancer, the path to recovery can often feel daunting and steep. However, arming ourselves with the proper nutritional tools can be a powerful ally in this journey. Proper nutrition does more than fuel the body; it can help bolster the immune system, maintain body weight and lean body mass and improve the body's ability to recover and respond to treatments.

By consciously choosing meals and snacks rich in proteins, vitamins and minerals, we not only give our bodies the best fighting chance against cancer cells but also pave the way for quicker healing post-treatment.

Should you have additional questions about nutrition before, during or after a cancer diagnosis, please contact askSARAH at (844) 482-4812 to speak to a nurse specially trained to help with your cancer-related questions.

December 13, 2023

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