Cancer: Cancer and Nutrition
After being told you have cancer, you may be confused by all the advice you get from the media or even from well meaning family and friends. You have heard about the foods to eat or not eat to prevent cancer, but now what?
It hasn’t been proven that any special diet, single food, or vitamin, mineral or herbal supplement can cure cancer, or stop it from growing or from coming back. In fact, some diets, and even supplements can be harmful, and large doses of some vitamins and minerals may even hamper certain cancer treatments. That is why registered dietitians and doctors recommend choosing a healthful diet that includes lots of varied foods, which may help your body stay strong through your cancer treatment. Use this handout to choose a variety of tasty foods that can help you improve your health after getting cancer.
Choose the most color for the highest amounts of cancer-fighting phytochemicals which include antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
These are some foods having the most antioxidant power.
- Fruits: Blueberries, Blackberries, Strawberries, Cranberries, Grapes, Cherries, Apples, Melons, Oranges, and Pomegranates.
- Vegetables: Broccoli, Spinach, Asparagus, Red Peppers, Peas, Beets, Tomatoes, Carrots, Squash, Pumpkin, Sweet Potatoes, Cabbage, Onions, and Garlic.
Studies have shown a link between high fiber diets and reduced risk of some types of cancer. Fruits and vegetables provide some fiber. Choose varied high fiber foods which include these items:
- Breads and cereals made with whole grains.
- Beans & legumes (red, white, black, kidney and soy beans).
- Check the label of food for fiber content. A good goal is 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day.
Drink Lots of Fluids
Drink lots of fluids during cancer treatment. Water is great but any liquid counts as part of your fluid intake. Studies have shown that tea lessens the risk of some cancers and may even slow some cancer cell growth. Green, white and red teas are best. Both decaffeinated tea and tea with caffeine are good.
Choose Good Protein Food at Every Meal
- Eat more fish. Poultry, meat, and eggs are good protein sources.
- Limit eating red meat.
- Eat dairy products like yogurt, milk, and cheese.
- Eat more legumes, lentils, and nuts.
- Adding exercise to your daily routine can help you stay strong during cancer treatment. It may also help decrease the risk for some cancers to recur.
- There are many factors that affect the amount and the kind of exercise you should do. There are times during treatment when certain exercises may not be advised. Check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
- Choose a program that works for you. Keep in mind that any exercise is better than none.
Check with your registered dietitian or doctor about proper nutritional supplements during cancer treatments.
- A multivitamin or mineral supplement may be advised but large amounts of single vitamins or minerals are not recommended for most people.
- Vitamin D supplements may be appropriate. The recommended dose for most individuals is 800 IU per day.
- Herbal supplements are generally not encouraged. Check with your oncologist, registered dietitian or pharmacist before taking any herbal supplements.
- A fish oil supplement is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
- 2 Brazil nuts per day are a good source of selenium.
Healthy Weight is the Goal
- Studies have found that excess weight may increase your risk of some types of cancers.
- Fat cells produce and secrete a wide range of hormones and growth factors into the blood stream. These may help certain cancers to start and to grow.
- Research has shown that if people maintain a healthy weight, eat lots of nutrient-rich foods and include exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle, they can improve their health, improve treatment outcomes after getting cancer, and may decrease your risk of recurrence.
Goals for meal planning during your cancer treatment include
- Maintain or improve food choices.
- Prevent weight loss or surplus weight gain.
- Decrease side effects of treatments.
- Improve tolerance to treatments.
- Meet any of your special nutritional needs.
There is no one food or one nutritional treatment that will cure cancer. When a good meal plan is added to your treatment plan it can help you keep up your strenth and can improve your quality of life. Eating right helps maintain your strength, maintain your lean body mass, helps your immune system to perform better, and supports your healthy cells during the stress of cancer treatment.
What can you do?
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Regularly exercise, if you can.
- Choose a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and good protein foods.
If you are a patient of UW Health and have more questions please contact the UW Health cancer center nutritionist by calling Cancer Connect at (608) 262-5223 to make an appointment or speak with the nutritionist.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 08/07/2012
Copyright © 11/02/2011 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#398
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