If you’re fighting cancer, you know all too well that there are so many things to plan, weigh and consider. What is the most effective treatment and when should you start? How will cancer therapy affect the disease and your body?
Once your treatment has begun, planning a varied, yet balanced diet is key, because both the disease and the treatments can change the way you eat. Cancer therapies can also affect the body’s ability to tolerate certain foods and effectively use nutrients.
The benefits of good nutrition during cancer treatment
Eating well during cancer treatment may help you:
- Feel better
- Keep up strength and energy
- Maintain your weight and the body’s store of nutrients
- Better tolerate treatment-related side effects
- Lower the risk of infection
- Heal and recover faster
Key nutrients for cancer treatment
Your cancer care team can develop a strategy to help you eat a variety of healthy foods that include the nutrients your body needs. These may include:
- Proteins – After surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy, extra protein is usually needed to heal tissues and help fight infection.
- Fats – Monounsaturated fats (found in olive, canola and peanut oils) and polyunsaturated fats (found in safflower, sunflower, corn and flaxseed oils; also the main fats in seafood), are considered “good” fats. That is, the body can break them down to use for energy storage, to insulate body tissues and transport certain vitamins through the blood.
- Carbohydrates – Carbs are the body’s main source of energy for physical activity and proper organ function. The best types of carbs — fruits, vegetables, and whole grains — also supply essential vitamins and minerals, fiber and phytonutrients to the cells.
- Water – Drink plenty of it! This will help to counter the effects of fluid loss from vomiting or diarrhea associated with treatment side effects. Work with your doctor to learn how much you need to drink each day to hydrate your body. Note that water-based foods like soups, milk, certain fruits, and even ice cream and gelatin count toward daily fluid goals.
- Vitamins and minerals – Before taking a vitamin or supplement, talk with your doctor. Some vitamins, minerals and dietary supplements taken in large doses may make chemotherapy and radiation therapy less effective.
- Antioxidants – To consume more antioxidants (Vitamins A, C and E; selenium and zinc), experts recommend eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, which are good sources of antioxidants.
- Phytonutrients – These plant compounds are thought to have health-protecting qualities. They’re found in fruits and vegetables, or other plant-based foods like tofu or tea.
Compassionate cancer care that’s close by
If you’ve received the life-changing diagnosis of cancer, we are here for you. At Regional Cancer Care Associates of Central New Jersey, our team of dedicated physicians, nurses, pharmacists and more stand ready to support you with the highest standard of cancer and hematology care. Through leading-edge treatments and access to clinical trials, we exist solely to help you win the most important battle of your life.