Cancer and Nutrition: Things to Know

Cancer is a terrible disease. While there have been advancements in prevention and treatment, millions of people are still diagnosed and die of cancer every year.

It’s not a death sentence. When detected early, cancer can be cured. However, unfortunately, as the disease progresses, it’s much harder to treat. That’s why it’s important to stay on top of your health and watch for the signs and symptoms.

Cancer is unique in that it can affect nearly any tissue in the body; however, there are common areas affected by cancer-commonalities that make certain diets more beneficial than others. Regardless of whether you’re fighting pancreatic or breast cancer, you need to be mindful of your nutrition.

Food can do a great deal for recovery-if not prevent cancer altogether. Here are things to keep in mind to improve your nutritional outlook.


Calcium-rich foods are essential for your bone health. The body needs it to produce new cells, and bones require calcium for strength. To get more calcium into your diet, try adding more milk (which is rich in protein), yogurt, cheese, spinach, and broccoli.


Using fiber-rich foods can help reduce constipation during cancer treatment. Make sure you’re eating plenty of oatmeal, potatoes (without skin), pasta (whole grain is best), and cooked greens.


High antioxidant foods can help reduce inflammation and protect your body from cancer development. Eat lots of berries (wild blueberries are the best), citrus fruits, apples, artichokes, leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes, and green tea (hot or cold).



Eating omega-3 fatty acids might help to decrease some effects of chemotherapy treatment on your heart function. Try adding more salmon or sardines to your diet. You can also eat walnuts or ground flax seeds for omega-3 fatty acids.


You need proteins for energy and cellular repair. There are plenty of healthy sources out there, so vary your protein intake to get the most nutrients possible. Protein is also needed to produce red blood cells, which help carry oxygen through your body. Some good choices are lean beef, chicken, pork or fish, tofu or beans (add olive oil if you’re not watching your weight).

Vitamins & Minerals

There are different vitamins and minerals that help promote cancer cell death. Vitamin C helps boost immunity-so make sure you’re getting foods rich in vitamin C like citrus fruits often. Other items with high levels of antioxidants include green tea leaf extract powder, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy), and carotenoids (red chili peppers).

Iron is required to make hemoglobin in red blood cells-so if you don’t have enough iron in your diet, you might become fatigued. Iron can be found in lean beef or sardines. You also need iodine for proper thyroid function, magnesium for cellular energy production, and vitamin D to boost immunity.

Food as Part of Cancer Treatment

Why not call a nutritionist? If you have been diagnosed with cancer, it’s important to see a registered dietitian so that you can eat as well as possible during your treatment. A trained nutrition professional will be honest about your nutritional needs and help plan meals accordingly.

Including fresh veggies, fruit, and water into your daily routine will help increase your intake of antioxidants. And remember that eating high-fat foods when you’re sick can boost inflammation in the body, which is counterproductive to good health. Be mindful of what you eat, and try not to exclude too many foods from your diet so you don’t become malnourished.

End-of-Life Diet

Those who are receiving palliative care for cancer will need recommendations about their diet as well. Their nutrition needs to be enhanced toward the end of life, but poor appetite and decreasing nutrient intake can be a problem for those with advanced or terminal cancer. In these cases, talk to your doctor about what you should eat and drink to meet your nutritional needs. Trained professionals who provide hospice care at home or at a medical facility can also help plan meals based on the patient’s needs throughout treatment.

Those are seven things that are important to remember when it comes to nutrition when fighting cancer. Nutritious foods should be high on the priority list during treatment because research indicates that certain diets can help reduce side effects of chemotherapy treatment while also reducing inflammation within the body.

However, you should never rely on food solely to address cancer. The disease requires medical attention, not dietary alterations. Be mindful of what you eat and how it affects your body, but always consult a doctor before making any major changes to your diet. Moreover, don’t skip medical treatment in favor of trendy diet fads that claim to cure cancer.

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