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Essential Cancer Diet: Foods to Support Recovery

One of the most common questions we get from patients, is about what to eat during cancer treatment. In this article, we put together some of the information and commonly asked questions, to help guide you on the foods that may help with your recovery, while receiving treatment.

Plant-based Proteins.

Some of the best foods to eat during chemotherapy or other cancer treatments are plant-based proteins. They offer the highest levels of vitamins and minerals. This means eating lots of vegetables as well as beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. If you do eat animal proteins, choose lean options like chicken or fish.

Healthy Fats

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats also have health benefits. Avocados, olive oil, grapeseed oil and walnuts are all high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help combat inflammation.

Healthy Carbs

When choosing carbohydrates, go for foods that are minimally processed, like whole wheat, bran, and oats. These have soluble fibre, which helps maintain good gut bacteria. Soluble fibre also promotes the production of short-chain fatty acids, which lend a hand to everything from metabolism to cellular repair.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals help our bodies’ enzymatic processes, which play a big role in boosting immune function and reducing inflammation. When possible, select foods fortified with vitamin D. These may include milk, orange juice, yogurt, and some cereals. But wait, what is Vitamin D for? Well, you may check out this article that I read, which helps to answer your questions:

How can your diet help manage cancer treatment side effects?


Some dietary changes can help you manage side effects after your treatment begins. These side effects include:

Appetite loss. Eat small meals or nutritious snacks throughout the day, rather than three large meals.

Constipation. Drink plenty of water, consider a fibre supplement, and add veggies and beans to your meals.

Diarrhoea. Choose foods or drinks with sodium (sports drinks or broth) and potassium (bananas and all natural fruit juices).

Loss of taste. Knowing what to eat when you can’t taste can be difficult. Consider trying new foods with different spices or marinades. You can also add strong Flavors, such as lemon or lime juice.

Nausea. Anti-nausea foods include citrus, ginger, and peppermint oil. You can suck on a slice of lemon, drink ginger tea or eat ginger chews.

Will a Ketogenic Diet Help Fight Cancer?

A ketogenic diet is a very high fat, moderate protein, very low carb medical diet originally developed to treat rare and difficult cases of epilepsy. Variations on the diet have been promoted for facilitating weight loss, but most are not endorsed by health experts.

There have been limited studies and individual case reports which have found that a ketogenic diet may help improve a patient’s response to radiation and chemotherapy while he or she undergoes these treatments. However, more studies need to be performed in order to confirm this.

Is It Best to Avoid Meat When You Have Cancer?

While it’s a good idea to focus primarily on a plant-based diet — one that is rich in fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and legumes (beans and lentils) — it’s true that high-quality lean meats and poultry in reasonably sized portions can also contribute valuable nutrients to your diet.  These nutrients and proteins are important for healing and repair, which is essential when recovering after cancer treatment.

Should I Eat More High-Fiber Foods?

For most people, that’s a big YES, when it comes to the prevention and survival after cancer. Most research support the recommendation for a diet rich in fibre , which helps to maintain a healthy gut, reduce inflammation, and prevent chronic disease. I have also read an article from Singapore Cancer Society on eating well during cancer. Check them out!

- Written by Feona

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