The Best Diet for Cancer Patients and Cancer Survivors

Fresh vegetables

Dealing with cancer pushes your body to its limits. Not only do you experience the side effects of the condition, but you also endure treatments that take a toll of their own. What can you do to give your body the fuel it needs to fight and recover from cancer?

A balanced diet will give your body the nutrients it requires. It may improve patient outcomes for some and boosts quality of life—when you eat better, you’ll feel better for it.

One of the most popular alternative cancer treatments in Canada is the simple practice of eating superfoods. We’re going to share a few ways you can modify your diet to eat healthier, feel better, and hopefully prevent the development of other diseases:

Stock Up On Fruits & Vegetables

There’s no getting around it: a healthy diet starts with a regular dose of fresh fruits and vegetables.

You may have heard of antioxidants; these nutrients have been found to neutralize and protect your body from free radicals, which can have damaging effects. You’ll find a rich supply of antioxidants in the following foods:

  • Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries)
  • Dark chocolate
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Green tea

If you aren’t a big fan of fruits or vegetables, you may want to try cooking them differently. Experiment with different spice blends, marinades, or textures to find what works for you.

Choose Healthier Fats

When you’re planning a diet, “fat” sounds like a bad word, but in reality, that’s far from the case. Our bodies need fat. The concern arises when you’re choosing the types of fat to consume. 

Fats to avoid include trans and saturated fats, which are found in fried foods, butter, dark meat, and dairy products. Try to consume these foods in moderation or abstain completely to reduce your intake of unhealthy fats.

On the other hand, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are beneficial. To get a healthy dose of them, consume foods like peanut/almond butter, peanuts, avocados, fish, and tofu.

Limit Or Eliminate Alcohol Consumption

When you’re going through a stressful situation such as a cancer diagnosis, it becomes tempting to rely on coping mechanisms such as alcohol use. However, this beverage has been shown to do more harm than good. It causes damage to the vital organs in your body—the same organs your body needs to fight off cancer.

If you do choose to consume alcohol, do your best to practice moderation. Drinking guidelines vary based on sex; for men under 65, two drinks a day are recommended, but for women (or men older than 65), limit your intake to just one.

We recommend finding healthier alternatives to help manage stress, such as physical activity, counseling, and/or deep breathing exercises.

Avoid Processed Meats & Snacks

Processed meats (like hot dogs, sausages, and lunch meats) have been shown to harm our internal organs. Steering clear of these types of foods will reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer

Carnivores, don’t worry—you don’t have to give up meat entirely! Instead, substitute processed meats with lean and light cuts, such as skinless turkey or chicken. You’d be surprised at all the replacements for red or processed meat products that are available! 

The methods you use to cook meats also affect how healthy they are. In general, try to use less oil or butter whenever possible. If you’re cooking over an open flame, wrap the meat in a piece of aluminum foil first. 

When it comes to snacks, make an effort to stick to healthy foods; a handful of nuts or dried berries can satiate your cravings without jeopardizing your health. Try to avoid processed snacks like chips, fried foods, ice cream, and baked desserts. 

Mix It Up!

Even if you’ve perfected your favorite dishes, it can get a bit redundant to eat the same foods day in and day out. It’s not the best for your body, either. You might be missing out on a particular vitamin or nutrient if you always eat the same foods.

The next time you’re at the grocery store, get inspired to try something new! Pick up a fruit you don’t normally indulge in, or a vegetable you’ve been meaning to try. A varied diet is not only more enjoyable, but it ensures you receive a healthy blend of vitamins and minerals.

What About Supplements?

If you aren’t getting what you need from your diet, it’s usually better to increase your intake of foods that have those nutrients rather than trying supplements. This is because a high dose of one nutrient could cause harm

Ask your oncologist about dietary supplements before you begin taking any. Working with your health provider ensures that you receive a balanced amount of all required nutrients.

When recovering from cancer or dealing with the side effects of its treatment, symptoms like fatigue and weight loss are common. Eating healthier can improve your overall health and mental well-being. With a diet that’s full of leafy greens, healthy fats, and plenty of lean protein, you can manage your side effects and reduce your risk of developing other diseases.

Before making any major changes to your diet, we recommend contacting your health care provider first. Corresponding with a licensed dietitian will ensure that you’re eating in a way that facilitates a smooth and safe recovery.

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