Nutrition plays a crucial role in reducing cancer risk and in sustaining your health if you have been diagnosed with cancer. Eating a healthy diet can help you stay strong and energized and maintain a healthy weight. Eating well can even boost your immune system, decrease your likelihood of developing an infection, speed recovery and help you endure the side effects of treatment.
A healthy, plant-based diet can also lower your risk of getting cancer in the first place. Studies on cancer and nutrients show the importance of eating a diet featuring plant-based foods because of the phytonutrients and other special compounds they contain.
So what nutritional goals should you set if you’re looking to reduce your cancer risk or if you're currently undergoing cancer treatment?
Cancer risk reduction
To reduce cancer risk, cruciferous vegetables (like cauliflower, broccoli, kale and cabbage) are nutritional powerhouses that contain key phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Studies have shown that eating these vegetables can reduce breast and prostate cancer risk. Research also reports that women who eat more than five servings a day of cruciferous vegetables have a lower risk of developing lung cancer.
Other cancer-fighting foods include berries, cooked tomatoes, walnuts, garlic and dried beans. However, you should stay away from animal fats, processed meats and excessive amounts of alcohol.
Your most important nutritional goal during cancer treatment is making sure you're taking enough calories and protein to keep up your weight and nutritional stores. That means you'll want to include plenty of calories and protein, which you can get from cheese, eggs, nuts, nut butters and yogurt.
During this time, it’s also important to protect yourself from foodborne infections by avoiding any unnecessary bacteria. Make sure any fish, poultry, red meat and eggs you eat is fully cooked. Additionally, wash your fruits and vegetables well even if they’re pre-washed, and avoid soft cheeses.
If you’re recovering from cancer treatment, you'll want to focus on rebuilding your muscle strength, regaining any weight you’ve lost and restoring your health if you’ve developed a condition like anemia. Make sure you’re consuming plenty of calories, protein and other nutrients to help you reach your health and recovery goals.
If you'd like to learn more tips about managing your diet before, during and after cancer treatment, contact the Goshen Center for Cancer Care at (888) 492-4673 (HOPE).