Marquette General Cancer Center
Nutrition and Cancer
When dealing with a diagnosis of cancer it is common to be overwhelmed when sorting through treatment and health information. One area that conflicting advice can often be found is nutrition and cancer treatment. Many diet authors promise a cancer cure by following a particular diet or supplement, and it is common to get discouraged if you are not able to buy the supplement or follow the diet. It is true that nutrition and cancer are related but helping your body fight cancer does not have to be difficult.
When you are sorting through nutrition information be skeptical of easy answers. Cancer is a very complex disease with no single cause or cure. A good diet strategy will be one that addresses healthy eating and variety, not a single food or supplement. Be leery of cancer ‘diets’, many are very strict and difficult to follow and can leave you feeling guilty or depressed. The best places to find nutrition information is your local dietitian or credible groups like The American Dietetic Association or The American Institute for Cancer Research.
To help your body function at its best a basic healthy diet should be followed. Other measures such as buying organic foods or taking a particular supplement will not matter if you do not have a healthy base. Aim for 5 or more servings of different colored fruits and vegetables per day. Fruits and vegetables are a good source of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.
Focus on whole grain products instead of those that are white and refined. Fiber helps to keep your digestive system healthy and your body needs 20-35 grams per day. These plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) should make up 3/4 of your plate with lean animal protein sources making up 1/4 or less. Experiment with vegetable based protein sources like beans or tofu.
Limit your fat intake to approximately 60 grams or less per day. Use mostly monounsaturated fats like olive oil, nuts, and nutbutters, while limiting saturated and trans fats like those found in animal products and snack foods with hydrogenated oils. Also try to limit empty calories from alcohol or sugar.
Alcohol should be consumed in moderation if at all. Research has shown that the disadvantages in those with cancer outweigh any advantages on heart health. Sugar is another area that you may find conflicting advice. Many resources claim that sugar feeds cancer and all sources of it should be avoided. It is unrealistic to avoid all sugar, such as the healthy sugars found in foods like fruit, milk, and whole grains, these foods have many cancer fighting substances in addition to the sugar or carbohydrate they contain. But avoiding empty calories from pop, candy, cookies, and cake should definitely be part of a healthy diet.
You do not have
to eat differently from your family if you have cancer, having your
family follow these same recommendations will benefit everyone.
Eating less fat, more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, while
cutting back on alcohol and sweets has been shown to prevent certain
cancers and help you feel your best if you are undergoing treatment