Nutrition and cancer
Benefits of good nutrition during cancer treatment
When you’re healthy, eating enough food to get the nutrients and calories you need is not usually a problem. Most nutrition guidelines stress eating lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products; limiting the amount of red meat you eat, especially meats that are processed or high in fat; cutting back on fat, sugar, alcohol, and salt; and staying at a healthy weight. But when you’re being treated for cancer, these things can be hard to do, especially if you have side effects or just don’t feel well.
Good nutrition is especially important if you have cancer because both the illness and its treatments can change the way you eat. They can also affect the way your body tolerates certain foods and uses nutrients.
During cancer treatment, you might need to change your diet to help build up your strength and withstand the effects of cancer and its treatment. This may mean eating things that aren’t normally recommended when you are in good health. For instance, you might need high-fat, high-calorie foods to keep up your weight, or dense, cool foods like ice cream or milkshakes because sores in your mouth and throat are making it hard to eat anything. The type of cancer, your treatment, and any side effects you have must be considered when trying to figure out the best ways to get the nutrition your body needs.
The nutrition needs of people with cancer vary from person to person. Your cancer care team can help you identify your nutrition goals and plan ways to help you meet them. Eating well while you’re being treated for cancer might help you:
- Feel better.
- Keep up your strength and energy.
- Maintain your weight and your body’s store of nutrients.
- Better tolerate treatment-related side effects.
- Lower your risk of infection.
- Heal and recover faster.
Eating well means eating a variety of foods to get the nutrients your body needs to fight cancer. These nutrients include proteins, fats, carbohydrates, water, vitamins, and minerals.