Nutrition for People with Cancer

Nutrition for Special Groups 3(3+0)

Lesson 40 : Cancer

Nutrition for People with Cancer

Nutrition is an important part of cancer treatment. Eating the right kinds of foods before, during, and after treatment can help to feel better and stay stronger.


People with cancer often need more protein than usual. After surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy, extra protein is usually needed to heal tissues and to help fight infection.
Good sources of protein include lean meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, nuts, dried beans, peas, lentils and soy foods.

High-protein foods
Milk products:
Eat cheese on toast or with crackers. Add grated cheese to baked potatoes, vegetables, soups, noodles, meat, and fruit. Use milk in place of water for cereal and soups.
Include cream sauces on vegetables and pasta. Add powdered milk to cream soups, mashed potatoes, puddings, and casseroles. Add yogurt or cottage cheese to favorite fruits or blended smoothies.
Keep hard-cooked eggs in the refrigerator. Chop and add to salads, casseroles, soups, and vegetables. Make a quick egg salad. All eggs should be well cooked to avoid the risk of harmful bacteria.
Meats, poultry, and fish:
Add leftover cooked meats to soups, casseroles, salads, and omelets. Mix diced and flaked cooked meat with sour cream and spices to make dip.
Beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds:
Sprinkle seeds on desserts like fruit, ice cream, pudding, and custard. Also serve on vegetables, salads, and pasta. Spread peanut butter on toast and fruit or blend in a milkshake.

High-calorie foods
Butter and margarine:
Melt over potatoes, rice, pasta, and cooked vegetables. Stir melted butter or margarine into soups and casseroles and spread on bread before adding other ingredients to your sandwich.
Milk products:
Add whipping cream to desserts, pancakes, waffles, fruit, and hot chocolate; fold it into soups and casseroles. Add sour cream to baked potatoes and vegetables.
Salad dressings:
Use regular (not low-fat or diet) mayonnaise and salad dressing on
sandwiches and dips with vegetables and fruit.
Add jelly and honey to bread and crackers. Add jam to fruit, and use ice cream as a topping on cake.
Tips to increase calories and protein

Eat several small, frequent meals and snacks a day rather than 3 large meals.
Eat your favorite foods at any time of the day. For example, eat breakfast foods for dinner if they appeal to you.

Vitamins and minerals
A person who eats a balanced diet with enough calories and protein usually gets plenty of vitamins and minerals. But it can be hard to eat a balanced diet when treated for cancer, especially if you have treatment side effects that last for a long time.
Some people with cancer take large amounts of vitamins, minerals, and other dietary supplements to try and boost their immune system or even destroy cancer cells.
But some of these substances can be harmful, especially when taken in large doses. In fact, large doses of some vitamins and minerals may make chemotherapy and radiation therapy less effective.
During treatment, it may be best to choose a supplement with no more than the Daily Value (DV) for all nutrients.

Antioxidants include substances like vitamins A, C, and E; selenium; and some enzymes that absorb and attach to free radicals, preventing them from attacking normal cells. (Free radicals are highly reactive oxygen-free compounds created as by-products of the body's normal processes. They can damage important cell proteins and enzymes and can even cause DNA changes that can cause cancer.)
Health experts recommend eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, which are good sources of antioxidants. Taking large doses of antioxidant supplements is usually not recommended while getting chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Herbs have been used to treat disease for hundreds of years, with mixed results. Today, herbs are found in many products, like pills, liquid extracts, teas, and ointments. Many of these products are harmless and safe to use, but others can cause severe and harmful side effects. Some may even interfere with proven cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and recovery from surgery.

Last modified: Thursday, 10 May 2012, 5:51 AM