Prioritizing Diet & Nutrition in Cancer

Prioritizing Diet & Nutrition

“Diet and nutrition play a crucial function for individuals with terminal illnesses as they contribute towards healthy body growth as well as restoring worn-out tissues. It is necessary to have a balanced diet when undergoing cancer treatment since it helps in supplying enough food substances into the body; otherwise, there will not be an adequate supply for healthy living. Furthermore, proper nourishment can enable patients with this disease to regain strength during the intervals between its therapies, which consequently increases their survival chances and enhances their general welfare.” Adopting certain eating habits can also help combat common side effects that may arise from treatments. Thus, making positive behavioral changes is part of an ongoing, life-long process.

What role does nutrition play in Cancer treatment?


Cancer patients are frequently malnourished owing to the direct or indirect effects of surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and other psychological factors. Maintaining a nutritious diet is an integral part of anti-cancer therapy. The nutrition needs of people with cancer differ from person to person. The type of cancer and treatment plan are considered when trying to figure out the best ways to get the nutrition your body needs. Our cancer care team at Yashoda Hospitals, Hyderabad, can help you identify your nutrition goals and plan ways to help you meet them.

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What are the key nutrients for people with Cancer?

The right food can promote strength and overall wellness in patients with cancer. Our registered dietitians at Yashoda Hospitals, who also specialize in oncology nutrition, help form customized plans for cancer patients, ensuring that they receive appropriate nutrition and helping them through complex dietary needs. Every cancer is different, mainly in the mechanism of onset and the genetic modifications. A well-balanced cancer diet with regular exercise is paramount for cancer prevention and treatment. The main nutrients to focus on during the cancer treatment are proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, fats, and water. 

Proteins are the building blocks of the human cell. It helps support muscle strengthening and maintenance for resisting infections, recovering from illnesses, and repairing tissues. 

Carbohydrates provide fuel for our bodies and energy for life. It is essential to choose whole grains and complex carbs over empty carbs and sweets to promote sustainable energy and nutrient-dense foods. 

Fat promotes heart health and cholesterol management. 

Water is vital, especially if you are experiencing vomiting or diarrhea. Avoid fatty and fried foods, caffeine, sugary drinks and fruit juices, salads, raw foods, and sugary spirits.

Vitamins and minerals may help to provide essential nutrients the body systems need to promote energy.

What is the Diet for Cancer Prevention?

Cancer Prvention Diet

To lower the risk of developing various cancers, it is important to build your diet around a variety of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans, whole grains, and healthy fats. Simultaneously, try to limit the amount of processed and fried foods, unhealthy fats, sugars, and refined carbohydrates.

Plant-based foods are rich in antioxidants that help boost the immune system and protect against cancer cells.

  • A diet rich in fruits reduces the risk of stomach and lung cancer.
  • Eating vegetables that contain carotenoids, such as carrots, Brussels sprouts, and pumpkin, can reduce the risk of cancers of the lung, mouth, pharynx, and larynx.
  • Foods for cancer prevention can also include starchy foods such as broccoli, spinach, and beans, which can help protect against cancers of the stomach and esophagus.
  • Eating oranges, berries, peas, peppers, dark green vegetables, and other foods high in vitamin C may also protect against esophageal cancer.
  • Prostate cancer-fighting foods can include foods high in lycopene, such as tomatoes, guava, and watermelon.

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Cancer Diet During Chemotherapy

The diet chart for chemotherapy patients is categorized as pre-chemotherapy, during-chemotherapy, and post-chemotherapy diets.

Understanding that the particular diet chart for chemotherapy patients can vary depending on their own needs as well as the side effects encountered is crucial. However, it is recommended that a cancer patient eat light on the day of chemotherapy. Avoid eating fatty or spicy foods during the days of chemotherapy.

Diet chart for chemotherapy patients before chemotherapy

The chemotherapy diet before the procedure can include light, bland foods such as:

  • Yogurt
  • Fresh fruits 
  • Cottage cheese
  • Poached eggs and toast
  • Toasted bagel 
  • Cereal and milk (if lactose-intolerant)
  • Chicken rice soup with saltine crackers

Diet chart for chemotherapy patients during chemotherapy

It is advised to bring a small, flat snack during the chemotherapy session. You can also try breakfast with low-acid juices such as apple, grape, and fruit honey, liquid yogurt, fruits, and crackers. Bring a water bottle filled with your favorite drink. Avoid acidic foods that can irritate the digestive system. Dr. Sachin Marda, Sr. Consultant Oncologist and Robotic Surgeon (Cancer Specialist) at Yashoda Hospitals, Hyderabad, says, “Fruits and vegetables are rich in cancer-fighting antioxidants. In fact, a diet high in fiber is linked with a lower incidence of colon cancer. Switch to organic produce to dodge harmful chemicals and pesticides.”

Post Chemotherapy Diet

Chemotherapy can have certain side effects. Below are some tips to cope with the side effects of chemotherapy. 

Keep food tasty: Chemotherapy can affect your taste buds, especially some food and drinks that can taste metallic or unpleasant. The two most common things that become unpleasant during chemotherapy are water and meat. If plain water is difficult to drink, try drinking flavored mineral water or lemon water. If some meats are difficult to eat, try other sources of protein, such as eggs, low-fat milk, beans, and fish, which help fight cancer with food.

Fight constipation: Some people get diarrhea with chemotherapy, while others suffer from constipation. Staying hydrated is important to avoid constipation. If you are not used to high amounts of fiber, ensure to increase your fiber intake in your diet slowly. 

Control weight gain: Some cancer patients are more likely to gain weight during treatment. It is suggested to consume low-fat meals, snacks, and lots of vegetables.

Improved appetite: Most people who have had chemotherapy will find themselves hungry. Since carbohydrates are generally well digested, it is recommended to drink hot cereal, peanut butter, or other nut butter and try snacks like pita bread with hummus. Other foods to consider include yogurt and mixed soups.

Reduce diarrhea: If you have diarrhea, avoid fatty and fried foods, caffeine, sugary drinks and fruit juices, salads, raw foods, and sugary spirits. Cancer foods that are well tolerated after chemotherapy are oats, fruits without skin, sweet potatoes, and squash. 

Easy-to-follow tips: post-chemo 

  • Eat small meals and snacks throughout the day. 
  • Eat low-fat foods.
  • Try cold foods, as these give off less odor and aroma and are especially important if you feel nauseous. Hot foods can have more odor, therefore causing an aversion to certain foods.
  • Drink fluids frequently to prevent dehydration. It also helps remove some of the byproducts of chemotherapy. Try other sources of fluids, such as apple and grape juice. Fruit nectar, low-salt broth, Clear soups, gelatin, Herbal teas, such as ginger and mint, and weak black teas. 
  • Take your anti-nausea medication as prescribed by a healthcare professional.

Note: To ensure a diet that fits in well with your own needs and preferences during chemotherapy, it is crucial for one to consult a registered dietitian or their own doctor. The latter can guide you in tackling any nutritional problems that come your way, so you end up with all the necessary nutrients for an optimum health status.

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