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People with cancer want to keep a healthy body weight and consume nutritious foods. Sometimes the side effects of cancer treatment can cause a person to eat less and eliminate weight. Nutrition counseling may help individuals with cancer get essential nutrients, such as protein, vitamins, and minerals. It may also help them maintain healthy body weight.

What is cancer care?

Cancer is a general term used to describe the abnormal growth of body cells. At the time of writing this article, there are over 100 different types of cancer affecting different parts of the body such as the breast, lung, skin, colon, prostate, lymphoma, blood and the bones. The symptoms experienced usually depend on the type of cancer manifesting in the body. There are different methods of treating cancer such as the conventional use of chemotherapy, radiation, surgery. These treatments may cause side effects that may disrupt your eating routine. Some side effects may include appetite changes, constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, mouth dryness, throat pain or sores, nausea, swallowing problems, taste and smell changes, or weight gain/loss.

See: Magnesium for constipation relief

How can diet therapy help cancer patients?

There's more to nutrition during cancer and cancer therapy than counting calories, protein, and carbs. The foods you choose can help you cope with many side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, chewing and swallowing difficulties, and taste changes. As each person's medical background and diagnosis is different, so is the response to treatment. Side effects can be severe, mild, or absent. Make sure to discuss with your healthcare team any/all potential side effects of treatment before the treatment starts. Side effects include nausea, diarrhea, constipation, chewing or swallowing, taste alterations, and bloating.

People with cancer want to keep healthy body weight and consume nutritious foods. Sometimes the side effects of cancer treatment can cause a person to eat less and eliminate weight. Losing weight without trying could make you weak and malnourished. Some other cancer therapies can lead to weight gain. Here are some general nutrition recommendations for individuals receiving cancer therapy:

Keep a healthy weight. For lots of people, this means preventing weight loss by getting enough calories daily. For men and women that are obese, this may mean losing weight. Ask your healthcare team if you should attempt to lose weight during treatment. It might be better to wait till after treatment, so you have all of the nutrition you will need to keep strong. Should you try to drop weight during treatment, it needs to be moderate, meaning just about a pound per week.

Get essential nutrients. These include carbohydrates, protein, fats, and water.

Be as busy as possible. If you sit or sleep too much, you might lose muscle mass and increase your body fat, even when you aren't gaining weight.

Nutrition therapy is one of the most potent methods of cancer prevention. These cancer prevention diets assist individuals in keeping a healthy body weight, decreasing the occurrence of side effects during and after cancer treatment, maintain body strength, and keep the body tissues healthy [1]

In general terms, proper nutrition is vital to the general well-being of the body. Eating the right kinds of food can assist people to stay stronger even during cancer treatments which can change the overall nutritional needs of the body. During cancer treatments, it is unlikely not to find a nutritionist or dietician among the team members. These professionals are responsible for prescribing the right cancer diet or prepare the best anti-cancer diet plan which will help you stay safe throughout your treatment plan or as a cancer-preventive diet.

The occurrence of cancer and cancer treatments can affect the taste, bring about a change in the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food, and most importantly change the diet needs of the body. This may lead to malnutrition in the body. 

Strong evidence supports the anticancer effects of beetroot and its important compound betanin, cinnamon and cinnamaldehyde, barley and its products, extra-virgin olive oil, black pepper, and its piperine, grapes and its chemical resveratrol, ginger and its chemical 6-gingerol, whey protein, fish, and honey.[12]

See: Turmeric Curcumin Health Benefits & Side Effects

Foods to focus on

1. Fresh Vegetables and fruits:

Fresh vegetables and fruits are rich in antioxidant properties that take care of the excess free radicals in circulation. These free radicals, when accumulated in the body, can lead to the abnormal growth of body cells thus translating into cancer. A good cancer preventive diet is incomplete with fresh vegetables and fruits which provides the body with enough vitamins for proper nutrition of the body. Examples of vegetables to include in your anti-cancer diet include but should not be limited to spinach, kale, and broccoli [2]. 

2. Eat more of whole grains and legumes

Whole grains and legumes such as whole wheat bread, beans, and brown rice are rich in proteins, carbohydrates, and fiber. Fiber increases the rate of circulation and improves digestion thus giving you a better chance to digest your food and stay healthier [3]. 

3. Drink lots of water

Water is life. According to the publications of Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada (CCCN), it plays an essential role in digestion, transportation of nutrients, moderation of body temperature and maintenance of body pH. Since it is good to take lots of fluid to help keep your body hydrated, careful attention must be taken to avoid carbonated drinks and alcohol [4]. 

See: Ovarian Cancer Sample Diet Plan Menu for a Day

Foods to avoid

The category of food according to which falls under this category can significantly affect the overall body nutrition. Food containing high fats can increase the body pH thus increasing your chances of experiencing cancer [5]. 

See: Diet Plan for Person With Thyroid Cancer

Adopting the Paleo diet protocols

Paleo diet protocols are aimed at replicating what the human ancestors ate. A careful study of their lives revealed that they had little or no challenges with autoimmune diseases and inflammations. This is usually planned out anti-cancer diet protocol with a list of what to eat and avoid to maintain a healthy lifestyle [6]. 

What to eat

This is usually made up of some categories of food that are rich in vitamins and minerals to assist the body stay strong, fight against diseases and above all, improve the health of your digestive system [6].




Healthy fats and oils







What to avoid 

Artificial sweeteners




Most dairy products

Processed foods

Soft drinks


Trans fats.

Vegetable oils

These are foods that contain lots of oils and have a tendency of increasing body pH, promote dehydration and above all, overwork the digestive system. 

See: Autoimmune Paleo Diet or AIP Diet

Other Natural therapies for Cancer care


Cancer can be treated or prevented using the following natural or herbal remedies. This treatment method is 100% organic is more effective with little or no side effects. 

1. Use of ketogenic diet which assists in weakening the cancer cells.

2. Juicing to provide the body with vitamins and minerals for proper hormone functioning. 

3. Use of fermented food to promote overall body metabolism and decrease the body’s exposure to carcinogens

4. Applying the Budwig protocol which is aimed at providing the body with the needed minerals and a planned diet course for cancer patients 

5. Detoxification to take care of the carcinogens in circulation in the body. 

6. Exposure to sunlight

See: The Ketogenic Diet for Cancer Starving

Research in diet therapy for cancer care

The role of cancer prevention has been widely known and documented in research works. In one of the studies, Willet and his colleagues at Harvard University tracked the prevalence of cancer of 80, 000 American nurses while taking special note of their diet [8]. The study focused on the role of fiber and red meat consumption in the treatment and prevention of cancer. At the end of the research work, it was discovered that people who ate red meat were at a higher risk of colon cancer than the others. Other studies [9-11] focused on fat consumption which increased the rate of contracting breast cancer. 

According to the findings of Adams and Jewell [7], there is a huge success in cancer diet therapy in combination with other forms of complementary therapy such as yoga physical activity, diet and exercise have dramatically increased the success rate of cancer treatments.

See: Yoga Nidra and Meditation benefits for cancer patients


1. Béliveau, R., & Gingras, D. (2007). Role of nutrition in preventing cancer. Canadian family physician Medecin de famille canadien, 53(11), 1905-11. 

2. Gladys, B., Blossom, P. and Amy, S. (1992): Fruit, vegetables, and cancer prevention: A review of the epidemiological evidence, Nutrition, and Cancer,  Vol 18(1): 1-29.

3. Tayyem, R. F., Bawadi, H. A., Shehadah, I., Agraib, L. M., Al-Awwad, N. J., Heath, D. D., & Bani-Hani, K. E. (2015). Consumption of Whole Grains, Refined Cereals, and Legumes and Its Association With Colorectal Cancer Among Jordanians. Integrative cancer therapies, 15(3), 318-25. 

4. Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada (CCCN): Benefits of Drinking Water: Cancer-Fighting and More. Published July 2018, accessed January 2019.

5. Bauer, A. et al. (2014): Foods to Avoid During Cancer Treatment, published in 2014, accessed in January 2019.

6. Nutrition Services for Cancer Patients. Accessed January 2019.

7. Adams, M., & Jewell, A. P. (2007). The use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine by cancer patients. International seminars in surgical oncology: ISSO, 4, 10. DOI:10.1186/1477-7800-4-10

8. Willet et al., The Integral role of nutrition in cancer treatment. American Nutrition Association, Vol 30 (2): Accessed January 2019. 

9. American Cancer Society. (2012). Nutrition for the person with cancer during treatment: a guide for patients and families. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, Inc.

10. Baan, R., Straif, K., Grosse, Y., et al. Carcinogenicity of alcoholic beverages. (2007). Lancet Oncology. Elsevier. 8(4): pp. 292-293. (PMID: 17431955).

11. Nutrition for cancer survivors. BC Cancer Agency. (2005). Oncology Nutrition - Nutrition and Cancer Prevention. Vancouver: BC Cancer Agency.

12. Javadi B., Diet Therapy for Cancer Prevention and Treatment Based on Traditional Persian Medicine, Nutr Cancer. 2018 Apr;70(3):376-403. DOI: 10.1080/01635581.2018.1446095. Epub 2018 Mar 15.

See: Functional Medicine Treatments After Chemotherapy for a Breast Cancer Patient

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