Nutrition for the Cancer Patient

By Jillian McKee, Complementary Medicine Advocate at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

For people who have been diagnosed with cancer, whether just diagnosed, in
treatment or remission, proper nutrition is essential. And while making healthy
food choices is important for everyone, cancer patients can benefit even more
from getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals from food. Both the
illness and the treatments used can severely affect appetite. Without the
proper nutrition, symptoms of cancer and side effects of treatment can
worsen and greatly decrease health, mood and quality of life. For example,
poor nutrition in cancer patients can lead to fatigue, extreme weight loss, poor
body function and low energy levels.

While good nutrition is recognized as a method to prevent certain cancers, it
can also be used to improve health for those who have already been
diagnosed with the disease. According to the National Cancer Institute, good
nutrition is key in improving strength and overall wellness in cancer patients.

The following is a list of foods that increase energy, body function and overall
health and wellness for individuals who are living with cancer:

Fruits and Vegetables

Colorful fruits and vegetables should be eaten daily and with every meal.
Brightly colored produce, from deep greens to bright reds and purples, are
packed full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The high vitamin and
mineral content will nourish the body, while the antioxidants fight off disease
and rid the body of harmful toxins. Great produce choices include leafy
greens, cherry tomatoes, avocados and antioxidant-rich blueberries,
blackberries and raspberries.


Protein is essential to any diet. Without it, the body loses strength and the
ability to fight off infection. Lean cuts of meat, such as grilled fish or chicken,
are great sources of protein, as are beans, nuts and soy. These foods will
boost strength and energy, and also aid in healing and recovery after
treatments or surgery.

Dietary Fiber

Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation and pain management
can wreak havoc on the body. One common side effect of such treatments is
constipation. The dietary fiber found in whole grains, such as brown rice,
quinoa and barley, will help relieve the discomfort of constipation by helping
to properly rid the body of waste.


Fats are an important part of any diet: they aid in the digestion of vitamins
and minerals, insulate the body, provide energy and promote healthy organ
function. However, some fats are better than others. Unhealthy fats include
trans-fatty acids and saturated fats, which should be avoided whenever
possible if not eliminated completely.

Some studies suggest that good nutrition can even increase rates of
remission. Mesothelioma survival rates, for example, have been shown to
increase through proper nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices. The bottom
line is that maintaining proper nutrition promotes better health and quality of
life, a primary concern for cancer patients and their loved ones.Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

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