A cancer diagnosis is typically a life-changing event. Along with preparing for the rigors of treatment, patients have to find ways to stay balanced mentally and physically. A diet change is often one of the top lifestyle adjustments recommended by doctors. Some diet changes can help recovery and make it easier to eat during treatment.
The Importance of Diet at Different Cancer Stages
Cancer is staged during diagnosis to indicate how far the original tumor has grown and spread. In stage one cancers, for instance, the cancerous cells are largely confined to the original tumor or very nearby tissues. By stage four, the most advanced type of cancer, cells have spread to more distant parts of the body, to other tissues and organs.
Some cancers are easy to catch early, like skin cancer, and then require minimal treatment to cure or for remission. Others, like mesothelioma, which is the cancer of the tissue layer surrounding the lungs, is very difficult to diagnose and is often only caught in later stages. For these late-stage cancers, treatment is usually more aggressive and damaging.
A good diet is important at any stage but eating well becomes more difficult in later-stage cancers. Multiple rounds of chemotherapy, doses of radiation and aggressive surgeries can cause appetite loss. Eating foods that are both nourishing and appetizing can be difficult. Patients at later stages can benefit from the services of a registered dietician.
Foods To Avoid During Cancer Treatment
During cancer treatment, it may become difficult to eat certain types of food. The body is often unable to process certain foods, and some foods are also detrimental to treatment. Meat, excluding fish, tends to be very difficult for the body to process during cancer treatment. This is especially true of meat that has been deep-fried, grilled or broiled. Carcinogenic byproducts result from cooking animal protein at high heat, which is problematic for cancer patients. Salty, sugary and oily foods are also not good for cancer patients as they require a lot of effort from the liver to process. Similarly, cancer patients should limit their consumption of alcohol. Another type of food to watch out for is raw and undercooked food. Cancer treatment results in a lowered immune system, which means the body can’t easily deal with pathogens found in raw and undercooked food. Even raw fruit and vegetables can be suspect if they haven’t been fully and properly washed.
Anti-Cancer Superfoods to Eat Instead
Avoiding meat during cancer treatment and recovery means focusing on a more plant-based diet. Patients should aim for between five and nine servings of fruit and vegetables per day. The following six plant superfoods are especially helpful:
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable like cauliflower and kale among others. However, broccoli contains a large amount of a compound called sulforaphane. This compound flushes out chemicals that cause cancer while also attacking cancer stem cells. It’s helpful for nearly any type of cancer, including lung, breast, prostate and skin cancer. The fiber content in broccoli is also filling, which is helpful to diets with limited protein. Also helpful in this regard are beans. They contain a fatty acid called butyrate, which can protect against cancer growth. The high fiber and plant protein provide a filling meal. As sugar is a food to avoid in cancer treatment, the natural sweetness of berries can help fill this void. They also contain high amounts of phytonutrients, which target cancer cells.
Even though cancer treatment tends to be very uncomfortable, patients can help their physical condition through a proper diet and the addition of various superfoods.