Cancer patients are often bombarded with conflicting information about nutrition. It can feel impossible to navigate the varying diet recommendations to find the best option for you. It seems as though every “expert” has a different idea of the perfect, cancer-fighting diet.
With so many different opinions, patients may not know who to turn to or what information to trust. In these overwhelming moments, it’s important for patients with mesothelioma or another cancer to look for someone with experience working with cancer patients. One of the best methods for finding the right nutrition plan for you is to speak with an oncology dietitian.
For this month’s online support group session, we invited Tejal Parekh, a board-certified dietitian specializing in nutrition for cancer patients. As an oncology dietitian, she was able to debunk common nutrition myths, in addition to supplying useful tips and tricks for limiting the side effects of treatments while overcoming common issues for patients.
Recommendations for Cancer Prevention
The American Institute for Cancer Research is a great resource when it comes to the latest trends in cancer treatment and medical advancements.
Learn their seven cancer prevention recommendations.
Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight
Maintaining a healthy weight can make a huge difference when it comes to cancer risk. It has an even bigger impact after a cancer diagnosis as many patients must balance a diminishing appetite with a need for proper nutrition. It is important to consume a healthy number of calories every day in order to maintain a healthy weight.
Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day
A cancer diagnosis can make exercise more challenging as you may have to overcome cancer-related fatigue and treatment side effects. Despite these difficulties, increasing your physical activity can improve other aspects of your life such as appetite, stress levels, self-image and energy levels.
Avoid sugary drinks & limit consumption of energy-dense foods
For years, we have been told by medical professionals that beverages, such as soda and juice, may hurt more than help. This becomes especially true after a cancer diagnosis when appetite levels may be low and you can fill yourself up with unhealthy options.
Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes
Did you know experts recommend at least half of your plate be filled with fruits and vegetables? Not only do these foods contain a large number of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), but they also include antioxidants, which have been proven to help fight cancer.
Limit red meats & avoid processed meats
Recent studies have shown that high consumption of red meat (beef, pork and lamb) may be connected to an increased risk of developing a variety of cancers such as lung, pancreatic and esophageal. In addition, processed meats — ham, turkey, bacon, salami, bologna — contain a high number of preservatives, which have been linked to a higher cancer risk.
Limit daily alcohol intake
Many oncologists recommend cutting alcohol from a patient’s diet altogether, but if consumed in moderation (two drinks for men, one drink for women), alcohol may have a protective effect on coronary heart disease. In addition, patients are encouraged to participate in family activities and events with or without alcohol. Just remember: Moderation is key.
Limit consumption of salty foods
Swelling is a common side effect of a variety of cancer treatments. High sodium levels can cause your body to retain fluids, which can result in swelling in your hands and feet.
Impact of Nutrition on Cancer Prognosis
Cancer patients often suffer from unintended consequences, such as weight and muscle loss, which can hurt a patient’s overall prognosis.
If you are looking for nutritional advice, contact an oncology dietitian to find the best diet plan for you. Many cancer centers have on-staff nutritionists to help patients looking for dietary support.
Living with cancer is difficult enough, but certain lifestyle modifications — including diet and nutrition — can make a huge difference when it comes to your symptom management and ultimately your prognosis.