Nutrition and Mesothelioma: Adding Whole Grains to Your Diet

Health & Wellness

Maintaining a healthy diet is crucial for mesothelioma patients and others with cancer. We know fruits and vegetables are important components, but what about whole grains?

We’ve heard the term, but what exactly are whole grains and how important are they? Grains – also known as cereals – are the edible seeds of specific grasses.

The most commonly eaten grains are wheat, oats, rice and corn. The popcorn you eat is even a whole grain.

What Are Whole Grains?

In their whole state, grains are made up of three nutritious parts: bran, germ and endosperm. “Refined grain” is the phrase used to define grains that have had some of these parts removed.

White flour or white rice are refined grains because they have had the bran and germ removed. Refining makes the rice or bread softer and whiter in appearance, which many people like, but the nutritional consequences are disappointing.

Whole grains labels with percentage
To make it easy when shopping, look for this label to find whole grain foods. Credit:

Refined grains are much lower in fiber, B vitamins and protein. While the process of enrichment does add back in some of these vitamins, it doesn’t add in all the healthy plant chemicals and antioxidants known for their cancer-fighting abilities.

Those who are undergoing treatment for mesothelioma should make eating healthy a priority. Adding whole grains is a delicious way to start. Whole grains are well researched and have been found to reduce the risk of many diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and certain types of cancers.

Adding Whole Grains to a Mesothelioma Nutrition Plan

Food labels make it easy to see the whole grain content of foods, from 100% whole grain to less than 50%. In order to ensure your diet contains enough whole grains, aim for a few products where 100% of the grain is whole grain.

Whole Grains to Try
  • Amaranth
  • Ancient Wheat (einkorn, farro, kamut, spelt)
  • Barley
  • Buckwheat
  • Bulgur wheat
  • Corn
  • Freekah
  • Millet
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Rice (brown, red, black, wild)
  • Rye
  • Sorghum
  • Teff
  • Wheat berries
  • Whole wheat flour

Cancer patients should try to incorporate these foods into their diet to get a variety of whole grains. The Whole Grains Council can help you find products and restaurants that provide these healthy grains.

Recipes that Incorporate Whole Grains

From burgers to bread, there are many recipes that incorporate whole grains. Here are two delicious ways to add whole grains to your diet.

White Bean and Quinoa Burgers with Avocado

This fiber-packed burger not only contains quinoa, an easy-to-find whole grain, but it is packed with lots of spices and herbs that are great for their antioxidant potential.

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 can no-salt-added cannellini beans (rinsed, drained)
  • 1 medium avocado, halved and pitted, and 1/2 medium avocado, cut into 5 slices, divided use
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika or 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt-free chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper (freshly ground)
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sriracha sauce or other hot chili sauce
  • 5 whole-wheat hamburger buns (lowest sodium available)
  • 2 medium tomatoes (sliced)
  • 10 lettuce leaves
  • 10 slices red onion (optional)
  • Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Lightly spray the foil with cooking spray.
  • Put the beans in a medium bowl. Using a potato masher, mash them well. Add half of the whole avocado. Mash well. Add the egg, garlic powder, paprika, chili powder, cumin and pepper, stirring well to combine.
  • Dice the remaining half of the whole avocado. Gently fold it and the quinoa into the bean mixture.
  • Using your hands, form the bean mixture into 5 patties. Place the patties on the baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, or until browned.
  • Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise and sriracha sauce.
  • Toast the buns.
  • Place the burger patties on the bottom buns. Spread the patties with the sriracha mayo. Top with, in order, the tomato slices, lettuce, onion slices and the remaining avocado slices. Put the top buns on the burgers.

Recipe: American Heart Association

Get Nutty Whole Grain Banana Bread

This a healthier take on traditional banana bread using just a small amount of brown sugar and whole-wheat flour. Feel free to add in some stem ginger or extra cinnamon for a boost of phytochemicals.

  • 3 ripe medium bananas, peeled, mashed
  • 1/2 cup milk or soy milk, plain, unsweetened
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch salt (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • 2 tablespoons coconut, unsweetened, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds
  • 3 tablespoons pistachio nuts
  • 3 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • In a mixing bowl, whip together bananas, soymilk, vegetable oil, chia seeds, vanilla and sugar for two minutes. For best results, use an electric mixer.
  • Stir in remaining ingredients, mixing only until well combined.
  • Spray loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for about 65 minutes, until fork inserted in center comes out clean.
  • Remove, cool slightly before slicing.

Recipe: American Institute for Cancer Research

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