Written By: Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RDN,
Last modified: August 19, 2021

All mesothelioma patients can benefit from cancer-fighting foods but not for the reason many people believe.

The idea of foods that fight cancer may conjure up a notion of nutrients killing tumor cells, similarly to the way mesothelioma treatment works.

However, this isn’t how nutrition affects the body. Instead, healthy foods bolster your body’s natural ability to fight cancer. They support immune function and promoting healing and recovery.

This allows you to stay on track with your treatment schedule and medication doses. Getting all of your planned therapy is critical to achieving optimal tumor control.

Cancer-Fighting Foods

Cancer-fighting recipes will help you add the following key foods into your mesothelioma dietary plan.

Proteins: Chicken, Fish, Dairy, Meat, Eggs and More

Protein is among the most important nutrients for a mesothelioma patient. Excellent, protein-rich options include:

  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Lean beef and pork
  • Greek yogurt
  • Beans, lentils and peas
  • Soy foods
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Cheese

Regardless of your usual body weight — whether you are thin, average or overweight — your body needs extra protein after a mesothelioma diagnosis.

Even if you feel you have “room to spare” and some extra body weight, you should do everything you can to avoid losing weight during treatment.

Maintaining your weight and eating plenty of protein during treatment is the best way to preserve your muscle and support immune cell repair and regeneration. Most cancer patients should aim to eat 0.65 to 0.75 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day.

For example, a person who weighs 175 pounds should try to eat 114 to 131 grams of protein daily.

Yellow, White, Orange and Purple Root Vegetables

Colorful plant foods are among the top cancer-fighting items in the diet. This includes all vegetables, but for people diagnosed with mesothelioma, it’s helpful to focus on the calorie-rich options.

Skip the salads and other low-calorie vegetables. Instead, fuel up with:

  • Purple and white potatoes
  • Orange sweet potatoes and edible pumpkin (not the carving kind)
  • Yellow yams
  • Orange and yellow squash

Many people in mesothelioma treatment struggle to get enough to eat. Good nutrition helps the body weather difficult cancer therapies and fuel recovery. For this reason, focus on the vitamin- and mineral-rich options that also provide energy.

Purple, Red and Blue Fruit

Berries and brightly colored stone fruit are among the most potent cancer-fighting foods in the diet. Those bright colors signal the presence of antioxidants and other cancer-fighting nutrients.

Combining fruit with some protein and fat offers the body calories, vitamins and minerals needed during cancer therapy. These important substances can support healing and recovery during and after mesothelioma treatment.

Try to include the following nutrient-rich fruit — fresh or frozen — in your cancer-fighting food plan:

  • Cherries
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Black raspberries
  • Cranberries
  • Boysenberries
  • Mulberries
  • Red and black currants
  • Salmon berries

Some of these items are only available fresh for a few weeks a year. Frozen fruit retains the same nutrients as fresh, may be less expensive and may be easier to find.

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Cancer Fighting Recipes for a Healthy Diet

High-Protein Recipe

Perfect Pan-Seared, Oven-Roasted Roast Chicken Thighs

Servings: 3

Pan Roasted Chicken Thighs
Pan Roasted Chicken Thighs

Ingredients

  • 6 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (about 2 ¼ pounds)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Herbs and spices, to taste∗

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 475 F
  • Season chicken with salt and pepper
  • In a cast-iron, oven-safe skillet heat oil over medium-high heat until hot, but not smoking
  • Place chicken thighs skin down and cook two minutes on medium-high
  • Reduce heat to medium and cook about 12 minutes, until skin is golden brown
  • Move thighs around during skillet cooking to ensure even heating
  • Transfer skillet to oven and cook an additional 13 minutes
  • Flip chicken and cook another 7 minutes, until skin is crispy and meat cooked through
  • Check to make sure internal temperature of chicken reaches at least 165 F
  • Transfer to plate and let sit 5 minutes before serving

∗ Herbs and spices can help reduce metallic and unpleasant tastes that can occur during chemotherapy. Try fresh or dried rosemary, oregano, basil or thyme.

Adding a bit of sweetness with a light brushing of honey or maple syrup at the end of cooking also may improve flavor for mesothelioma patients.

Nutrition information per serving: 370 calories; 36 g protein; 25 g fat; 0 g carbohydrate

Root Vegetables Recipe

Roasted Potatoes, Yams and Squash

Servings: 5

Roasted Potatoes, Yams and Squash
Roasted Potatoes, Yams and Squash

Ingredients

  • 1 medium orange sweet potato or fresh, edible pumpkin if seasonal
  • 1 medium yellow yam or sweet potato
  • 1 small acorn or ½ butternut squash (add extra potato and yam if squash is out of season)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Dash of salt and pepper, to taste
  • Fresh or dried herbs — basil, oregano, marjoram, thyme, parsley or rosemary
Preparation
  • Preheat oven to 450 F
  • Wash and dry vegetables
  • Peel and chop squash into roughly 1-inch pieces
  • Chop potatoes, skin on, into 1-inch pieces
  • Place vegetables into 3-quart, glass baking dish (approximately 12” × 9”)
  • Add olive oil and stir to coat food
  • Sprinkle with salt, pepper and herbs
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes, stirring once halfway through baking time
  • Remove from oven and serve immediately

Nutrition information per serving: 177 calories; 3 g protein; 8 g fat; 23 g carbohydrate

If you enjoy grilling, you can brush whole potatoes in olive oil, sprinkle with herbs and salt, wrap in foil and place on the grill for 10 minutes, flipping halfway through. Open foil carefully using tongs, to avoid contact with escaping steam. Poke potatoes with a fork to determine if cooked through. If not cooked to desired doneness, rewrap and return to grill for another few minutes.

Fruit Smoothie Recipe

Berry-Cherry, High-Protein Smoothie∗

Servings: 1

Berry Cherry High-Protein Smoothie
Berry Cherry High-Protein Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1 cup non-fat, Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup frozen cherries
  • ½ cup frozen blueberries∗∗
  • 1 cup whole milk or non-dairy option, if preferred (more or less to blend to desired consistency)

Preparation

  • Combine all ingredients in a blender
  • Begin blending, adding a little milk at a time to combine to desired consistency

Nutrition information per serving: 485 calories; 29 g protein; 9 g fat; 72 g carbohydrate

∗ If you have been advised to avoid frozen and very cold foods during treatment, add berries to other foods such as oatmeal or cereal.

∗∗ If things taste too sweet, try substituting frozen cranberries in place of blueberries.

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Treat Food Like Medicine

Some people struggle to eat enough during cancer treatment. If this is a problem for you, try to treat food like medication.

You may not feel hungry, but setting a timer to take a few bites or sips of food every hour can help you squeeze more calories and protein into your day. Do this for all of the foods you are able to eat during cancer care.

If you are losing weight after a mesothelioma diagnosis, ask your medical team to refer you to a cancer dietitian. This person can help you design a plan to meet your nutrition needs before, during and after treatment.


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