Chemotherapy is a common cancer treatment that can be extremely taxing on the body. For this reason, it’s important to maintain a healthy, balanced diet to keep your body functioning optimally during chemotherapy. The right nutrition can help you feel better and even recover faster. Here are foods that are beneficial during chemo.
Ways that chemotherapy affects nutrition
Chemo patients may suffer these side effects to different degrees:
- Decreased appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Changes in taste or smell
- Diarrhoea and constipation
- Dry mouth
- Sores in the throat and mouth
Food to eat during chemotherapy
Oatmeal has numerous nutrients including antioxidants, carbs, protein, and healthy fats. Its neutral flavour and creamy texture help counter chemo side effects like dry mouth or mouth sores. The high fibre content in it also helps keep bowel movements regular countering chemotherapy side-effects like diarrhoea and constipation. Lifestyle: 6 Health Benefits Of Oats
Oily fish and fish oils are highly nutritious with high levels of omega-3 fatty acid and anti-inflammatory properties as well. This is beneficial because inflammation predisposes to the development of cancer. Among the best-known oily fish are salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring. Lifestyle: 8 Health And Nutritional Benefits Of Fish
Avocados are highly nutritious which can pack the necessary calories and nutrients into your diet while dealing with the decreased appetite that may arise from chemotherapy. Avocados are high in healthy monounsaturated fat, can help lower LDL “bad” cholesterol while raising HDL “good” cholesterol. It’s rich in fibre which bulks up stool and feeds the friendly bacteria in your gut. You can also cook in avocado oil. Good oil consumption will help keep your weight up and keep you healthy. Lifestyle: 7 Benefits Of Adding Avocados To Your Diet
Berries are a rich source of antioxidants which are beneficial in protecting the cells during chemotherapy. Some of the healthiest berries to consume are cranberries, blueberries, and blackberries. Strawberries and raspberries are also a great addition. 7 Health Benefits Of Blueberries
Chewing ginger or taking it in tea can help prevent or reduce the feeling of nausea. Ginger is anti-inflammatory and helps control blood sugar. Health: 5 Benefits Of Ginger
Eggs help with fatigue which is a common side-effect of chemotherapy. They fight tiredness because of their generous supply of protein and fats. Fat provides the body with energy and protein helps maintain and build muscle mass which is important while undergoing chemo. The soft, soothing texture of eggs also makes them ideal if you’re experiencing mouth sores. Health: The Benefits And Dangers Of Eating Eggs
Is a great way to stay hydrated while undergoing chemotherapy especially considering the taste changes that may make water taste different. Lifestyle: 7 Health Benefits Of Bone Broth
Almonds and other nuts
Nuts like almonds and cashews are a great easy snack during chemotherapy. They are rich in protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. They also have antioxidants that help fight free radicals which damage cells which is detrimental when undergoing chemo.
Pumpkin seeds are a great snack that’s also rich in fats, protein, and antioxidants. 8 Amazing Health Benefits Of Pumpkin Seeds
Bread and crackers
Bread or crackers are a valuable dietary addition if you’re experiencing diarrhoea or nausea as a result of chemotherapy. White bread and crackers are easy to digest. Salted crackers or saltine are useful in replenishing sodium lost through diarrhoea and vomiting.
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and cabbage have an impressive nutritional profile. Broccoli in particular has high levels of vitamin C which is vital for boosting the immune system. It also has a compound that positively impacts brain health by reducing inflammation and protecting cells from damage which is critical when undergoing chemotherapy. Superfoods: 7 Health Benefits Of Broccoli
Chemotherapy drugs damage the body, particularly the bone marrow which is where red blood cells are produced. Tree tomato also referred to as blood fruit is a rich source of iron which helps the body produce sufficient red blood cells. Other blood boosters include foods rich in calcium, iron, folate and vitamin B12 – foods like red meat, organ meat like kidney and liver, dark leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale, dried fruits like prunes and raisins, beans, legumes and egg yolks. Here are some foods to eat to boost blood levels.
Foods to avoid when undergoing chemotherapy
Your liver helps metabolize all the potential toxins in your bloodstream, a function that is exceedingly important while undergoing chemotherapy. For this reason, it’s best to be kind to your liver during this time.
Dieticians suggest people undergoing chemotherapy avoid taking dietary supplements including vitamins, minerals, herbals, and botanicals. The reason for this is there are potential drug-nutrient interactions that can interfere with the effectiveness of chemo treatment. Consult your doctor before taking supplements.
Sugar and bad fats
Avoid common sugar as well as glucose and high fructose syrup found in ice cream, fruit juice, cakes, chocolates, biscuits, puddings, and soft drinks. Avoid cow’s dairy, coconut oil, fried foods, processed meats and other processed foods.
When it comes to soy products, consult your doctor about whether you can take them given your specific type of cancer.
A good rule of thumb is to eat foods that are hydrating, are lean protein, vegetables and nausea-reducing foods while undergoing chemotherapy.
***It is important to consult your doctor on what you should or should not eat as doctors may recommend that some foods not be eaten while somebody is undergoing specific cancer treatments.