nutrition for cancer patients


Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells anywhere in a body destroying body tissues resulting in tumors, damage to the immune system, and other impairment that can be fatal. Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. It can be challenging for many cancer patients to undergo several treatments that can weaken the immune system. People with cancer need to maintain a healthy body weight and eat nutritious foods. Every individual is different has to have a plan prescribed by qualified professionals according to the patient’s body requirements. According to Harvard’s Health Journal, simple lifestyle changes, such as following a healthy diet, could help in faster recovery from cancer.

Good nutrition is important for cancer patients


Nutrition is a process in which food is taken in and used by the body for growth, to keep the body healthy, and to replace body tissue. Nutrition plays an essential role in treating and coping with cancer. Taking proper food during cancer treatment may help the patient:

  • Feel better and stay stronger.
  • Heal and recover soon.
  • Lower the risk of infection.
  • keep healthy body weight.

Healthy eating habits and good nutrition can help patients deal with the effects of cancer and its treatment. Cancer treatments work better when the patient is well nourished and gets enough calories and proteins in the diet. Patients who are well nourished may have lesser side effects, a better chance of recovery and quality of life. Some benefits of good nutrition are a well maintained immune system, the ability to tolerate your full treatment and preservation of lean body mass.

A healthy diet therapy should include eating and drinking enough of the foods and liquids that have a wide variety of high-calorie and high-protein nutrient foods. The main nutrients to focus on during cancer treatment are protein, carbohydrates, fats, water, vitamins & minerals.


Protein is required for growth, muscle strength, repair body tissues, and to keep our immune system healthy. Cancer patients required more proteins than usual intake. After the cancer treatment, protein is essential to heal the body tissues and to fight against infections. Sources of protein include fish, lean red meat, poultry, low-fat dairy products, plant-based proteins – nuts, lentils, peas, and soy foods.

Carbohydrates are the body’s source of energy, the body’s fuel for physical activity, and also essential for the proper functioning of our organs. Sources of carbohydrate include whole grains (barley, cereals, bread, quinoa, brown rice), fruits, vegetables, pulses, and milk products.

Fats play a vital role in nutrition. Fats and oils are made of fatty acids and acts as a rich source of energy for the body. Choose mono and polyunsaturated fats instead of saturated and trans fats that promote heart health and cholesterol management. Mono and polyunsaturated fats are found in vegetable oils like olive, canola, peanut, sunflower, corn, and flaxseed. Saturated fats can increase cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. They are found in animal sources like meat and poultry, whole fat milk, butter, cheese, and some vegetable oils like coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil. Trans fatty acids or trans fats are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. Sources of trans fat include fried foods, spreads and baked foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.

Water is required for our body for all the cells to function properly. Drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of water daily to boost your metabolism and digestive functions.

Vitamins and Minerals are found naturally in foods that are essential to help the body function properly. A person who eats a balanced diet with enough calories and protein can get plenty of vitamins and minerals from the food. But if the patient is undergoing cancer treatment and having side effects that persist for a long period of time, can be hard to eat a balanced diet. So in this case, supplementing with multivitamins and minerals is advised.

Antioxidants protect your cells against free radicals preventing them from attacking normal cells. Consuming a diet rich in antioxidants can help increase your blood antioxidant levels to fight oxidative stress and reduce the risk of cancer and other health ailments. Vitamin A, C, E, and K, selenium, copper, manganese and zinc are good sources of antioxidants. Taking large doses of antioxidants supplements or vitamin-rich foods is usually not recommended as it might make chemotherapy and radiation less effective. Consult with your doctor or dietitian before taking any new treatment.



Nutrition guidelines for good health

nutrition guidelines
           A healthy diet is important during cancer treatment

Here are some general nutrition recommendations for people with cancer:

  • Limit or avoid the intake of red meats especially those high in fat and processed.
  • Limit the amount of salted, smoked and pickled foods.
  • Eat 5 or more servings of a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables daily, including citrus fruits and dark green and deep-yellow vegetables. They are good sources of vitamins and minerals. Colorful vegetables and fruits have many natural-health promoting substances.
  • Eat lots of protein and healthy calories. That will keep your body strong and help repair damage from the treatment.
  • Choose whole grains to processed (refined grains and sugars).
  • To strengthen immunity, it is important to consume antioxidants rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains including whole wheat flour, millets, beans, eggs, fish, chicken etc.
  • No single food can protect against cancer. However, include a diet full of plant-based foods, whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, spices, healthy fats, fresh fish, and high-quality dairy.


Lifestyle changes required during cancer treatment


Nutrition and lifestyle changes play an essential role in living a quality life during and after cancer. It is important to take care of your health while combating cancer. Medical treatments can’t work magic by themselves. The patient must rely on a healthy diet and moderate exercise. Having a daily routine, healthy sleep-cycle, moderate exercise, and avoiding the use of tobacco and alcohol can help your mind and body to stay fit. Cancer-proofing your home by sanitizing your surroundings, substitute your cookware with cancer-friendly cookware to prevent any infections. Undergoing cancer treatments and therapies can affect a cancer patient’s mental health. To overcome this phase, mind-relaxing activities like yoga and meditation will be of great help. Staying calm and keeping a positive outlook is important for faster recovery and emotional wellness. 


Healthy Recipes to Try

Recipe for Citrus Quinoa Avocado Salad


nutrition for cancer patients

Citrus quinoa plant-based salad is rich in cancer-fighting foods including omega-3-rich avocados mixed with fiber-rich quinoa, chickpeas and fresh vegetables.


1/2 cup cucumber diced, 1 cup cherry tomatoes -cut in half, 1/4 cup red chopped onion, 2 small cloves minced garlic, 1 bunch cilantro, 2 cups thinly sliced spinach, 1 can (15.5 ounces) no salt added chickpeas, 1 cup cooked quinoa, 2 medium diced avocados.

For the dressing:

Juice of 2 lemons, 2 tsp. Dijon mustard, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 tsp. honey, 1/2 tsp. ground cumin, Dash of cayenne pepper, Salt and pepper- to taste.


Place all the ingredients in a bowl. Whisk all dressing ingredients together in a separate bowl. Drizzle dressing mixture over salad and gently toss together until dressing is incorporated well. Makes 4 servings.


Spicy Creamy of Broccoli soup

cancer diet


3 cups coarsely chopped broccoli florets

1.5 cup less salt chicken or vegetable broth or water

1Tbsp olive oil,  1 chopped onion, 

1 Tbsp all-purpose flour,  3 cups low-fat milk

½  teaspoon pepper,  ¼ teaspoon paprika

¼ teaspoon celery seed,  Salt – optional


In a large saucepan overheat, bring the broccoli and broth to a boil. Simmer for 8 – 10 minutes, or it becomes very tender. Cool and make it a puree by blending. Keep it aside. In the same saucepan over medium heat, add oil and sauté the onion till softened. Add flour and cook till it is fully mixed by stirring continuously. Slowly add the milk and cook until thickened. Then add the broccoli puree and the rest of the ingredients.





Disclaimer:  Content on this site is for reference purposes and is not intended to substitute for advice given by a physician, pharmacist, or other licensed health-care professional. You should not use this information as self-diagnosis or for treating a health problem or disease. Contact your health-care provider immediately if you suspect that you have a medical problem. We by no means will be held responsible for any bad effects that can come out of using these medicines. 

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By Alice Sam

Pharmacist MS, UK., Researcher, Medical writer Alice is an experienced Masters's in Pharmacy UK, she has gathered vast experience from working in many countries and many sectors. She is passionate about nature conservation and animal /plant protection. She has done a lot of research in natural cures and an avid thorough follower of the ancient practice of Ayurveda, India to the core.  Her passion has made Natural Cure what it is today. 

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