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Nutrition is important for day to day health, and most cancer patients are more conscious of their health than the average individual. Most people know that cancer treatments are physically draining and emotionally exhausting, so cancer patients usually want to know what they can do to give their bodies a better chance of survival and eventual recovery. There are certain foods and drinks that should be embraced and also those that cancer patients should avoid.
Things Cancer Patients Should Consume
- Cancer patients should seek out beneficial fats and oils. People have been taught that high fat equals high unhealthiness, but good fats such as Omega-3 fatty acids and unsaturated fats actually have positive properties that can make people healthier. Fish, seeds, and nuts often contain these beneficial fats and should be consumed by cancer patients who wish to maintain their current weights.
- Vegetables, whole grains, and beans are excellent sources of the antioxidants and phytonutrients that help the body fight cancer. These foods are often high in fiber, meaning that the body can better digest food and eliminate waste--including harmful cancer-causing compounds in the body. Most vegetables and beans are also "whole foods," meaning that they are relatively unprocessed and are free of the preservatives and chemicals that are often present in other foods.
- Those going through cancer treatments should be sure to drink a lot of healthy liquids, especially water. Since water is essential for the transportation of nutrients, the elimination of bodily waste, and the stimulation of the immune system, drinking it is beneficial to all cancer patients. Juices and sports drinks may also be beneficial, particularly if the cancer patient has lost nutrients and electrolytes due to vomiting and diarrhea.
- Traditional breakfast foods such as eggs, yogurt, brightly colored fruits, and milk contain protein and nutrients that will be beneficial to most cancer patients. These foods are also easy to digest, making them desirable choices at any time of the day for those whose digestive systems react poorly to cancer treatments.
Things Cancer Patients Should Avoid
- Cancer patients should avoid eating any foods that their bodies cannot tolerate. Nausea and vomiting are common side effects of cancer treatments, so some patients will have difficulty with certain types of food. While eating healthy during cancer treatments is important, maintaining weight and nourishment is at least equally important.
- Those going through cancer treatments should avoid eating too much meat. Since meat is often high in saturated fat and low in fiber, it has few redeeming qualities in terms of cancer fighting. Red meat in particular should be avoided, and cancer patients should eat smaller than normal portions of other types of meat. An exception to this would many types of fish as it is often lean and contains healthy types of fat.
- Cancer patients should avoid taking risky supplements or eating too much of a good thing. Eating exorbitant amounts of a healthy food or going on a fad diet may do more harm than good. Patients should always ask their doctors before taking any supplements or embarking on any diets since doctors will be able to warn patients about the possible consequences of such actions.
- Cooking foods over high heat can increase the presence of carcinogens, so cancer patients should prepare their foods in healthier manners such as steaming, baking, boiling, and sautéing. Deep-frying is especially unhealthy. If cancer patients are still going to grill, they should try to cook their foods at a lower temperature so as to avoid the formation of carcinogens.
- In order to ease digestion, large meals should be avoided. Instead, patients should eat multiple small meals throughout the day. Healthy snacks are also beneficial in providing extra nutrients.
One point that doctors stress often is that all cancer patients are different. Some patients experience little nausea and can eat whatever they want to, while others may be constantly nauseous and may only be able to eat certain types of food. Finding the perfect cancer diet is quite often a work of trial and error, and each individual will have to work with his or her physician in order to discover the best personal balance.