We know that a diet rich in the proper nutrients can be one of our best defenses against disease. But studies also show that good nutrition can often lessen the side effects of cancer treatment and may even shorten recovery time. The ideal diet for cancer survivors—and those who have never had cancer—includes at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, whole grain breads and cereals, lean cuts of meat (chicken, turkey or fish) or other protein, and low-fat dairy products.
It’s also essential to cut back on salt, fat, alcohol and sugar. These empty calories can, in some cases, contribute the continuing development of cancer in the body. Researchers suggest, based on animal studies, that some tumors are “obligate glucose metabolizers,” or in other words, "sugar feeders.”
Everyone, whether cancer survivor or cancer-free, should make it a priority to maintain an appropriate weight, consume a healthy diet and enjoy a physically active lifestyle.
Here is some helpful information about foods and cancer prevention:
Antioxidants help prevent oxidative damage to tissues. Studies suggest that people who eat more vegetables and fruits, which are rich sources of antioxidants (including vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids and many other antioxidant phytochemicals), may have a lower risk for some types of cancer.
An article published last year in the International Journal of Integrative Medicine states that an increase in survival has been demonstrated for patients who received vitamin A or other anti-oxidants in combination with chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Patients who were given beta-carotene and other antioxidants while undergoing surgery, chemotherapy and radiation lived longer, with an increase in disease-free intervals.
According to the American Cancer Society, preliminary results from a clinical trial suggest that low-fat diets may reduce the risk of cancer recurrence. Although there is no conclusive evidence that fat consumption influences cancer, diets high in fat tend to be high in calories. High-calorie diets may contribute to obesity, which is associated with increased incidence of cancer. There is, however, evidence that certain types of fat—such as saturated fats—may increase the risk of cancer.
Although an association between fiber and cancer is weak, these foods are still recommended because they contain other nutrients that may help reduce cancer risk and provide other health benefits, such as reduced risk of coronary heart disease. Soluble fiber, like that found in oat bran, helps lower the risk of coronary heart disease by reducing blood cholesterol levels. Fiber is also associated with improved bowel function. Good sources of fiber are beans, vegetables, whole grains and fruits.
Several studies have linked a high consumption of meat with increased risk of some kinds of cancers. In addition, some research suggests that frying, broiling or grilling meats at very high temperatures might increase incidence of some types of cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends limiting consumption of processed and red meats.
Vegetables and Fruits
Studies have shown that eating a large amount of fruits and vegetables will lower the risk of some types of cancer. Since scientists don’t know which of the many compounds in vegetables and fruits are most protective, it’s best to consume five or more servings of vegetables and fruits each day.