What You Need To Know About Cancer And Diet

The following post was provided by ONTrac at Peter Mac Victorian Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer Service.

Throughout your cancer diagnosis or treatment you may come across many different theories or opinions related to your diet and cancer. It is difficult to know what is evidence-based versus new restrictive/detoxing diets that aren't tied to science. For example, many popular cancer diets online include alkaline diet, no-sugar, or vegan. While these diets promote curing cancer or supporting cancer treatments, there is no scientific evidence to support these theories.

After a cancer diagnosis or during cancer treatment, it can be extremely challenging to eat and drink well, let alone meet your nutritional needs due to treatment/disease-related side effects. Some side effects include reduced appetite, taste changes, feeling sick, sore mouth, tiredness, etc. Therefore, trying to follow restrictive, potentially extreme and expensive diets may be not only unachievable, but also detrimental to your health.

The Most Important Foods to Focus On During Cancer Treatment:

Foods and drinks that are high in protein to maintain lean body mass (muscles stores) and strength.

Foods High in Protein Include:

  • Animal products (meat, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy products)
  • Plant based foods (lentils, tofu, chickpeas, beans, nuts).

It is also important to focus on high energy foods to help maintain good energy levels throughout cancer treatment to help achieve daily activities and improve your quality of life.

Foods High in Energy Include:

  • Avocadoes
  • Oils
  • Mayonnaise
  • Jam
  • Creams
  • Creads
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Cereals

Five things to keep in mind when trying to maintain good energy levels and muscle stores:

  • Eat small meals frequently
  • Drink beverages that are nourishing (ie: milkshakes/smoothies)
  • Eat soft and cold foods that are easier to tolerate
  • Engage in light exercise

Most importantly, choose foods and drinks that you enjoy, whenever possible. However, if you find that you can no longer stand the taste of some of your old favorite foods, don't force it - try something new.

The following links include evidence-based information regarding diets and myths: iheard.com.au , mskcc.org.

If you have any worries or concerns in relation to contents of this article please consult your medical team.

Jacq Black (Accredited Practising Dietitian)
Shani Drake (Accredited Practising Dietitian)
ONTrac at Peter Mac Victorian Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer Service
Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre