By Stacy Roberts, RD
When you are diagnosed with cancer, nutrition becomes even more important. Good nutrition can help you feel better, reduce the risk of infection, keep your strength up, and help you heal faster. Maintaining a healthy body weight and your body’s store of nutrients can help tolerate treatment-related side effects as well. All nutrients are good for you and will help.
Protein - Protein is important for growth, to repair body tissue, and to keep our immune systems healthy. Not getting enough protein can slow down healing and break down muscle for fuel which can cause weakness. Extra protein may be need for chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Some sources of lean protein are beans, nuts, seeds, chicken, fish, turkey, meat, dairy and lentils.
Fat - Yes fat is important! Fats and oils are made of fatty acids and serve as a rich source of energy for the body. When fat breaks down, and our body uses it to store energy, insulate the body and transport vitamins.
There are many different types of fats and some are better than others.
Monounsaturated fats are found mainly in vegetable oils like olive, canola, and peanut oils. They are typically liquid at room temperature. Monounsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. They also provide nutrients to help develop and maintain your body’s cells.
Polyunsaturated fats are found mainly in vegetable oils like safflower, sunflower, corn, and flaxseed. They are also the main fats found in seafood. These fats are high in omega 6 and omega 3 which can play a crucial role in brain function and in the normal growth and development of your body
Saturated fats are mainly found in animal sources like meat and poultry, whole or reduced-fat milk, cheese, and butter. Some vegetable oils like coconut, palm kernel oil, and palm oil are saturated. Saturated fats can raise cholesterol and increase your risk for heart disease. Less than 10% of your calories should come from saturated fat.
Trans-fatty acids are formed when vegetable oils are processed into margarine or shortening. Sources of trans fats include snack foods and baked goods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or vegetable shortening. Trans fats also are found naturally in some animal products, like dairy products. Trans fats can raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol.
Carbohydrate - This is the nutrient I find most people scared of and avoid. CARBS ARE GOOD FOR YOU J It just depends which ones you are talking about. Carbohydrates are important for energy which gives the body the fuel it needs for physical activity and proper organ function. “Good Carbs” are fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. “Bad Carbs” are your simple sugars like cookies, cakes candies, sugar drinks which give you little nutritional benefit.
Fiber is the part of plant foods that the body cannot digest. There are 2 types of fiber. Insoluble fiber helps to move food waste out of the body quickly, and soluble fiber binds with water in the stool to help keep stool soft. Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. When eating fruits or vegetables with a thin skin, like an apple or pear, leave the skin on. That’s were all the fiber is located.
Water, water, water and did I say water, is extremely important to drink. All your cells need water to function properly. If you having some side effects like diarrhea or vomiting, you want to make sure you’re staying hydrated to prevent dehydration which can be dangerous. Drinking eight 8oz glasses of water a day is suggested. Some of the food you eat like soup, ice cream and milk contain fluid and can used toward your fluid goal. If you don’t like the taste of water, you can always flavor up your water with fruit. I like to add a mango peel or sliced strawberries to a pitcher of water. Now I have flavored water with no added calories or artificial sweeteners.
Vitamins and Minerals - These are also important for body function. Yes they come in pill form also, but are better absorbed through food. Sometimes if you are not eating well, the doctor may suggest talking a multivitamin. People think the more the better with vitamins; however, vitamins can sometimes interact with treatment so speak with your Doctor or Registered Dietitian before starting any supplements.
This is just an over view of basic nutrition. All these nutrients are good for you. Remember, your plate should look like a rainbow. The more colors, the better.