While cancer is the general name for more than 100 diseases that result from the rapid and uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells, generalizations don’t come easy. One is on target, however: eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains contributes an ounce of prevention and a pound of cure. A balanced diet that is low in fat and high in plant-based nutritional sources can decrease your chance of developing cancer. Good eating habits can help the cancer patient cope with treatments while feeling better and staying strong.
The World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRF) managed an exhaustive study, Food, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer: a global perspective, published in 1997, which concluded that eating right could cut cancer risks by 30 to 40 percent. A 2007 update of this report includes physical activity as a preventative. The WCRF claims that the 2007 report is the most authoritative global report ever published on the subject of food, nutrition, physical activity and the prevention of cancer and that “It will form the basis of the agenda for science for years to come.”
A diet high in vegetables and fruits is the number one admonition of the report, which warns against the consumption of processed and starchy foods. Colorful fruits and vegetables are particularly potent since they contain essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and photochemicals that help anyone feel better, especially those with disease. A healthy diet includes plenty of foods like carrots, tomatoes, oranges, strawberries, leafy greens, apricots, whole-grain bread and cereal, and more. Broccoli and spinach are tops on the list. Five or more portions of vegetables and fruits are prescribed and seven or more portions of whole grains, legumes (such as beans and peas), and tubers (such as sweet potatoes) are recommended.
Further down the list of promoted foods are low-fat dairy products, lean and skinless meat, and seafood. Give soy or vegetable-based meat alternatives a try. To lower risk or to feel better while coping with cancer, limit or exclude red meat, fatty foods, salt, charred foods, foods with many additives, alcohol, and tobacco.
Some side effects of cancer and its treatment make eating a chore. Eating too little protein and calories, though, can make it difficult for the patient to heal, fight infection, and have energy enough to keep going. Conditions like anorexia or the loss of appetite and cachexia, a wasting syndrome, can develop as a result of malnutrition. Eating well has been linked to better prognoses.
On the Internet, the National Cancer Institute’s Web page Eating Hints for Cancer Patients provides a wealth of information. At local hospitals, registered dieticians are often available to offer personalized recommendations for eating to cope with treatments and to avoid dangers.