Cancer patients should have a balanced diet packed with nutrients that can help them stay strong and energetic.
Cancer medications can cause nausea while radiation treatment can make the mouth sore, affect the taste buds and lead to a loss of appetite.
Health experts advise patients to eat the right foods before, during and after treatment. A nutritious diet can help patients maintain a healthy body weight and stamina levels, better tolerate the side-effects of treatment and also recover faster.
FOODS TO INCLUDE IN CANCER PATIENTS’ DIETS
- Tomatoes, carrots, peas, pumpkin and turnips for vitamins and fibre
- Tomatoes, tomato puree and parsley (especially good for prostate cancer patients)
- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage contain plant chemicals that can convert bad oestrogen into good oestrogen, and hence reduce cancer risk as well as the risk of a relapse
- Asparagus and Brussel sprouts for their rich antioxidants
- Bitter gourd for lowering blood sugar levels
- Green leafy vegetables for calcium and iron
- Oranges provide vitamin C
- Bananas, kiwi, peaches, mangoes, pears and strawberries for vitamins and fibre
- Avocadoes, guava, apricots, figs, prunes and raisins for energy
- Lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, tauhu and taukwa
- Dairy products, nuts, dried beans, dhals and chickpeas
- Fish and soy foods (especially good for prostate cancer patients)
- Rice, noodles, chapatti, wholegrain bread and pasta
- Wholegrain crackers, oats, corn, potatoes, beans and dairy products
- Honey, consumed in moderation for its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties which may help in preventing infections
FOODS TO AVOID AS A CANCER PATIENT
- Deep fried, grilled, barbequed, baked meats since subjecting animal protein to high heat creates carcinogenic byproducts called heterocyclic amines
- Excessive intake of salt, sugar, and oily foods
- Red meat and processed meats such as bacon, ham, sausages
- Preserved foods like pickles, jams, kiam chye (salted mustard green), and century eggs as they contain nitrites which are carcinogenic
- Minimize alcohol
TOP 10 CANCER-CAUSING FOODS
Hydrogenated Oils – Hydrogenated oils, like vegetable oil, contain trans fats. The Mayo Clinic says it’s considered to be the worst type of fat there is. It’s known to cause cancer, heart disease, and immune system problems In fact, there is no safe amount of trans fats in your diet, so avoiding this cancer causing food altogether would be advised.
Even the FDA has made a preliminary determination to say trans fats are not generally regarded as safe, like previously thought. You can avoid hydrogenated oil but instead choosing coconut palm or olive oil. Organic butter is a better option as well.
French Fries/Potato Chips – We know that these foods aren’t good for us, but did you realize that they’re considered cancer causing foods? These fast food staples are fried in hydrogenated vegetable oil and then heavily salted. We’ve already discussed the dangers of hydrogenated oils, but the high salt content is also concerning.
It increases the risk of high blood pressure as well as other health problems. In addition, foods heated above a certain temperature have high levels of acrylamide. According to the National Cancer Institute, acrylamide is found in cigarette smoke and industrial building materials, as well in some foods. Both french fries and potato chips were found to have higher levels of this chemical, which studies have shown increase the risk of cancer.
Potatoes are also part of the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen”, meaning they have some of the heaviest pesticide residue of all the fruits and vegetables.
- Microwave Popcorn – There is more than just kernels in most microwave popcorn. It contains PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) which is a likely carcinogen. Doctors say artificial butter contains another dangerous chemical that can damage the lungs when inhaled. In fact, a couple of years ago a Colorado court awarded a man a $7.2 million settlement for “popcorn lung”, which is a lung condition caused by inhaling too much microwave popcorn. To reduce your risk of exposure to these chemicals, air pop your popcorn and add your own flavoring instead.
Processed Meats – Bacon, lunch meat, hot dogs, sausages, and other processed meats have been shown to be cancer causing foods, increasing the risk of pancreatic cancer by 67%, a study by the University of Hawaii concluded.
More shocking statistics shared by the Organic Consumer’s Association reveal hot dogs commonly contain sodium nitrite, a cancer causing ingredient the USDA has been trying to ban since the 1970s. Leukemia risks soared a staggering 700% with hot dog consumption. Look for meats free of nitrites to help reduce your risk with these cancer causing foods.
Red Meat – A brand new study confirms the belief that red meat increases cancer risks. In an article from the San Diego Union Tribune detailing the study, a sugar molecule, called Neu5Gc, becomes part of your own cells when it’s consumed. Your body then attacks it, resulting in inflammation and a higher cancer risk.
Medscape reveals previous studies also show an increase in breast cancer among women who consumed more red meat. You don’t need to cut out red meat entirely. In fact, CNCA Health says just opt for grass fed organic beef, which contains conjugated linoleic acid that can actually fight against certain cancers. Also, keep red meat consumption to a minimum to further decrease your risk.
- Farmed Salmon – If you are avoiding processed meats and red meat, you might find yourself eating more salmon. Well, avoid the farmed version of this fish because a study at the University at Albany found it is often full of cancer causing contaminants such as pesticides, antibiotics, PCBs, and even flame retardants, making it, in our opinion, one of the cancer causing foods. Opt for the wild version instead to get the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids that salmon provides, without contaminants.
- Refined Sugar/Soda – Refined sugar is a danger because not only is it typically GMO (genetically-modified organism) because it’s genetically modified sugar beets, but it rapidly spikes insulin levels. Fructose, the type of sugar found in soda, is a serious cancer culprit as well. It contains caramel color, a known carcinogen. Soda acidifies the body, which in turn causes cancer cells to multiply. Skip the sodas altogether limited your intake of refined sugars.
“Diet” Foods – If you see buzz words like “diet”, “low-fat”, “fat-free”, or “sugar-free” then those missing items are likely to be replaced with chemicals. Diet foods are loaded with artificial sweeteners, artificial colors and flavors, and more.
One artificial sweetener, Saccharin, was determined to cause cancer in lab rats, as the National Cancer Institute points out. As for food dyes and coloring, “The three most widely used dyes, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, are contaminated with known carcinogens. Another dye, Red 3, has been acknowledged for years by the Food and Drug Administration to be a carcinogen, yet is still in the food supply.”
Choosing the regular version of these foods in moderation is a better option than the diet counterparts, and will help you avoid cancer causing foods.
- Refined White Flour – Bleached food doesn’t sound like a good thing, because it isn’t. Traces of the chemicals remain in the food. Also, highly processed flours also have a high carbohydrate content which upset the blood sugar balance inside our body and leads to a higher production of insulin and thus feeds cancer cells.
Avoid carbohydrates that are highly processed such as white bread, white pasta, white rice, soda & concentrated fruit juices to avoid this reaction in your body.
GMOs/Glyphosate – With no testing done by the FDA to ensure safety, GMOs (genetically modified organisms) have made their way into the majority of our foods. These GMO foods have been modified to withstand heavy doses of a pesticide called glyphosate OR are engineered to contain a toxin that kills bugs.
Not enough independent studies have been done to prove safety or danger, but independent testing has shown to cause rapid tumor growth in lab rats. Currently GMOs do not have to be disclosed on food labels in the US. In addition, Glyphosate, which is the most common pesticide sprayed on GM crops and an additional 200 crops, has been linked to Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, birth defects, intestinal discomfort, among other things.
The only way to avoid GMOs and pesticides is to choose foods that are certified organic.
RECIPES FOR CANCER PATIENTS
Spring Pea, Asparagus & Mint Salad
- 2 cups frozen peas
- 1 bunch (about 3/4 lb) asparagus, tough ends removed, sliced into 2” pieces
- 2 cups fresh pea shoots
- Juice and zest of one lemon
- 1/2 cup fresh mint, roughly chopped
- 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Per Serving: 80 calories, 2.5 g total fat (0 g. saturated fat), 12 g carbohydrate, 4 g protein, 5 g dietary fiber, 35 mg sodium.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook time:5 minutes
- Fill a large saucepan 3/4 full of water and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Add peas to boiling water and blanch for 1 minute.
- Strain peas using a slotted spoon (save the boiling water for the asparagus). Add peas to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking process, then strain again and set aside.
- Add asparagus to the boiling water and cook until tender, about 2-3 minutes. Similarly drain asparagus and add to ice water for 1 min; drain and set aside.
- In large bowl, combine peas, asparagus, pea shoots, lemon zest, lemon juice, mint and olive oil and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Optional: garnish with a slice of lemon.
Peppered Tilapia with Caramelized Onions and Wilted Spinach
- 4 tsp. whole black peppercorns
- 1 lb. tilapia, 4 fillets
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 10 oz. baby spinach
- 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 large Spanish onion, very thinly sliced
- Olive oil cooking spray
- Put peppercorns in re-sealable plastic bag. Lay bag on cutting board and using mallet or rolling pin pound peppercorns until coarsely crushed.
- Sprinkle both sides of fillets lightly with salt. Sprinkle and press crushed peppercorns on both sides of fillets. Set aside.
- In large bowl, toss spinach with 1 tablespoon oil until leaves glisten.
- Heat large skillet over medium-high heat. Add spinach and cook until leaves collapse, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Transfer spinach to large plate, cover to keep warm and set aside. Wipe out pan and set aside.
- Using same bowl, toss onions with 1 tablespoon oil.
- Return skillet to medium-high heat and cook onions, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add onions to plate with spinach.
- Wipe out skillet and coat with cooking spray. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Return pan to medium-high heat. Add fillets and cook until browned and crusty on bottom, 3 to 4 minutes. Using wide spatula, turn fish and cook until white in center at thickest part and flakes easily with fork, 3 to 4 minutes.
- To serve, arrange spinach in bed on each of four dinner plates. Place fish on top and arrange onions over fish.
Summer Grilled Balsamic Veggies
- 3 medium bell peppers, chopped (any color works red, yellow and orange)
- 2 medium zucchini, thickly sliced
- 1 medium cauliflower head, cut into small florets
- 1 container baby bella mushrooms (~8 oz)
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 cup balsamic vinegar, reduced (or 1/4 cup pre-made balsamic reduction)
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
- Place chopped vegetables and mushrooms in large mixing bowl. Toss with oil and salt and pepper, if using, to coat evenly. Add vegetables to a grill basket and grill over medium heat for 15 minutes or until vegetables are fork tender. If you don’t have a grill, spread vegetables evenly over 1-2 baking sheets and roast for 20 minutes at 400°F, stirring after 10 minutes.
- While vegetables are cooking, bring balsamic vinegar to a boil in small saucepan. Reduce heat to medium/low and let vinegar simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The reduction is done when vinegar has thickened enough to lightly coat the spoon. Let the balsamic glaze cool (at room temperature or in fridge); it will continue to thicken as it cools.
- To serve, drizzle glaze over roasted veggies and garnish with chopped fresh basil.
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