Nutrition and Cancer

by Christy Carlson

Nutrition plays a role in both the prevention of and the fight against cancer. The American Cancer Society has created nutritional guidelines which may decrease the rate for developing cancer by as much as twenty percent. These guidelines include:

1. Eating five or more servings of both fruits and vegetables per day.
2. Choosing to eat whole grains, instead of processed foods such as wheat bread versus white bread.
3. Limiting ones intake of processed and red meat. Instead choosing to eat fish, poultry or beans has a source of protein.
4. Avoiding alcohol consumption.

All these guidelines support healthy eating and a healthy body weight, both of which are very important in the prevention of cancer.

The benefits of the plant based foods, such as the fruits and vegetables, is that they are rich in antioxidants. This helps protect the cells from cancer causing agents. A few of the top vegetables are broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. As for the fruits, berries and cherries are powerful antioxidants that also help protect the cells from damage. Eating red meats increases chances for colon cancer. So the recommended fish and poultry is a much healthier choice in the prevention for cancer. Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acid, which is a healthy fat that appears to benefit in the reduction of certain cancers. Along with choosing healthier options, it is important to get plenty other nutrients. Vitamins C, vitamin E, vitamin D and calcium are all helpful in the prevention of cancer. Of course, watching alcohol consumption is also important. Beer is the top alcoholic beverage that is known to have the highest risk for colon cancer. As diet is important in the prevention, getting plenty of exercise is equally important. Exercise helps to reduce stress and helps to maintain a healthy weight. To sum up, it’s clear that nutrition has many beneficial factors to help one reduce their risks for developing different kinds of cancer.

Unfortunately, even if all preventative measure is taken there is no guarantee that a person will not develop cancer in the lifetime. When cancer does occur, the nutritional needs change. While the previous diet is focused on eating natural foods that are low in fat and calories, when faced with chemotherapy, the need for increased calorie consumption begins. Frequently during cancer treatment the patient has difficulty getting enough nutrition. The body needs more calories and protein to sustain itself in a time where food may be unbearable. This may be caused due to the patient being nauseated and vomiting or maybe even suffering from mouth sores. These are just a few of the terrible side effects that may result from cancer treatment. Food intake at this time is preferred to be nutritionally dense and protein rich. This is especially important if the patient’s intake is lessened as a result of treatment side effects.

After treatment for cancer, diet continues to be an important aspect of the patient’s health. The Patient should, when able, resume eating a diet rich in antioxidants that arise from the fruits and vegetables one eats. Alcohol should still be avoided since it increases the risk for some cancers. Fat intake should not be excessive and the patient should consume the lean meats and whole grains over the less healthy alternatives. The post treatment diet and lifestyle should continue to provide a healthy body weight, as obesity greatly increases the risk of both primary and secondary cancers. One way to fill up and be healthy is to eat a high fiber diet which is recommended before and after treatment. It is however, not recommended during cancer treatment because it may aggravate diarrhea in the cancer patient.

Nutrition plays a role in every stage of cancer. The role does change depending on where a person is at in their life. Fortunately, we are able to adjust our eating habits in order to fulfill our bodies changing nutritional requirements.

For more information see the following link: American Cancer Society


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