Best Foods For Cancer Patients: A Guide

Give InKind is honored to feature Stephanie McKercher, RDN, of The Grateful Grazer.

Chemotherapy treatment affects all parts of the body but is especially taxing on the digestive system.

Potential side effects of chemotherapy include nausea, vomiting, indigestion, diarrhea, change in taste or lack of taste, loss of appetite and constipation, among other challenges.

What we eat during these times largely influences the way we feel and how well we’re able to cope with the treatment process.

Chemotherapy regiments and the accompanying potential side effects vary greatly with the individual and the type of cancer. As a result, it’s best to work with a registered dietitian to create individualized recommendations.

Here are five foods I often suggest for my clients undergoing chemotherapy.

  1. Ginger. Unfortunately, nausea is quite common during treatment and can greatly influence one’s appetite and ability to consume enough calories. It’s one of the primary reasons some people struggle with unintentional weight loss during treatment.  Ginger root, especially when combined with a source of protein, is a great natural remedy for chemotherapy-induced nausea.  Try including it in a tofu stir-fry or blended with fresh fruit and soymilk for a simple smoothie.
  2. Smoothies and protein shakes. Staring down a big entrée plate of food when you’re not hungry can be intimidating. Liquid meals are great for anyone experiencing a diminished appetite and/or struggling with unintentional weight loss. I find that most people have an easier time drinking their calories when appetite is low. Plus, there are so many potential combinations that it would be nearly impossible not to find a delicious recipe you’ll love.
  3. Avocados. Avocados are incredibly versatile and packed with energy in the form of healthy monounsaturated fats. Most people find them to be easy to eat and well tolerated during treatment.  Try adding avocado to smoothies, mashing them into guacamole, or adding slices to sandwiches, salads, fish, or tacos.
  4. Nuts and seeds. All types of nuts and seeds are great for someone experiencing appetite loss and/or unintentional weight loss during treatment. Like avocado, nuts and seeds are concentrated sources of healthy fats and also provide some added plant-based protein.  Nut butters are great in smoothies, as a dip with apples, or spread on whole grain crackers.  Nuts and seeds can also be mixed with dried fruit to create a portable trail mix snack that can be taken to treatment sessions. I love adding chia and flax seeds to oatmeal and baked goods, which contain beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.
  5. Bananas. Sometimes the simplest foods sound best when you’re in the middle of cancer treatment. Many patients have reported that they can tolerate fresh fruits well during treatment and enjoy them despite side effects like taste changes and nausea.  I especially love bananas because they are convenient and portable, as well as being a rich source of electrolytes that are easy on a stressed out digestive system.  Try spreading almond butter on sliced bananas for a balanced and energy-rich snack!

Give InKind does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Terms & Conditions.

Give InKind does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We have an affiliate relationship with many of the advertisers on our site, and may receive a commission from any products purchased from links in this article. See Terms & Conditions.

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