Cancer: 5 Common Questions About Food

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

Here are the most commonly asked questions by patients in treatment for cancer – and their loved ones.

  1. Is soy bad for me?

From breast cancer to “man boobs,” there are many myths about the negative effects of eating soy.  Fortunately, modern research has largely debunked these myths and concluded that soy has either a neutral or beneficial impact on one’s health.

Studies show that the moderate consumption of soy not only helps prevent breast cancer (especially when consumed early on in life) but is also linked with reductions in breast cancer mortality rates. It has even been shown to reduce the likelihood of recurrence in breast cancers.

For these reasons, I confidently recommend tofu, tempeh, edamame, and other soy foods for those concerned with preventing or managing cancer.

  1. Can I still eat sugar?

While the common belief that “sugar feeds cancer” is a bit oversimplified, evidence does indicate that it’s important to maintain control over your blood sugar in order to reduce overall cancer risk.

Having a little sugar now and then isn’t a problem, but whenever possible, it’s best to aim for complex carbohydrates like whole grains and beans over simple (refined) carbohydrates like sugar and white bread.

  1. Do you recommend juicing?

Drinking fresh fruit and vegetable juice is a great way to include more antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals in your diet.  This is especially true for someone who finds it difficult to eat enough whole fruits and vegetables.

But before you hop on the wagon, remember that juices are missing one of the most incredibly beneficial compounds out there – fiber!

Fiber supports optimal digestion, aids in detoxification, and helps maintain stable blood sugar levels – all-important considerations for those aiming to reduce their cancer risk.

For this reason, I typically recommend eating whole fruits and vegetables instead of drinking them.  Have a fresh juice whenever possible, but don’t make it the primary source of your produce intake.

  1. How can I prevent unintended weight loss during treatment?

Starting a chemotherapy or radiation treatment can be scary, especially when you’ve been told that you’ll likely lose appetite, weight, and muscle mass.

First, know that not everybody loses weight during cancer treatment.  I’ve worked with a number of patients who’ve either maintained or even gained weight during chemotherapy and radiation – some even noting that they felt better than ever.

For those struggling with maintaining an appetite and keeping weight up, I suggest a variety of nutritious, energy-dense foods like protein shakes, nuts, seeds, nut butters, trail mix, tofu, fish, eggs, hummus, avocados and/or guacamole.

Choosing smaller, more frequent meals is another healthy way to obtain more calories during treatment.

  1. Which “superfoods” should I be eating in order to fight cancer?

Sure it’s great to include “superfoods” like spirulina, goji berries, cacao, turmeric, and matcha if you can afford them…just don’t bank on them being a cure-all for cancer, regardless of what you might have read online.

Instead, focus on including a variety of nutritious plant-based foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts, and seeds.  All of these foods contain their own unique composition of cancer-fighting nutrients, and you need a little bit of each to maximize their benefits.


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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