Cancer can have a devastating effect on the whole body, and people who are suffering from cancer do have a real risk of developing nutritional deficiencies. This might be caused by the cancer itself, or alternatively be side effects of the treatments and therapies used to try and combat the disease.
Cancer changes the body’s metabolism and will very often cause the patient to lose their appetite. Unfortunately, this generally happens just when you body is increasing the amount of energy used so more calories are actually needed in order to maintain the current body weight, not less.
Cancer can also have an effect on the body’s ability to break down protein, fat and carbohydrates, which can lead to a loss of fat and muscle.
The degree and type of nutrient deficiencies varies, depending on:
- whereabouts the cancer occurs in the body
- the severity of the cancer when it is first diagnosed
- the symptoms associated with the cancer
- the type and frequency of cancer treatment
- any side effects which are associated with your type of cancer treatment
- how the cancer has affected the ability to eat
Food Sources for Cancer Patients
It is quite common for cancer patients to therefore need a diet which is high in calories in order to prevent as much weight loss as possible. A diet which is high in protein can also help to prevent muscle wasting. Some foods are high in both protein and calories:
- whole milk
- peanut butter
- milk shakes
Other cancer sufferers can develop an aversion to fats, so high protein low fat foods are necessary:
- low fat milkshakes
- cottage cheese
- lean meat
Some people do find that their tastes change quite considerably so that it’s best to avoid highly spiced and flavored foods, sticking instead to bland , cold foods.
Food Tips for Cancer Patients
These few tips might help you to come up with your own innovative ideas so that the cancer patient will be able to combat muscle wasting and body weight loss:
- eating smaller meals more frequently
- try adding diced cheese or meat to soups, sauces and casseroles etc
- add a little extra egg into foods – do not add raw egg which is dangerous if contaminated with salmonella
- add powdered milk to drinks and foods
- drink lots of high calorie drinks, milk, juice or sweetened drinks
- offer plenty of high calorie snacks like dried fruits and nuts
- use just about any means possible to increase the amount of calories and protein in the diet
Cancer Prevention Foods
There is evidence to suggest that by eating certain foods you can reduce your risk of getting cancer in the first place. These foods contain antioxidants, something which is present in vegetables and fruits as well as many other things. The following foods are known to be common sources of antioxidants:
- Beta-carotene is present in many orange foods – carrots, apricots, pumpkin and sweet potatoes for example, as well as some leafy green veggies like kale and spinach
- Lutein is good for your eyes, and is also found in kale and spinach and other green leafy veggies
- Lycopene is present in tomatoes, apricots, papaya, blood oranges and some other foods. Most people get the majority of their lycopene from tomatoes.
- Vitamin A is rich in foods like liver, carrots, egg yolks and sweet potatoes
- Vitamin C (or ascorbic acid) is present in lots of fruit and veg (oranges!) as well as fish, beef, cereals and poultry
- Vitamin E can be found in almonds, nuts, broccoli and many oils (wheatgerm, corn, soybean)