Cancer Nutrition FAQ
Q: I’m newly diagnosed with cancer, what type of diet should I be on?
A: There is not a specific diet that works for every person. There is no specific “cancer diet”. However, by working with your care team, including your dietitian, we can discover ways to modify your current food consumption. By making adjustments based on your taste preferences, cooking abilities and health considerations, we can support your nutritional needs throughout your treatment.
By making small, progressive changes toward a balanced diet, you will be able to adhere to these choices, avoid feeling deprived and feel confident in your path to wellness!
Q: How many meals per day am I supposed to eat each day?
A: There is no magic number of meals to eat per day. Your meal frequency is based on hunger, schedules, and perhaps needing to regulate your blood sugar due to other health concerns such as diabetes. If you notice you are eating 50% or less of your meals, as compared to weeks before, it is helpful to eat small amounts of food every two to three hours. If you are consuming 100% of what you usually eat and are maintaining weight, it is fine to eat every four to five hours. Keep in mind the more often you eat, the less you need to eat each time.
Q: Does sugar feed cancer?
A: Sugar is found in just about every food we eat—from fruits and vegetables to dairy and whole grains. There is a nutritional difference between natural and added sugars. Foods with high added sugars tend to also be calorically dense and create a spike in our blood glucose. These foods, eaten in high amounts, can contribute to increased body fat, inflammation, obesity and risks to certain chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer. Sugar feeds all cells in our body and does not differentiate between “good” cells and “bad” cells, like tumors. Cutting sugar from your diet won’t starve only the cancer cells, it will starve our “good” cells too. Instead, focus on reducing the amount of added sugars such as those in sugary breakfast cereals, fruited yogurt, salad dressings, and pasta sauce. Avoid products that list sugar or syrups as the first few words on the ingredient list.
Q: Do I need to drink a protein shake?
A: No. Unless you can’t reach your nutritional needs with your current diet because you are eating less than normal and not maintaining weight. There are a variety of protein powders on the market and not all are created equal. There are many easily digested and reasonably priced powders at grocery stores and local drug stores. Just because it is expensive and has fancy health claims does not mean that it is worth the high price tag.
Whey protein (originating from dairy) is the most digestible form of protein. However, if you cannot tolerate whey protein, there are other forms of protein powders such as plant proteins. Be sure the ingredient list has the protein source as the first ingredient (i.e., whey or pea protein) and does not have unnecessary ingredients such as added sugars, coloring or preservatives. Eating protein may preserve the muscle you already have, but it will not make you gain muscle.