More than 150,000 people with cancer come to a Mayo Clinic site annually. Patients benefit from the knowledge and extensive experience of Mayo Clinic specialists and integrated approach to treating each individual. Reliable, up-to-date education is central to a patient’s cancer care plan. Mayo Clinic provides information and resources to support patients during diagnosis, treatment and life after treatment. Knowledge empowers people to be active partners in their health care.

Nutrition and Cancer

Nutrition is important to everyone.  While dealing with cancer, nutrition can become even more important to tolerate treatment and overcome fatigue. Proper nutrition is the fuel to help you heal and recover, maintain energy, and control weight during treatment. Eating well may ease other side effects of cancer or treatment and help with fighting infections more easily.

Nutrition During Cancer Treatment

Sometimes cancer or cancer treatment can affect your appetite and tolerance of certain foods.

Though you might not feel like eating, it's important to do what you can to maintain your calorie, protein and fluid intake during cancer treatment. Discover ways to include foods that will be more appealing and provide the nutrition you need to get better.

Nutrition During Cancer Treatment Online Course:

Click on the image below to access our self-paced and interactive nutrition during cancer treatment module. We hope you find this helpful, enjoy!

Nutrition for Cancer Survivors

There are 3 main guidelines for cancer survivors in regard to nutrition and health:

  1. Be at a healthy weight
  2. Be active
  3. Eat a plant-based diet

Be at a healthy weight:

Being overweight or obese puts you at a higher risk for increasing hormone, insulin and inflammation levels in the body.  All of these can put you at a higher risk for developing cancer.  Being at a healthy weight, or even just closer to a healthy weight, can decrease your risk.

Be active: 

Exercise can help prevent excess weight gain or help maintain weight loss. When you engage in physical activity, you burn calories. The more intense the activity, the more calories you burn. Being physically active reduces cancer risk and contributes to preventing occurrence or recurrence of cancer. For information on physical activity for cancer patients, visit our physical activity page.

Eat a plant-based diet:

A plant-based diet includes a diet high in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, and legumes. Try to limit red meat to a lean 3-ounce portion (size of a deck of cards) at meals. Examples of red meat include pork, lamb, beef, and veal. Avoid processed meat such as deli or lunch meat, bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and ham. Substitute red and processed meat with poultry, fish, and beans or legumes. Use a smaller amount of meat in stews, stir fry, or casseroles and add more vegetables to make it go farther.

Other recommendations:

  • It is best not to drink alcohol at all.  If you do drink, limit the amount to 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men.  A standard drink size is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.
  • Despite much attention given to sugar causing cancer, research shows no direct link.  Sugar is high in calories and leads to weight gain.  Best practice is to limit foods and drinks high in added sugar.
  • Eating organic foods is a personal choice.  There is no supporting evidence that organic is more nutritious.  The benefit of eating any fruits and vegetables outweigh any risk.
  • Get nutrients from food sources (as opposed to supplements).

Additional Resources:

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