What To Eat and Not To Eat During Chemotherapy

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What to Eat and Not to Eat During Chemotherapy: Take Good Care of Your Body with the Right Foods

Proper nutrition is one of the best ways to alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy. Nourishing your body with the right foods not only does that, but it also helps speed up your recovery. Keep in mind that what you eat (and what you don’t eat) while you’re undergoing treatment can play a critical role in improving your health.

Since chemo and certain medications bring side effects such as mouth sores, nausea, fever, diarrhea, changes in taste, and loss of appetite, maintaining an adequate diet can be quite a challenge for cancer patients. However, you shouldn’t let these symptoms disrupt you from eating your meals. In such cases, doctors and cancer specialists would strongly recommend patients to eat five to six small meals per day.

Other tips usually provided to help individuals combat the side effects of chemotherapy include the following:

  • Plan your meals.
  • Stay hydrated at all times.
  • Bring snacks when waiting for your chemo treatment.
  • Try to consume at least 1/3 of your protein and calorie needs during breakfast.
  • Focus on soft foods as much as possible.
  • Practice good oral care.
  • Avoid heavy meals.
  • Go for liquids if you experience mouth sores.


What to Eat

Your oncologist, dietitian, and nurse will agree that a healthy diet during your chemo treatment should consist of mild-flavored foods that are easy to digest and rich in nutrients. According to experts at Healthline, here are foods that must be incorporated in your meal plan:

  • Eggs

Since eggs are high in protein and fats, they can help ease your feelings of fatigue. Protein builds muscle mass while fat gives your body the energy it needs to be able to function well, which is important during cancer treatment. Plus, you won’t have a hard time eating them if you have mouth sores.

  • Crackers or bread

White bread or salted crackers are ideal choices if your treatment is giving you diarrhea or nausea. Saltines aren’t only easy to digest, but they’re also useful in replenishing the sodium your body loses through vomiting or diarrhea. To add extra nutrients and flavor, be sure you top them with healthy spreads such as smashed avocado, ricotta cheese, or nut butter.

  • Broth

Many chemo patients often complain about a metallic taste when drinking water, which explains why dietitians and doctors would suggest broth as an alternative. The simple broth is best taken if you’re having nausea or vomiting, as they’ll help you restore lost electrolytes and fluids. You can also opt to add herbs, vegetables, and even meat for extra nutrients. Just puree them in case you’re having mouth sores.

  • Oatmeal

Oatmeal has tons of benefits to offer for individuals undergoing chemotherapy. The food supplies generous amounts of protein, carbs, healthy fats, antioxidants, and fiber to regulate your bowel movements. Feel free to enrich the flavor by adding healthy toppings such as nuts, bananas, berries, quinoa, and maple syrup.

  • Nuts

Almonds and cashews are great options for snacks, especially when you’re waiting at the clinic for a chemo session. These nuts provide abundant amounts of vitamins, healthy fats, minerals, and protein. Almonds are known to eliminate free radicals that damage your cells, as they’re rich in copper and manganese, both of which are sources of powerful antioxidants.

  • Fish

Whether they’re salmon, tuna, or mackerel, eating two servings of fish every week can help you combat the side effects of chemotherapy and boost your immune system. Fish contain plenty of protein (for muscle buildup and energy), vitamin D (for healthier bones and stronger immune system), and omega-3 fatty acids (for enhancing mental functioning and reducing inflammation). What’s more, with the rich amount of healthy fats in fish, you wouldn’t find yourself experiencing weight loss from treatment.

  • Cruciferous vegetables

If you’ve never been a fan of veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, or kale, now would be the time to change your mind. Cruciferous vegetables provide several essential nutrients that can improve your health. Additionally, they contain sulforaphane, a plant compound that has been linked to various health benefits, including digestion and improved heart health.


What Not to Eat

Certain foods do more harm than good to your body while you’re on treatment. Unless your doctor tells you that they’re okay, avoid these foods at all costs:

  • Raw seafood
  • Raw honey products
  • Undercooked eggs and unpasteurized dairy
  • Undercooked meat
  • Unwashed and unpeeled fruits and vegetables
  • Moldy cheeses
  • Greasy, fried, and high-fat foods
  • Food from dented cans
  • Alcohol


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