4 nutrition tips during breast cancer treatment

This content is sponsored by Regional Cancer Care Associates

While maintaining a balanced diet with adequate nutrition is important for anyone, it’s especially crucial for people who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Patients may need surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, hormone therapy or a combination, and each comes with its own list of side effects.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach that is guaranteed to keep someone healthy and side effect-free during breast cancer treatment, but Dr. Victor Priego, an oncologist with Regional Cancer Care Associates, says these four tips can decrease some side effects and help with recovery following treatment.

Stay away from raw food

People undergoing chemotherapy are at an increased risk of catching diseases, even from the food they eat.

“Patients undergoing breast cancer treatment should eat foods that are low in bacterial burdens,” Priego said. “Fresh salad, for instance, is not a good idea. Any fresh food may be contaminated with bacteria. People going through chemotherapy have their immune systems suppressed, so they should avoid eating anything raw.”

Instead, Priego recommends cooked fruits and vegetables for people with suppressed immune systems. Boiled, steamed, baked or grilled produce is fine to eat. Safe foods include produce with thick skins, like bananas, oranges, pineapple, cantaloupe or watermelon.

“If you can peel it, you can eat it,” Priego said.

Drink alcohol in moderation

Drinking alcohol in any amount can increase the risk for developing six kinds of cancer, including breast cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The government’s dietary guidelines say that moderate alcohol consumption is one drink per day for women and two for men.

Patients should do their best to cut back or cut out drinking during treatment, as it’s important to drink little to no alcohol in order to maintain strength and avoid compromising recovery.

Eat calories to match activity levels

Depending on the treatment they’re going through, patients may struggle with gaining or losing too much weight.

“Cancer treatments can cause fatigue, muscle aches and weakness, which may lead to weight gain,” Priego said. He recommends a fiber rich, plant-based diet for his patients and encourages them to maintain an exercise regimen that keeps them active within their energy levels.

For other patients, the American Institute for Cancer Research points out that certain treatments can cause appetite loss, vomiting and nausea, which may lead to weight loss. To combat these symptoms, patients should try taking walks before meals to stimulate their appetites, eat small and frequent meals, and stay well hydrated.

Avoid processed foods

Breast cancer is the cancer that has the highest association with mass-produced, processed foods, according to a 2018 study.

“Every 10 percent dietary increase in packaged snacks, fizzy drinks, sugary cereals and other highly processed foods boosts the risk for cancer by 12 percent,” the research says.

Priego recommends cancer patients stay away from red or processed meats, as well as highly refined sugars, carbohydrates and corn syrup.

While running to doctor appointments and feeling too tired to cook can make packaged foods attractive, it won’t help with recovery and can lead to additional weight gain. These foods also won’t fulfill the nutritional requirements the body needs to function well.

Keeping plant-based, low-calorie options on hand for snacking can help curb appetite in a healthy way.

For more information on how to eat healthy while undergoing breast cancer treatments, or to schedule a consultation, call or visit a Regional Cancer Care Associates location.

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