What to Eat When You Have Cancer

By Kristy Podruchny

You can’t go wrong eating a clean and balanced diet, but there are foods that can help us in the fight against cancer.  Eating enough food is important for strength and energy–especially if you’re going through chemotherapy or recovering from surgery.  Our bodies are incredible machines and luckily there are foods we can avoid and foods that can help us fuel and strengthen that army inside of us: our immune system.

Try to avoid processed foods and opt for fresh meals with plenty of colorful fruits and veggies.  Colors in food indicate a prevalence of antioxidants and phytonutrients in food.  Foods like blueberries, kale, bell peppers and cherries are all examples of foods that will help protect you from free radicals.  Choosing healthy fats and lean protein is important to help your body build and repair tissue during treatment. In your search for foods with higher protein, try to avoid red meat.

Medicinal mushrooms have proven themselves to be allies in the fight against cancer.  They’ve been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries and Western medicine is catching on.  A compound called polysaccharide (PSK) produced in turkey tail mushrooms boosts the immune system.  A recent study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health gave a turkey tail mushroom product to patients with breast cancer after radiation therapy and noted “an increase in natural killer cells and other cancer-fighting cells in the immune system.”  Nature never ceases to amaze us.

Anti-inflammatory foods are paramount as an ally while fighting cancer.  Another food has made its way from traditional Chinese medicine to Western medicine: curcumin, which is found in turmeric. The Mayo Clinic states that “curcumin may prevent cancer, slow the spread of cancer, make chemotherapy more effective and protect healthy cells from damage by radiation therapy.  Curcumin is being studied for use in many types of cancer.” It’s important to note that curcumin isn’t easily absorbed without the help of black pepper and a healthy fat, like MCT oil.  Fresh and powdered turmeric is delicious in golden milk tea, too!

There isn’t one specific diet to help with all types of cancer and always check with your doctor or dietitian before making big changes in your diet.  Sometimes our bodies need some help from a rainbow of whole foods to heal itself.  Thankfully, nature has made these cancer-fighting foods into flavorful treats for us!

Medicinal mushrooms have proven themselves to be allies in the fight against cancer.

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