Healthcare: Cancer Care

Nutrition Recommendations


Good nutrition is important. Patients who eat well often feel better and have more energy. Eating well means getting enough calories and protein to help prevent weight loss, regain strength, and rebuild normal tissues.

A good rule to follow is to eat a variety of different foods everyday. No one food or group of foods contains all of the nutrients you need. A diet to keep your body strong will include daily servings from these food groups:

  • Fruits and vegetables: Raw or cooked vegetables, fruits, and fruit juices provide certain vitamins (such as A and C) and minerals the body needs.
  • Protein foods: Protein helps your body heal itself and fight infection. Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, mild yogurt, and cheese give you protein as well as many vitamins and minerals.
  • Grains: Grains, such as bread, pasta, rice, and cereals, provide a variety of carbohydrates and B vitamins. Carbohydrates provide a good source of energy, which the body needs to function well. There is strong evidence that increasing your diet of cereal fiber will decrease your risk of coronary and diabetes.
  • Dairy foods: Milk and other dairy products provide protein and many vitamins and are the best source of calcium.

Doctors know that patients who eat well during cancer treatments are better able to cope with side effects. However, there is no evidence that any kind of diet or food can either cure cancer or stop it from coming back. In fact, some diets may be harmful, especially those that don't include a variety of foods. There is also no evidence that dietary supplements, such as vitamin or mineral pills can cure or stop it from coming back.

You should eat nutritious foods and follow the treatment program prescribed by a doctor who uses proven methods or treatments. People who depend upon unconventional treatments alone may lose valuable treatment time and reduce their chances of controlling cancer and getting well.

You should ask your doctor, nurse, or registered dietitian before taking any vitamins of mineral supplements. Too much of some vitamins or minerals can be just as dangerous as too little. Large doses of some vitamins may even stop your cancer treatment from working the way it should.

  • Alcohol: Limit alcohol consumption to one drink a day. The evidence is strong that high alcohol consumption increases risk of many cancers, and even one drink a day can increase risk of breast cancer. Personal decisions about alcohol consumption are complex and, in addition to the pleasures of consuming these beverages, should include consideration of benefits for coronary heart disease. Avoid alcohol the week of your chemotherapy, including the day before.
  • Multivitamin: Consider taking a multivitamin containing folic acid, particularly if alcohol is consumed daily. Substantial evidence indicates that consuming folic acid (400mcg/day) will reduce risks of colon cancer and coronary heart disease, especially when taken in the form of a vitamin.
  • Weight: Avoid being overweight and extra weight gain. Excess body fat increases risk of several cancers, including breast cancer. It is also a major cause of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Be moderately active for at least 30 minutes on most days. Physical activity is a primary means to control weight gain. The benefits of physical activity for cardiovascular disease are well established.

Lack of government regulations leaves the consumer with misinformation. Many over-the-counter products contain harmful ingredients and can have harmful reactions with other treatments.

Dieticians and pharmacists as well as the following websites can offer helpful guidance:


Alternative Unproved Methods Information