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Cancer patients must eat a balanced diet packed with nutrients that can help them stay strong and energetic.
It’s not always an easy task, as cancer medications can cause nausea while radiation treatment can make the mouth sore, affect the taste buds and lead to a loss of appetite.
Experts at the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), a member of the Sing Health group, advise patients to eat the right foods before, during and after treatment. A nutritious diet can help patients maintain a healthy body weight and stamina levels, better tolerate the side-effects of treatment and also recover faster.
“It is important for someone undergoing cancer therapy to eat well to maintain a good blood profile, which includes platelets, neutrophils and albumin, in order to receive therapy with minimal breaks,” stresses Ms Chang Yok Ying, Principal Pharmacist, Outpatient Pharmacy, National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), a member of the SingHealth group.
Cancer patients should avoid stringent food restrictions
Since cancer treatments often cause side-effects like nausea and taste changes leading to a loss of appetite, it is important that patients don’t have too many dietary restrictions imposed on them.
“The strategy is to serve them their favourite foods without too much fuss on the finer aspects of a healthy diet. Yet, it is preferable to avoid excessive intake of salt, sugar and oil,” Ms Chang explains.
A good diet for a cancer patient contains a mix of vegetables and meat, and avoids extremely sweet and oily foods. Preferred cooking methods are steaming, boiling, and stir-frying rather than deep frying, grilling, barbequeing and baking.
A balanced diet should provide the body with proteins (to build tissues, prevent infection, heal wounds and maintain a healthy immune system), carbohydrates and fats (energy sources), vitamins and minerals (for proper growth, body functioning) and, most importantly, plenty of water and fluids to prevent dehydration.
Additional diet tips for cancer patients
A healthy diet is even more important for cancer patients, so it is important to eat well even if you don’t always feel like it.
Be open to trying new foods. There may be a silver lining: Due to taste changes, foods you never liked before may taste good during treatment!