By Annette Pinder

Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health says 1 in 5 men and 1 in 6 women globally will develop cancer, but live longer due to early screening and detection, vaccinations, and better treatments. Knowing that 30 to 40% of cancers could be eliminated with better lifestyle choices, in 2018, the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute of Cancer Research issued 10 cancer prevention recommendations on diet and nutrition, physical activity, and weight management. Good nutrition is also important during cancer treatment, when consuming recommended nutritious foods can be challenging, especially for those experiencing side effects.

Kelly Cardamone, MS, RDN, LDN, CDCES, CDN, IFNCP, Clinical Nutrition and Diabetes Program Manager of General Physician, P.C., says, “Building up strength to withstand the effects of cancer and treatment requires high-protein, high-calorie foods for weight maintenance, and sometimes rich cool foods like ice cream or milkshakes for when eating solid food is difficult. While each patient’s needs vary, eating well is important for weight maintenance, tolerating treatment side effects, lowering infection risk, and general healing and recovery.”

Kelly offers some recommendations regarding the needs of cancer patients.

  • Consume a variety of foods that include proteins, fats, carbohydrates, water, vitamins, and minerals to help fight the cancer. Sufficient protein after surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation helps heal tissues and fight infection. Fish, poultry, lean red meat, eggs, low-fat dairy, nuts and nut butters, dried beans, peas and lentils, and soy foods are good protein sources.
  • For fats, choose monounsaturated oils (olive, canola, and peanut oils), and polyunsaturated fats (safflower, sunflower, corn, flaxseed oils, and seafood), which also help lower cholesterol. Less than 10% of your fats should come from animal sources like meat and poultry, whole or reduced-fat milk, cheese, and butter.
  • Carbohydrates, a major source of energy, provide the body with the fuel it needs for physical activity and proper organ function. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains provide needed vitamins and minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients (the chemicals in plant-based foods that might promote health). Insoluble fiber helps move food waste out of the body quickly, and soluble fiber binds with water to help keep stool soft. Think bread, potatoes, rice, spaghetti, pasta, cereals, corn, peas, and beans.
  • Water and liquids are vital to our body cells. Drink about four 8-ounce glasses of liquid each day, and more if you are vomiting or ill. Soup, milk, ice cream, and gelatin all count as fluids.

Your doctor or dietitian may suggest a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement if you aren’t getting enough nutrients through eating. Talk to your doctor about proper dosage, so as not to interfere with your cancer treatment. Include antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, and E and selenium and zinc derived from fruits and vegetables. Also include phytonutrients (plant compounds) like carotenoids, lycopene, resveratrol, and phytosterols found in fruits and vegetables, tofu, and tea.

Kelly Cardamone, MS, RDN, LDN, CDCES, CDN, IFNCP is a Clinical Nutrition and Diabetes Program Manager for Primary Care General Physician, P.C. and Great Lakes Cancer Care Collaborative. Learn more at, or call 716-859-7937. Reach Kelly Directly at 716-800-2273.