If you’re battling cancer, now more than ever, it’s important to eat right, to give your body the energy you need to fight on and heal your body, without upsetting your stomach. But which are the best foods to eat during chemo? First, you’ll want to consult your doctor, of course. But this list ought to help, too… here are the 7 best foods to eat during chemo.
1. Lean Protein
Lean protein (85/15 or better) is especially important to a good diet during chemo, providing you the building blocks you’ll need for healthy muscles. Lean protein, from sources like grilled chicken or fish or beans, will also be gentler on your stomach than fattier proteins, like beef.
2. Whole Grains
Let’s face it: white bread is boring anyway. Plus, it’s literally bleached of most of its nutritional content, to the point where the law requires that some of it is added back (with more chemicals). So it’s not going to be a sacrifice to switch from bland white bread to wholesome, filling, nutrient-packed whole grain bread. The whole grains are loaded with digestion-helping fiber, giving you long-lasting energy besides help for tummy troubles.
Chemo can kill off the “good” bacteria your body relies on for healthy digestion, so one of the best foods to eat during chemo is plain or vanilla-flavored Greek yoghurt. It’s rich in “good” bacteria, and it’s higher in protein and lower in lactose than traditional yoghurt. It’s also delicious! Try it frozen with fresh fruit for a summer-time treat.
4. Fresh Fruits
The natural slow-burning sugars in fresh fruits will give you long-lasting energy, and the fiber in them will help with digestion, so they’re a shoo-in as one of the best foods to eat during chemo. Of course, too much of a good thing can be bad — some studies suggest that eating too many fresh fruits may actually protect the cancer cells your chemo is trying to kill (fruits are loaded with cell-protecting anti-oxidants, after all)… but in moderation (2 or 3 servings a day), fresh fruits are marvelous, and will help your body. Another note: citrus fruits, like oranges and lemons, may upset your stomach during chemo, so add them to your diet carefully.
5. Fresh Veggies
Just like fresh fruits, fresh veggies (especially leafy greens) are key to a good diet during chemo. Again, they’re loaded with fiber and other nutrients. They’re also crunchy and tasty, easily satisfying your craving for something savory, without the added fat and calories of crisps. No, you’re not on a diet, but it is still important to load up on the good stuff that can help your body heal! Another note: because your body is so much more susceptible to infection during chemo, make sure to VERY CAREFULLY wash our fruits and veggies (and even peel them) before you eat!
Ginger has long been known for its anti-nausea properties (ask any woman who’s ever suffered from morning sickness), so it’s another natural choice as one of the best foods to eat during chemo. Sip some ginger ale (make sure it contains real ginger, not just ginger flavoring), nibble some candied ginger, or even snack on a ginger snap cookie. Any of them will help soothe an upset tummy from chemo, and keep the nausea at bay.
7. Comfort Food
You know what? You’re battling cancer right now. If a big bowl of smashed potatoes dripping with butter, or a plate of your mom’s fried chicken, sounds good right now, then indulge a little. It’s called comfort food for a reason! For this one time, let the food heal your mind and spirit. You can worry about the extra calories later. But if it sounds good, go for it once in a while. A good diet during chemo doesn’t necessarily always have to mean “good for your body.” It can also mean “good for your soul.”
See? A good diet during chemo doesn’t have to be scary, or weird… it’s actually a lot of the same things you ought to be eating anyway! A lot of the best foods to eat during chemo are good anytime, and you’ll be able to keep enjoying them after you’re well. Which of these foods do you like best, and how do you prepare them? Or do you have another chemo-diet tip to share? Please do!
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