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  • Writer's pictureDr. Karuturi Subrahmanyam

Cancer - What Foods to Eat and What Foods to Avoid

Cancer is a serious disease that can affect every aspect of your health, including your appetite and diet. Eating a healthy and balanced diet can help you cope with cancer treatment, manage side effects, maintain a healthy weight, and reduce the risk of cancer recurrence. In this article, we will discuss what foods you should eat and what foods you should avoid if you have cancer or are undergoing cancer treatment.

Foods to Eat

Some of the best foods to eat during cancer treatment are plant-based proteins, such as vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. They offer high levels of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber that can help protect your cells from damage, support your immune system, and lower inflammation. Plant-based proteins also tend to be lower in calories and fat than animal proteins, which can help you prevent weight gain or obesity.q

If you do eat animal proteins, choose lean options like chicken, fish, eggs or low-fat dairy products. These foods provide high-quality protein that can help you maintain muscle mass and strength. They also contain essential nutrients like iron, zinc, calcium and vitamin B12 that can support your blood health and energy levels.

Another important food group to include in your diet is whole grains, such as oats, brown rice, quinoa, barley or whole wheat bread. Whole grains are rich in complex carbohydrates that can provide you with a steady source of energy and prevent blood sugar spikes. They also contain fiber that can help you regulate your bowel movements and prevent constipation or diarrhea.

Fruits and berries are also excellent choices for cancer patients. They are packed with antioxidants that can help fight free radicals and prevent oxidative stress. They also contain natural sugars that can satisfy your sweet cravings and boost your mood. Some fruits and berries that have been shown to have anti-cancer properties include blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries, grapes, citrus fruits and pomegranates.

Healthy fats are another essential component of a cancer diet. They can help you absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K. They can also help you modulate inflammation and hormone production. Some of the best sources of healthy fats are olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds and fatty fish like salmon or sardines.

Foods to Avoid

Some foods may increase your risk of cancer or worsen your symptoms during treatment. These foods should be limited or avoided as much as possible.

One of the most harmful foods for cancer patients is processed meat. Processed meat refers to meat that has been treated to preserve flavor by undergoing salting, curing or smoking. It includes hot dogs, ham, bacon, salami and some deli meats. Processed meat has been classified as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) because it contains chemicals that can damage your DNA and increase your risk of colorectal cancer.

Another food group to avoid is sugar and refined carbs. These foods are low in nutrients and high in calories. They can cause your blood sugar levels to spike and stimulate insulin production. High levels of blood sugar and insulin can promote cell growth and division, which can fuel cancer cells and make them more resistant to treatment. They can also contribute to inflammation and obesity, which are both risk factors for cancer.

Other foods that may be harmful for cancer patients are alcohol, fried foods, red meat and processed foods. Alcohol can interfere with your liver function and increase your risk of liver cancer. Fried foods can contain trans fats that can raise your cholesterol levels and increase inflammation. Red meat can contain heme iron that can generate free radicals and damage your cells. Processed foods can contain additives, preservatives and artificial colors that may have carcinogenic effects.


Eating a healthy diet during cancer treatment can help you cope with side effects, maintain a healthy weight, boost your immune system and reduce the risk of cancer recurrence. Some of the best foods to eat are plant-based proteins, lean animal proteins, whole grains, fruits, berries and healthy fats. Some of the worst foods to eat are processed meat, sugar, refined carbs, alcohol, fried foods, red meat and processed foods.

Dr. Karuturi Subrahmanyam, MD, FRCP (London), FACP (USA)

Internal Medicine Specialist

Kify Hospital



Phone : 85000 23456


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