Eating for heart health and cancer prevention aren’t as different as you may think. We used to think about heart disease and cancer as having separate risk factors, but now we know that just as tobacco increases risk of both, eating and physical activity habits also affect risk of both.
Research now shows that heart health means much more than cholesterol levels and blood pressure. It involves the whole environment within blood vessels. By avoiding elevated insulin levels and excess inflammation, you can promote heart health and bypass key drivers of cancer development.
Some tips to follow with proper diet
Drink plenty of fluids (preferably water) throughout treatment.
Chemotherapy and other medications given during treatment can be hard on the kidneys and liver. It is important to drink plenty of fluids with a preference to water during treatment. This will help your body to flush out the medications in a timely manner. Staying well hydrated also helps in the management of nausea and vomiting.
Be as active as possible.
Physical activity helps your body use the sugar in your blood more efficiently. Check your blood sugar before exercising. If your blood sugar is over 300mg/dL or less than 100mg/dL, do not do any strenuous physical activity. If your blood sugar is less than 100mg/dL, try having a snack. Check your blood sugar level again to make sure it is over 100 mg/dL before you start your workout. If your blood sugar is over 300mg/dL, you may need to wait or call your doctor for additional instructions on the medications you are taking to control your blood sugar. Your healthcare team can give you guidance on the type and amount of exercise that is safe for you.
What to eat
A balanced diet for cancer patients will include more vegetables, fruits and whole grains. It is important to include adequate amounts of water in the diet. Your diet should help you maintain a BMI (body mass index) of about 18.5 and 25 kg/m2.
The below ideas are for cancer fighters on active treatment. If you have other conditions such as diabetes, you will need to consult your doctor or dietician before you follow a meal plan.
Snacks or small meals
For breakfast, tea-time snacks or snacks between meals, you can draw inspiration from these lighter dishes. It is considered good for you to have more number of smaller meals rather than three large meals, so feel free to indulge at odd hours.
With small meals, focus on increasing the protein intake. Below is a list of quick bites that will help you do that. Eggs, nuts, Peanut butter, Cheese, Sprouts, Uttapams, Dahi Vada etc. are some good options for a mini-meal.
When planning the main meals, ensure you include these aspects:
One portion of the meal must constitute unrefined flours like bajra, jowar, oats, brown rice etc. These help maintain an optimum level of energy within the body, to combat constant fatigue and weakness.
For example: brown rice khichdi, jowar rotis, oats porridge
Meat, lentils and beans, soybean, dairy products, etc, make for good sources of proteins.
- When choosing the meat, go with lean meats like fish. Avoid red meats as these are difficult to digest
- Legumes like peas (muttar), chickpeas (chana), lentils (dal), kidney beans (rajma) are high in proteins
- A bowl of curd in the form of raita can be added to every meal. You can add a hint of spices to improve the taste.
Dietary supplements include vitamin, mineral, and herbal supplements.
You can get all the nutrients you need from a well-balanced diet. But taking a low-dose multivitamin and mineral supplement can help if you’re having trouble following a balanced diet. A low-dose supplement is one that doesn’t have more than 100% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of any vitamin or mineral.
There currently isn’t enough research to know that taking large amounts of antioxidants, herbs, or extra vitamins and minerals helps treat or cure cancer. Depending on your specific cancer treatment, taking too much of a dietary supplement can actually harm you or change the way your treatment works.
If you’re thinking about taking any dietary supplements, talk with your doctor first. A clinical dietitian nutritionist or pharmacist can also answer your questions.
- Stay hydrated all the time.
- Eat mixed foods (carbs, protein and fat).
- Consume less dietary fat.
- Include nutrient dense (macro and micro) foods in your meal.
- Fibre has to be included as it plays a major role in gastro intestinal related cancers.
- Consume Properly cooked vegetables and other food items.
- Consume the fruits then and there after chopping.
- Consume all varieties of foods from all food groups (cereals, pulses, fruits, vegetables, milk products, nuts, meat products).
- Avoid oily foods, junk foods, foods thaat include cream, mayonnaise, cheese.
- Avoid salads, half cooked foods, unpasteurised milk/juices.
- Avoid fatty/smoked/cured meats and meat products.
- Never eat foods that are kept in refrigerator after cooking.
What to avoid
Anything that is harmful to your body (like tobacco) or anything that leads to a sudden spike in your energy levels, leaving you exhausted afterwards, needs to be avoided. This includes the follow:
- Refined sugar added to hot or cold beverages, or consumed in the form of sweets and desserts
- Excess salt from processed foods
- Caffeinated drinks