Protein is one of the vital nutrients for everyone, not just for cancer patients. Cancer puts a huge amount of pressure on the body and creates an excessive demand for nutrients. People undergoing cancer treatment lose a lot of healthy cells apart from cancer cells. You need protein to replenish the lost cells. Protein-rich diets may not be sufficient to fulfil this demand. Protein powder can help you out with this.
Why is protein important?
Before we talk about protein powder, it is crucial to understand the necessity of protein. Adequate nutrition and adequate nutrients are very important factors affecting the ability to treat and cure cancer.
When a person has cancer treatment, they have to receive many different treatments such as chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, etc. All these treatments put a lot of stress on the body. These processes not only affect cancer cells but also healthy cells. You can lose many healthy cells in addition to cancer cells. Therefore, the body needs to repair and rebuild itself. It has to replace the lost healthy cells with new ones. This is where protein kicks in.
Protein is an essential nutrient because it is part of every cell. Every cell in our body is made up of proteins. Thus, proteins help form new cells and repair muscle tissue and other cells. In fact, you need protein
whether you have cancer or not. You need it every day to form new cells and repair damaged ones.
Now you can see that protein can play an important role in rebuilding and repairing the body. Protein intake is essential to replace lost cells. This is mainly because cells need to regenerate very quickly in order to recover and heal. Eating protein has several other benefits. It strengthens immunity and makes you less susceptible to infections and diseases. It also helps deal with the side effects of cancer treatments like fatigue and weight loss.
Ways to take protein
One of the several ways to intake protein is a balanced diet. Pack your diet with protein-rich food to draw the maximum benefit of protein. Having a balanced diet is preferable to protein supplements or protein powder. This is what the specialist suggests. There are many rich sources of protein that can be readily availed.
There are two main sources of protein: plant-based protein and animal-based protein. It should be determined which type of protein the patient can tolerate before providing any protein-rich foods.
Some of the plant-based protein sources are soybean and soybean-based products like tofu, seitan, pulses like lentils and beans, quinoa, amaranth, peanut butter, etc. On the other hand, animal-based sources of protein are mainly meat such as fish, chicken, pork, milk, egg, etc.
More intake of plant-based proteins is generally suggested by nutritionists. While the animal-based proteins should be taken in moderation. But if the patient is craving meat then it’s okay to include some of it in the diet. It is advisable to include lean meats like chicken, fish, turkey, etc as compared to red meat like pork, beef, etc. One can go for the lean parts like loin, tenderloin, sirloin, etc.
You can get a bit creative to increase your daily protein intake. Like using peanut butter with bread. Get yourself a protein-rich smoothie with your choice of flavours. Add tofu to your plate if you are lactose intolerant but you like diary products. Have nuts as an evening snack if you like them. If you have trouble consuming whole nuts then go for nut butters. Include salads like chicken salads or greek salads to add even more protein to your diet.
Types of protein powder and when you should start taking one
Although a balanced diet can help you with all your protein needs, cancer patients might find it hard to draw all their nutrients from their diet. This may be due to loss of appetite, trouble swallowing food, change in taste or smell, etc. A protein powder might help to fulfil your protein needs. But all the protein powders are not the same. There are two types of protein powder: ready-to-drink protein shakes and protein powder.
You should keep a few things in mind before buying any protein powder. The protein powder should be free of food additives. Not all additives are bad but some of them can cause some side effects like gastric problems. These additives may be hard to digest and can cause the digestive tract bacteria to take more time to digest. Hence, it can cause bloating, pain in the abdomen, etc.
Another thing to avoid is artificial sweeteners. Don’t buy ones with added artificial sweeteners. Don’t choose the protein powder with dairy products as these can be hard on the stomach. Always choose the protein powder which is free of chemicals and doesn’t contain isolates and concentrates of protein.
If you have a weak stomach go for egg whites protein powder unless you are allergic to eggs. In that case, you can opt for chickpeas protein which is quite easy on the stomach. It is plant-based and hence is rich in fibre which will be helpful in a regular bowel movement to keep you away from problems like constipation.
Protein is crucial for the recovery of cancer patients and also adds to the quality of life. Protein supplements like protein powder can help you to meet your protein requirements. But you should keep in mind a few things before picking up any protein powder. Protein powder may be helpful when it is hard to get nourishment from a diet given to the person suffering from cancer.