Nutrition and Cancer: Reaching Beyond Fiction
What‘s the truth about cancer and food? How can I afford to eat to fight cancer? Can I really make a difference by choosing certain foods? Why do friends tell me not to eat sugar? Do I have to buy foods at specialty stores and by mail-order to eat well?
These are questions I hear often as I speak with cancer survivors and their caregivers, usually after they have searched the internet for help or visited the cancer nutrition aisle in a bookstore. Well-intentioned friends and relatives also offer unsolicited advice in the midst of a cancer diagnosis. These events can trigger anxiety which may cause panic and unhealthy food choices.
Disclaimer: I do grasp the seriousness of their diagnosis. I share the quest for answers when facing the big C monster. I feel the anxiety too as friends and clients share their cancer journey. But, I also know that many internet myths and advertising gimmicks have caused an unhealthy choice or incorrect beliefs.
Get answers to your important questions by following these steps:
Wise up when online. The internet is open to everyone and everything. And, I do mean everything. Even my dog could be on the internet selling “the answer to fighting cancer with this fantastic diet or special organic drink.” Be smart—look for websites with evidenced-based findings that support the claims and food suggestions. Websites that end in .org or .gov are often the best! If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.
Seek balance. No one food or meal is going cure cancer or help reduce side effects of your treatment. During a week, be sure to include a variety of food colors, food types, fibers, and beverages. No foods are bad or super foods when you get right down to the facts. Together a variety of foods make the best immunity or defense against cancer. The American Institute for Cancer Research’s The New American Plate nutrition plan is one place to start for added variety.
Be bold. Try new foods, beverages, and flavors. With a cancer diagnosis, you may be motivated to step into new food groups or flavors that you may not have been open to before diagnosis. On the other hand, if friends or family members offer unsolicited nutrition advice, politely share that you are under your doctor’s and registered dietitian’s care. Your healthcare team is educating you about your special nutritional needs.
Nourish yourself. You are unique and have special nutritional needs. Nourish yourself to the best of your ability within your food budget. Get your nutrition from real food. That’s where most of the research is conducted, not with expensive potions, diets, and pills. Enjoy the flavor of good food!