There are three key messages we would like to share, for information on nutrition and wellbeing after cancer:
- Eating well and being active are two of the most important things we can do for our health. You can start making little changes for a better today.
- It is important to eat a wide and varied nutritious diet at all stages of your cancer journey that are enjoyable, affordable and fits in with your lifestyle.
- There are no foods, supplements or diets that can cure cancer.
Eating a nutritious diet can boost your immune system, heal wounds, increase your energy, help to maintain a healthy weight and reduce your future cancer risk.
This can sound ideal, however, it can be hard to know where to start. There is a lot of information about what foods you should be eating, such as miracle diets, superfoods, toxic chemicals, and more which (can be overwhelming).
Eating a nutritious diet doesn’t need to be complicated, with our support, easy tips and links to helpful information you can start making small changes for the better.
If you have completed your treatment and are experiencing nutrition issues such as weight loss, diarrhoea or nausea, we recommend getting in touch with your doctor or dietitian for specific advice.
Maintaining or adopting a healthier diet after cancer treatment can begin by making small steps to improve your diet, such as:
- Watch your portion size
- Cut back on sugar and salt
- Cut back on alcohol
- Watch the fats you eat
- Eating two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables per day is recommended
To get more helpful tips to improve your diet or to create your own personalised meal plan, visit Cancer Council WA’s LiveLighter website.
Eating foods from the five food groups
A nutritious diet is to eat foods from the five food groups, that is fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, meat and/or protein alternatives and dairy. Most of the food on your plate should be plant foods like vegetables, wholegrains and beans. Healthy eating also means not having too many junk foods like fast food, sugary drinks and alcohol.
Some people believe that high–dose vitamin, mineral or herbal supplements can prevent or cure cancer, but there is little evidence to support this. In fact, many supplements can be toxic at high levels. If you are managing to eat a variety of healthy foods, then using supplements is unnecessary.
There are no special foods or diets that are scientifically proven to prevent or cure cancer. But we can still decrease the risk of developing cancer by following nutrition guidelines.
It is important to note that your nutritional needs can change at different stages of your cancer journey so talk to your doctor or dietitian for specific advice.
Fruit and vegetables
Most of the food on your plate should be plant foods like vegetables, legumes and beans. Fruit and vegetables are low in kilojoules and high in fibre ,which helps you to feel full for longer. This can help you maintain a healthy weight which also decreases your risk of some chronic diseases including cancer.
Eating two medium size pieces of fruit per day is recommended. Eating five serves of vegetables per day is recommended, on serve is approximately 75grams. This is about:
- One cup of raw or leafy vegetables
- half a cup of cooked vegetables or legumes
- half a potato.
For some great recipes and ideas to increase fruit and vegetables in your diet, visit Cancer Council WA’s LiveLighter website.
Diets that are not evidence-based
There are many claims made about diets like keto, 5:2, alkaline and others and their “miraculous” ability to prevent or cure cancer. However, many of these are not backed up by scientific evidence and caution should be exercised with any diet if it is:
- Claiming a cure – there are no foods, supplements or diets that can cure cancer.
- Cutting out a whole food group – we should eat foods from the five food groups every day, that is – fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, dairy, and meat/or protein alternatives.
- If it is really hard – if it is expensive, restrictive or takes a lot of time, it is probably dubious. It is important to eat a wide and varied nutritious diet that is enjoyable, affordable and fits in with your lifestyle.
Many Australians are eating too much junk food and one third of adults are getting their energy intake from unhealthy foods and drinks. Junk foods are packed with sugar, saturated fat and salt, and do not have any of the good nutrition we need like vegetables, fruits and wholegrains.
Food to avoid or minimise include lollies, chips and fast-food burgers, red wine and other alcohol, chocolate, soft cheeses, processed meats, muesli bars, veggie chips, and sports drinks.
Some tips on how to eat less junk food include:
- Cook at home, then you can control what goes in the food.
- Make your portion size small, and fill up on more nutritious foods, especially vegetables. Eat your food mindfully, that is taste and appreciate every mouthful by eating slowly, and not be distracted by other things.
Eating less junk food will be good for your health, your waistline and your wallet.
Food and cancer – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
There are lots of myths about food and cancer. Check out the facts on our Food and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page.
- LiveLighter top tips
- Eat for Health website
- Cancer Council WA Publications page for Living Well after Cancer and Nutrition and Cancer booklets
- Cancer Council WA Life Now Exercise and Nutrition DVD
- Wellbeing after Cancer dietary intake tracker form
- Australian Guide to Healthy Eating
The expert content on this page has been informed by Gael Myers, an Accredited Practicing Dietitian whose work focus is on tackling nutrition misinformation and helping people to live healthier lives by eating well and moving more; and Anne Finch, an Accredited Practicing Dietitian working in public health nutrition – specifically, oncology and chronic disease prevention.
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