Nutrition and Cancer: Understanding Foods That Help Heal During Treatment

Your diet plays a crucial role in your cancer journey, helping you meet your nutritional needs and improving your treatment outcomes. During treatment, you may experience side effects that will affect your appetite, such as nausea or taste changes. Because you may experience these side effects or symptoms, you may desire to eat less or have different food preferences.

Ensuring you continue to eat is only the start. You also need to know what foods have the power to help you heal, and also know what foods or eating habits may affect your treatment and recovery. While there are cancer-fighting superfoods, there are also foods that you should avoid because they’re likely to worsen your condition. Here are foods to add and avoid during cancer treatment.

  • Healthy fats – Healthy fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, give your body energy and support cell function, helping your body absorb nutrients, protect your organs, and produce important hormones. Healthy fats that are high in omega-3 fatty acids such as avocados, walnuts, and olive oil can help combat inflammation.
  • Healthy proteins – Your body needs protein to prevent muscle loss. Healthy proteins to add to your diet include beans, lentils, eggs, chicken and seafood.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables – Fruits and vegetables are loaded with nutrients such as antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting properties. Berries contain some of the highest levels of antioxidants. Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries are recognized as cancer-fighting berries because apart from their high antioxidant levels, they’re also high in fiber, folate, vitamin C and polyphenols.
  • As for vegetables, cruciferous vegetables like kale, arugula and broccoli are known for helping fight cancer and cancer recurrence.


  • Raw or undercooked food – Raw or undercooked foods increase your risk for food poisoning because these foods haven’t gone through proper cooking processes that destroy bacteria. Because of a potentially weakened immune system, you may be more likely to get a foodborne illness from contaminated food and your body will have a harder time recovering from it. The following are raw or undercooked foods you should avoid:
    • Sushi and sashimi
    • Cold cuts or deli meat
    • Raw or undercooked shellfish
    • Unpasteurized milk and milk products, including soft cheese made with unpasteurized milk
    • Raw sprouts
    • Undercooked eggs
  • Unwashed fresh fruits and vegetables – A variety of fruits and vegetables should be a part of your balanced diet. Be sure to thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables before consuming them because they can contain dirt and other contaminants, especially leafy greens which have a lot of places for dirt and germs to hide.
  • Processed foods – Whether you have a cancer diagnosis and are undergoing treatment or not, processed foods are never a good idea. Processed foods are low in nutrients and contribute nothing to your treatment and recovery. They are often high in sugar or sodium. They also contain preservatives and other chemicals and consuming them regularly typically leads to weight gain and obesity. Processed foods you should avoid include meat products, microwave meals, savory snacks, and tinned vegetables.

Contact Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology today for more information about cancer-fighting support.