Breast Cancer Nutrition Tips: How to Eat Well During Treatment

Breast Cancer Nutrition Tips

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, your diet may be the last thing on your mind right now. But it’s very important to focus on this aspect of your health, since a good diet can help your body heal as quickly as possible during treatment.

If you’re looking for a way to improve your energy, strength and overall wellness during breast cancer treatment, incorporate these tips into your diet.

What You Should Eat on a Daily Basis

One of the best ways to stay healthy during breast cancer treatment is to make fruits and vegetables part of your diet every day. In particular, you should eat five to nine servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables. While it's common to see recommendations for leafy greens, you should also incorporate other colorful fruits and vegetables.

The many colors in fruits and vegetables indicate the presence of phytochemicals, all of which work to protect our bodies in different ways. Colorful fresh food foods including those that are blue, yellow, orange, green or red play a significant role in helping to protect your body.

You should have at least one serving of whole grains each day since nutrition from these foods can help to reduce inflammation. Whole grains like bulgur, quinoa, buckwheat, oats, brown rice, barley, rye and corn contain complex carbohydrates, a little bit of protein and fat, a good amount of fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals, that all help to protect the body.

Protein is also essential, to help maintain body functions and weight. Losing weight during chemotherapy can make you feel sicker from the treatment and may result in treatment breaks.

Some great ways to incorporate protein into your diet include eggs, peanut butter, yogurt, turkey, chicken and seafood, as well as legumes, such as beans and peas.

One type of food you can eat during breast cancer treatment might surprise you: soy. Many people assume that soy and breast cancer don't go together, since they have heard soy can increase the risk of cancer or allow it to come back after treatment.

However, this is based on old research that turned out to be misleading. According to recent studies, unprocessed soy, such as in soybeans, soymilk and tofu are safe to eat. Highly processed soy products, such as vegan hot dogs and hamburgers, are not a healthy option, since much of the beneficial plant properties are lost in manufacturing.

Foods to Limit During Breast Cancer Treatment

Processed foods including high-sodium, high-fat lunchmeat, bacon and sausage should be limited as much as possible. You should also limit red meat - including beef, pork and lamb - to once a month if you want the healthiest diet during breast cancer treatment.

How to Manage Your Diet When Treatment Gives You Nausea

These diet guidelines are best for patients who have minimal side effects from breast cancer treatment. It’s common to experience nausea or loss of appetite during treatment. But you need to focus on getting enough healthy calories every day to keep up your energy, fight off infection and avoid losing a lot of weight during treatment.

Poor nutrition during breast cancer treatment can lead to more serious side effects and complications. You need proper nutrition and enough calories every day. If you struggle to eat as much as you should, scheduling several small meals throughout the day should help.

It’s important to lean on your oncology nutritionist during treatment to make sure you are doing your part to make your treatment and future health successful.

Overall, it’s important to keep a healthy diet during breast cancer treatment. Doing so can help your body recover, keep your weight steady and avoid fatigue. So if you have questions about your own diet, your oncology nutritionist can provide you with additional guidelines tailored to your unique needs as you undergo breast cancer treatment.

We are here to help.

If you have questions about the MedStar Georgetown Cancer Network or are ready to schedule a consultation with one of our specialists, call us at 855-546-1815 or click the request a consultation button.

Annelie M. Vogt, MD DCN RD CSO LDN CNSC is a nationally recognized doctor of clinical nutrition, a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in oncology nutrition and nutrition support, practicing as an oncology nutritionist at MedStar Washington Hospital Center Cancer Institute. Dr. Vogt serves on multiple national professional committees, reviews research for Rutgers University, has published multiple scientific articles, and has been awarded multiple grants and medals of excellence for her work to advance the dietetics profession.