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Feeding Healthy Outcomes: Wellness Tips For Cancer Patients

While everyone should aim to eat healthy, cancer survivors in particular must make healthy, selective choices when preparing a meal. It is crucial to support the body, which continues to heal post-treatment. Our very own April Rozzo, MS, RD, CSO, LD/N, Clinical Oncology Dietician, has three key tips for cancer survivors to follow to best support a healthy diet post-treatment. As the host of Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute’s Virtual Teaching Kitchen, April helps patients and survivors navigate nutrition during and after treatment.

Protect your body’s cells and tissues by eating more plants — enjoy a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Plant-based foods are rich in fiber, which most people do not get enough of each day. There is evidence that higher fiber diets may decrease the risk of colon cancer. The goal for fiber intake is 25-30 grams daily. Colorful fruits and vegetables also contain antioxidants such as vitamin C that help protect the body’s cells and tissues, and plant chemicals, which may help reduce the risk of cancer. Aim for at least five servings per day of a variety of vegetables and fruits. Vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale and Brussels sprouts may prevent the development of cancer by protecting cells from DNA damage, inactivating carcinogens and stopping the formation of tumor blood vessels and tumor cell migration. These vegetables also have anti-inflammatory effects. Eat more plants to help reduce your risk of cancer.

Minimize damage to organs by limiting red meats and processed meats such as beef, pork, lamb, bacon, sausage, hot dogs and deli meats.

Red meat includes beef, pork and lamb. Research has shown that eating more than 18 ounces per week has been linked with increased risk of cancer. While the cause is still being investigated, it’s possible that the link(s) to cancer are due to the heme compound (giving meat its red color) causing damage to the lining of the colon. Further, chemical compounds called nitrosamines, formed when eating red meat, can damage cellular DNA. Processed meats include foods such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs, deli meats and smoked meats. Carcinogenic compounds are produced by smoking, curing and nitrate- or nitrite-based additives. It is recommended to consume very little, if any, processed meat. Alternatives to red meat include poultry (such as chicken, turkey and duck, fish and seafood, eggs).

Reduce your chances for cancer and maintain an active lifestyle and a healthy weight.

The goal for physical activity is at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity. Moderate intensity can include brisk walking, gardening or dancing. Jogging or running, and aerobics such as cardio workouts and Zumba would be considered vigorous activity. Try to limit sedentary habits like sitting in front of the TV or sitting at your desk for too long. Physical activity in addition to a healthy diet can help decrease body fat and maintain a healthy weight. There is strong evidence that excess body fat increases the risk of at least 12 different cancers. Maintain an active lifestyle and a healthy weight by moving more and sitting less.

In addition to these reminders, preparing a healthy meal is one of the best things a cancer survivor can do to promote healing and recovery. To learn more about dietary tips tailored to cancer survivors, check out April’s Virtual Teaching Kitchen: