World Cancer Day aims to promote awareness of cancer as a public health issue and to strengthen actions toward improving access to quality care, screening, early detection, treatment, and palliative care.
This year’s theme marks the second year of the campaign “close the care gap”, which is about understanding the inequities in cancer care and taking action to take the necessary steps to address them.
Millions of people around the world battle various forms of cancer and its treatment which can often have debilitating side effects that impact one’s ability to eat.
While family history can heighten your risk, studies have shown that your diet can play a role in preventing certain types of cancers.
Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and healthy fats can reduce your risk for a variety of common cancers such as colorectal, breast, and stomach cancer.
Experts say these beneficial foods are higher in antioxidants and carotenoids, both of which help protect against the development of cancer cells.
They reveal that when it comes to preventing cancer, some foods pack more punch than others.
Below, registered dietitian and Virgin Active’s expert on nutrition Kim Hofmann delves into how nutrition may help the healing process.
Eat a wholesome, homemade, predominantly plant-based diet
Wherever possible, it’s advisable to eat wholesome, homemade foods that are not excessively processed and do not contain large amounts of salt, sugar, and preservatives.
Try homemade versions of hummus, fava bean dip, guacamole, nut butter, and unflavoured cottage cheeses – even if it means scraping a tiny bit onto a cracker or toast, to begin with, and building from there. Eating a predominantly plant-based diet that incorporates small amounts of white meats may be easier for the stomach to digest than large amounts of red meats.
Fruit, vegetables, and legumes – such as beans, chickpeas, and lentils – should be the largest consumed food group during this period.
Incorporate wholesome foods into your diet such as whole grain carbohydrates – choose brown, wholewheat, wholegrain, seeded, or rye bread over white bread, as it will keep you fuller for longer and offer your body more nutrition.
Have food prepared for you or delivered
When you experience nausea, the smell of food may make the sensation worse, which is why having food prepared for or delivered to you is recommended to help maintain your intake.
If you have to prepare food yourself, open the kitchen windows and door while you do so. Take a step outside or sit near an open window, if you feel the smell of food is too overpowering.
Eat small meals regularly, throughout the day
Eating large meals, or the same portions you ate before treatment began, may be difficult.
Eat smaller meals throughout the day, instead of forcing yourself to eat larger portions than you can comfortably manage in a single sitting. This may help if you experience a loss of appetite. Snacking between meals may also help.
Not too hot, cold, or spicy – just right
Blander meals – that are not too sweet, salty, bitter, spicy, fatty, or rich – are more likely to be more agreeable during this time.
Try seed crackers, wholewheat toast, oats, porridge, and plain yoghurt. Make your oats using fat-free or low-fat milk, rather than full-cream milk, and add a selection of fruit, such as grated or pureed apples, mashed bananas, and berries as well as nuts and seeds.
Drink enough liquids
Drinking fluids during meals or all at once may prove hard. Having a bottle of still or sparkling water or herbal teas close by will help you take small sips when you’re thirsty. Green tea has been proven to have positive a effect during the healing and recovery process.
Add freshly cut or frozen fruit and herbs to your water or tea to add natural flavour. Grated ginger or ginger ale may relieve nausea.
Homemade smoothies may help you eat enough calories throughout the day – add a vegan protein powder if you feel you’re lacking it in your diet. Add whichever fruit and vegetables agree with you on a particular day.
Homemade smoothies are recommended over homemade juices that discard the fruits’ fibre matrix which is essential for nutrients.