How nutrition and a healthy diet can help with disease management and prevention

Nutrition can play a crucial role in managing and preventing various diseases. l JAKUB KAPUSNAK/UNSPLASH

Nutrition can play a crucial role in managing and preventing various diseases. l JAKUB KAPUSNAK/UNSPLASH

Published Feb 22, 2024


Nutrition is often considered as medicine because the food we eat has a direct impact on our overall health and well-being. Eating a balanced and healthy diet can provide our bodies with the essential nutrients it needs to function properly and stay healthy.

Nutrition can play a crucial role in managing and preventing various diseases. For example, eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

Similarly, certain nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids found in fish can help reduce inflammation and support brain function, which can be helpful in managing conditions like arthritis and depression.

Additionally, nutrition plays a vital role in supporting the immune system, which helps our bodies fight off infections and illnesses.

Eating a diet rich in vitamins and minerals can help strengthen the immune system and reduce the risk of getting sick.

You may have heard about a new trend in the health world that suggests eating certain foods can help with your mood and energy levels during your period. It's like finding the right fuel for your body at different times of the month.

Plus, there are different exercises that might work better for you at different stages of your period.

Even though Cancer Awareness Day has passed, the fight against cancer is ongoing. Many people going through cancer treatment struggle with malnutrition, which can affect up to 70% of patients.

This is often due to the effects of treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Nutrition is becoming a key part of cancer care, aiming to support patients as they navigate their treatment journey. l MARIA LIN KIM/UNSPLASH

Danone has teamed up with Resilience, a company that provides remote care for patients, to create a tool that can help screen patients for malnutrition and provide personalised nutrition advice.

This means that nutrition is becoming a key part of cancer care, aiming to support patients as they navigate their treatment journey.

In a recent article from Nutrition Insight, Katrien van Laere, a senior expert at Danone, discussed how cancer can affect a person's ability to eat and digest food. She explained that different types of cancer can impact how the body processes food and can lead to a faster metabolism and loss of muscle.

She also mentioned that cancer can cause symptoms like loss of appetite, nausea, and changes in taste and smell, which can make it challenging for patients to eat enough and maintain a healthy weight.

Unfortunately, malnutrition is often overlooked because there isn't a systematic way in place to screen for it in medical settings.

Van Laere further spoke on the importance of educating patients and healthcare professionals about the role of nutrition in cancer care.

She pointed out that ensuring patients get enough nutrients, particularly protein, can help them avoid losing weight and muscle, making it easier for them to tolerate their treatment.

In cases where it's difficult for a patient to get enough nutrition from food alone, medical nutrition may be recommended by the healthcare team.

Omy Naidoo, the founder of Nutrition Wellness Dieticians, put together a superfoods guide to help people stay strong during chemotherapy.

According to Naidoo, eating the right foods can provide the nutrients your body needs, especially because some cancer treatments work better when patients get enough protein and calories from their diet.

“Many cancers have a high chance of being cured if diagnosed early and treated adequately, including having the right diet during chemotherapy,” he said in a statement.

Here are the best foods to eat during chemotherapy:

Plant-based proteins

Proteins are like building blocks for your muscles and bones, as they help keep your immune system healthy. Plant-based proteins are among the healthiest meals to eat while undergoing chemotherapy.

As a food group, they have some of the highest mineral and vitamin concentrations.

Plant-based proteins include; beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. However, you can also opt for animal protein such as chicken, fish or eggs.

Vitamins and minerals

Vitamins and minerals are critical micronutrients that your body requires for optimum development and function. They support our bodies' enzymatic functions, which play an important role in immune function and inflammation reduction.

Foods rich in vitamins and minerals are dairy products such as milk and yoghurt; ancient grains such as millet, quinoa, and sorghum and berries.

Healthy fats

Healthy fats are an important source of calories. They also help in cell growth and hormone production. There are various forms of fat, some of which are healthier than others.

Food rich in omega-3 fatty acids is recommended when undergoing chemotherapy as they reduce inflammation and enhance cardiovascular health. This includes fish and other seafood; walnuts; grapeseed oil; flaxseed oil; and, avocados.


Carbohydrates offer most of the energy and fuel that your body requires to function effectively.

The finest sources of carbs are fruits, vegetables, and whole grains because they also contain fibre, vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients and are a better alternative to refined carbs such as rice and pasta.

Cruciferous vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli; cabbage collard greens; kale; Swiss chard; cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. Strong phytochemicals found in this vegetable family have been shown to slow down the growth of a variety of cancers.