Diet & Nutrition
Managing your diet, however, may help to improve your quality of life and manage the side-effects of treatment.
Please watch this short video on Healthy Eating and what you will find out in this section.
World Cancer Research Fund
The World Cancer Research Fund is a leading cancer prevention charity. They fund global research into the links between diet, weight, physical activity and cancer.”
“They say that cancer is a complex disease – no single factor is likely to be the cause, however, it is clear from thousands of studies that there are simple things we can do today to reduce our risk. They state that around 40 per cent of cancers in the UK could be prevented.”
Eating a healthy diet, being more active each day and maintaining a healthy weight is, after not smoking, the most important ways you can reduce your cancer risk.”
“Their cancer prevention recommendations tell us what changes we could make to reduce our risk of getting cancer and are based on the latest scientific research about how to prevent cancer.”
Cancer and Your Diet
Recovering from cancer can take time. A healthy diet can help. The best advice is to follow the cancer prevention recommendations. By following these, you may be able to reduce the risk of cancer recurring or the development of a new cancer
The World Cancer Research Fund Recommendations are:
- Be a healthy weight
- Eat less salt
- Move more
- Eat more grains, veg, fruit and beans
- Avoid high calorie food and sugary drinks
Please click here to view a short video from Macmillan Cancer Support on Healthy Eating
Making Changes to your Diet
It can be difficult to make changes to your diet when you are already coping with cancer. But some people find improving their diet is a positive change they can make in their life. You can make changes to your diet gradually, when you feel ready. It doesn’t have to be expensive – healthy foods like beans, lentils and some vegetables are cheap ingredients to use. Try writing down what you eat for a few weeks. Then you can look for small changes you can make to improve your diet.
If you don’t already have fruit with breakfast, you could try this. For snacks, try swapping chocolate or crisps for some dried fruit and nuts. Use a notepad to write down what you eat and how you feel, physically and emotionally. Making changes can be enjoyable. You may discover new foods that you have not tried before.
Before making changes to your diet, talk to your doctor or nurse. They can refer you to a dietitian, who can give you expert advice about how to make changes to your diet.
Things you could try to change your diet
- Only eat as much food as you need. Your doctor or dietitian can give you advice on portion sizes.
- Try to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day. Add a side dish of salad or roasted vegetables to your meals.
- Eat less sugar and fat. Choose healthy snacks such as fruit and nuts, rather than crisps and biscuits.
- Eat less red meat and processed meat, such as sausages, burgers, pies and sausage rolls. If you make stews or curries, add more vegetables and less meat.
- It’s important to do some physical activity along with your healthy diet. Even just short walks, housework or gardening will improve your fitness. Click here for more information about Physical Activity
Use the Eatwell Guide to help you get a balance of healthier and more sustainable food. It shows how much of what you eat overall should come from each food group. You do not need to achieve this balance with every meal, but try to get the balance right over a day or even a week.
The Eatwell Guide divides the foods we eat and drink into 5 main food groups. Try to choose a variety of different foods from each of the groups to help you get the wide range of nutrients your body needs to stay healthy.
You can also find general advice about achieving a healthy diet on the NHS Eatwell website.
To help you make an informed choice, most packaged foods have information labels to help you see the amounts of fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt per 100g (3.5oz) of the product. The colours on the packaging indicate if the levels are high, medium or low
We are encouraged to eat more foods with amber and green labels and fewer with red.
Nutritional Cancer Myths
There is a lot of confusion around what we eat in relation to cancer, and cancer and nutrition myths are often the subject of media headlines. This can leave people vulnerable to misleading information at a very difficult time in their lives. Below are some common food myths we hear today:
- You should not eat dairy food - Due to conflicting evidence, World Cancer Research Fund has not made any recommendations about dairy foods. Calcium is one of the important minerals that make up bone strength. Low fat dairy foods are a good source of calcium as are some fish, fortified foods, nuts, seeds and spinach. Vitamin D, which comes from sunlight and from foods such as oily fish and margarine, helps the body to absorb the calcium.
- You should only eat organic food (Organic foods are grown or processed without pesticides or herbicides. Some studies have found higher levels of some nutrients in organic food but results are not consistent. It is more important to include a variety of plant foods in your diet . There is no current evidence to suggest that organic produce can help reduce the risk of cancer more than non-organic).
- Should we avoid burnt toast? - Animal studies have shown a link between eating overcooked foods that contain acrylamide (starchy food, e.g. potatoes, bread) and cancer risk. Research looking into the acrylamide intake and risk of endometrial and ovarian cancers in 368,010 women from 10 different European countries showed no strong evidence for a link between eating foods containing acrylamide and cancer risk in humans. More research is needed to fully understand the link between the level of exposure to foods containing acrylamide and the risk of different cancer types.
- Do anti-cancer diets work? - There is a lot of publicity about alternative diets. Some claim cures have been made. it is understandable that people would want to know more about a diet that offers hope of a cure. There is no evidence that these diets can shrink a cancer or increase a person's chance of survival or cure of the cancer.
- Does Sugar feed cancer? - Sugar does not directly increase the risk of cancer or encourage it to grow. Sugar contains no useful nutrients apart from energy, which we can get from other healthier sources. Too much sugar can lead to weight gain, so it is best to limit the amount of sugar we eat unless you have received specialist advice from your health care team.
Online and Local Healthy Eating Support
- World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) Recipes - The WCRF have a wide range of healthy balanced recipes to cater to everyone's interests; varying from different cuisines to family friendly meals. They have downloadable recipe books for you to browse at your leisure. Visit the World Cancer Research Fund website to find out more about these recipes
- NHS Eat Well has various information and guidance to help everyone lead a healthier lifestyle including the things we eat. For information about balanced diets, how to get our 5 a day visit the NHS Eat Well website
- NHS Easy Meals - NHS launched a free Easy Meals app is a great way to eat foods that are healthier for you. You'll find delicious, easy meal ideas to get you going if you're ever short of inspiration. The App is available to download on both Apple and Android devices.