It can be overwhelming to listen to pieces of advice when we don’t know who or what to follow. We are bound to feel confused about important aspects of care. In this article, we talk about the aspect of food and nutrition.
Merits of a Balanced Diet in cancer care
While it is essential to comply with the various modalities of cancer treatment, consuming a balanced diet is equally important. Your nutrient intake determines your tolerance and recovery speed.
A significant number of cancer patient suffer from malnutrition. It happens due to altered sense of taste and loss of appetite, which can be attributed to both the disease and the unfortunate side effects of chemotherapy. One-third of patients already suffer from malnutrition at diagnosis.
A nutritionally diverse and varied diet is bound to pay rich dividends.
Generally, saturated fats (pastries, cheese, sausages and meat) should be avoided. Plenty of fruit, vegetables, fish, low-fat dairy products, nuts, rice, pasta, and pulses should be eaten.
Oncological diets should be personalised, as food tolerance varies from patient to patient. It should also be borne in mind that a patient’s tolerance to food can change in a short period of time, so not only must the diet be personalised, but the nutrition and diet specialist must also meet the patient regularly to modify the diet as the patient goes through their cancer treatment.
The aftermath of cancer can affect patients in more ways than one. It can affect their sense of taste, lead to loss of weight or muscle mass, vitamin or iron deficiency, etc. The nutrition and diet specialist will recommend dietary guidelines even after the oncology treatment has passed.
Proteins constitute the most important nutrient in any given diet.
How much protein one must take depends on an individual’s age, gender, physical activity, and body weight. Protein helps in growth, tissue repair, hormone formation, enzymes, red blood cells, and body maintenance. People with cancer need more protein as compared to normal individuals.
As proteins are the basic building blocks of the immune system, a low protein intake will lead to weakened immunity and, thereby, a slower recovery rate.
What are the dietary sources of protein?
According to research, animal protein helps in muscle protein synthesis better than plant protein. And when plant and animal protein are combined where animal protein is ≥65%, it helps avoid malnutrition during cancer treatment.
Plant sources include nuts (almond, walnut, peanuts), seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, sesame), legumes (dried beans, peas, lentils), tofu.
Animal sources include chicken, fish, seafood, eggs, milk, cheese, and curd/yogurt.
How much protein should a cancer patient take?
As per nutritional oncology guidelines, the minimum recommendation for protein intake in adults is 1g/kg body weight/day. However, aiming for 1.2-2.0g/ kg body weight/day is advisable for a better clinical outcome.
How to manage protein intake during cancer and its treatment?
Managing one’s protein intake is crucial. Estimating the daily intake based on body composition, understanding the source of foods, and the way of consumption can be planned well by a well-trained dietitian. Diet can be tailored for the individual by evaluating their food pattern, likes and dislikes, medical history, and present condition.
Hence, understanding the importance of nutrients, how they must be consumed, in what quantity, and most importantly, what role they play matters immensely.