Mesothelioma patients should take special care to maintain proper nutrition before, during, and after treatment. This is because mesothelioma procedures and medications can cause side effects that interfere with nutrition. Stanford Healthcare suggests cancer patients eat 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Fortunately, many fruits and vegetables hit their nutritional peak in the fall. Read more for a fall nutrition guide.
Why a Healthy Diet is Essential During Cancer Treatment
Following a healthy diet is essential for malignant mesothelioma patients. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and surgery may cause cancer patients to lose their appetite and decrease their energy levels. Some side effects of treatments and medications can also negatively impact nutrition.
The nutritional needs of patients undergoing mesothelioma treatment can vary. It is very important to talk with your mesothelioma care team about your diet.
Eating properly during and after treatment can help mesothelioma patients:
- Feel better
- Improve energy levels
- Lower infection risk
- Maintain strength
- Manage weight
- Recover more quickly
- Tolerate side effects
For most patients, eating a variety of foods is the best way to ensure the body is getting the nutrients it needs to fight mesothelioma.
Key nutrients may be found in:
- Carbohydrates: The biggest source of energy needed for organ functioning and physical activity.
- Fats: Important for boosting energy, insulating tissues, and transporting vitamins through the blood.
- Proteins: Strengthen the immune system and repair body tissue. Extra protein is often needed after chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and/or surgery.
- Vitamins and minerals: Needed to help the body use energy and function properly.
- Water: Vital to health because all cells need water to function.
Additionally, antioxidants — including vitamins A, C, and E, zinc, and selenium — are essential for mesothelioma patients because they attach to free radicals and prevent them from attacking healthy cells.
Health experts also recommend eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, which are excellent sources of antioxidants.
Fall Vegetables for Cancer Patients
Fall vegetables include many cancer-fighting foods that can be beneficial during treatment. According to Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, many fruits and vegetables hit their nutritional peak during the fall.
Broccoli is high in vitamins C and K, folic acid, and fiber. It is also among the highest in calcium, magnesium, and iron.
Additionally, broccoli contains phytonutrients. People with diets high in phytonutrients tend to have lower rates of lung cancer, prostate cancer, and stomach cancer.
“Broccoli is the only [vegetable] with a sizable amount of sulforaphane, a particularly potent compound that boosts the body’s protective enzymes and flushes out cancer-causing chemicals.”
—Jed Fahey, Director, Cullman Chemoprotection Center, Johns Hopkins University
There are many ways to enjoy broccoli. It can be prepared as a main course, side dish, or even eaten raw as a healthy snack.
Check out this recipe recommended by the American Cancer Society for Broccoli, Garlic, and Lemon Penne.
Carrots are another popular fall vegetable that have cancer-fighting properties. They are high in vitamins K and A and may decrease the risk of digestive cancers, bladder cancer, and breast cancer.
Carrots are one of the more versatile fall vegetables and can be:
- Blended as soup
- Boiled, roasted, or grilled
- Juiced and consumed as a liquid
Many people like to eat carrots raw as a snack. In fact, research suggests that eating just one carrot per day adds a significant amount of fiber and vitamin K to a person’s diet.
Kale is part of the dark leafy vegetable group, considered powerhouse vegetables since they contain high levels of vitamins, calcium, iron, and fiber.
Kale often gets labeled as a superfood because of its high nutrient density.
“Kale is a top choice because it’s rich in phytonutrients called indoles, which stimulate liver detoxification and help fight cancer.”
— Stacy Kennedy, senior nutritionist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Kale can be eaten raw in salads, steamed, sauteed, or even baked into chips. It is also a popular ingredient in smoothies.
In addition to containing 520% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A, sweet potatoes also contain carotenoids. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, carotenoids aid in controlling cell growth.
Sweet potatoes can be eaten baked, just like traditional baked potatoes. Since baking takes a long time, it is helpful to bake several at once and store them in an airtight container for leftovers.
Tip for adding calories and fat: top baked sweet potatoes with sour cream or cheese.
There are many other ways to prepare sweet potatoes, including pureeing into soup, roasting with herbs, and even making sweet potato fries.
Fall Fruits for Cancer Patients
There are a number of fall fruits that are beneficial for cancer patients. As with many vegetables, a lot of fruits also hit their nutritional peak during the fall.
Apples are high in vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants. They also contain a nutrient called quercetin, which protects cells’ DNA from the damage that causes cancer.
“The key is to eat them raw and with the skin on. That’s where many of the nutrients are found.”
— Stacy Kennedy, senior nutritionist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
In addition to eating them raw, apples can be added to salads, made into chips, or baked into healthy muffins.
Cranberries contain benzoic acid, which has been shown to slow the growth of lung cancer, colon cancer, and certain types of leukemia.
Cranberries can be added to bread, muffins, or salads. They are also a staple at many Thanksgiving tables.
Due to the health benefits of eating cranberries for cancer patients, it is a good idea to buy bags of them while they are in season and freeze them to eat year-round.
Grapes contain the antioxidant resveratrol, which is believed to stop some cancers.
Since the skin has the most antioxidants, grapes should be eaten with the skin on. Additionally, red and purple grapes are higher in resveratrol than green grapes.
Grapes can be enjoyed as a snack, added to salads, and even incorporated into hot dishes.
While many argue whether pumpkins are a fruit or vegetable, it can not be disputed that they are packed with the cancer-fighting nutrient carotenoid.
Pumpkin can be added to soups, smoothies, and even ravioli.
Working With a Nutritionist
Many mesothelioma patients choose to work with a nutritionist because of the importance of eating properly during treatment.
Nutrition therapy can help cancer patients build strength, maintain healthy body weight, and keep tissues healthy.
Adding a nutritionist or registered dietician to your care team ensures you receive evidence-based diet advice that is personalized to the type of mesothelioma treatment you undergo.
A nutritionist will work with you, your family, and your mesothelioma specialist to manage your diet before, during, and after cancer treatment.