During and following medical care, dietary changes is one of the most common strategies adopted by the survivors of cancer. The increasing importance of nutrition in cancer recovery and for general health has been one of the most significant shifts in the last decade. No longer is the old adage “eat what you want” widely accepted.

Today ‘viewing food as medicine’ is the norm among survivors of cancer. The most common nutritional shifts are towards diets that feature:

Whole foods, Low in fat, salt and sugar. Emphasising vegetables and lean healthy proteins from plants, cold water fish, poultry and lean beef, fresh fruits and whole grains. If you can afford it, organic produce would be best to ensure your limited exposure to pesticides especially whilst on strong cancer medications.

The single most important dietary shift is consuming less processed foods. If a food is part of a ready meal, a packet meal, pre canned or boxed it should fall under suspicion. Many of these foods deliver far lower nutritional value than their fresh counterparts. One of the best ways to ensure you benefit from fresh foods is to switch from shopping for produce in the supermarkets to your local town fruit and vegetable markets. Whereas exotic and exciting fruits such as a mango and vegetables such as peppers can cost a £1-£1.50 each in a supermarket, on a market stall that could get you 5 mangoes (or even 8 if you take a few really ripe ones), don’t be afraid to negotiate with those on the market stalls, if you return weekly and are friendly and polite to the staff you will also be more likely to be recognised and be able to secure better produce.

It may be worth asking your regular GP for a blood test to check for any existing vitamin deficiencies you may have so you know what sort of foods to focus on introducing to your recovery. For instance women who regularly experience heavy periods may be iron deficient, therefore more peas, spinach and green vegetables should be incorporated into the diet.  Additionally our work on vitamin D awareness has shown that 65% of UK adults are not getting enough vitamin D, with 1 in 6 people having a severe deficiency in the winter and springtime. For more information on how vitamin D supplements could help your recovery and future prevention visit our pages on vitamin D here.

Should I supplement my diet?

Nutritional supplements is a hot topic for cancer patients, whilst many of the cancer survivors we spoke to had taken some form of supplement at the initial stages of treatment, many understood that once they implemented dietary changes and began to eat more whole foods especially fruits and vegetables it was no longer necessary. Do not take any supplements without consulting your medical team, as they may react with the cancer medications.

For more resources and information on nutrition check out these pages:

Nutritional Guidelines (a guide to what foods will aid your recovery)

10 Eating Tips (to help those struggling with a loss of appetite or to make adjustments to their diet during treatment)

For Recipe Ideas and more nutrition help, please check out the recipes and nutrition categories under the latest news/categories section to the right of this page.

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