During cancer treatment, a nutritious and well-rounded diet can help you cope with side effects of chemotherapy, maintain energy and support the immune system. If you are preparing for a mastectomy or other major surgery, a healthy diet will also provide nutrients to help optimize healing time.
Most patients who undergo a mastectomy can return to regular eating habits two weeks after the surgery, but nutritionists recommend a healthy diet to be ideally implemented before the procedure to help you heal and set up long-term healthy eating habits. There are several foods we suggest make it to your plate both before and after the procedure:
- Phytonutrient-rich fruits and vegetables – Phytonutrients are essentially the immune system for fruits and vegetables, but they can help humans as well. Fruits and vegetables with rich color are filled with phytonutrients. Try vegetables like beets, squash or kale, and fruits like cranberries, peaches or kiwi. Fruits and vegetables also provide carbohydrates, which can help provide energy and prevent fatigue during recovery. Braised Greens with Vinegar and Sesame Seeds and Cranberry Spinach Salad are two phytonutrient-rich dishes you can try.
- Whole grains – Whole grain items like brown rice, quinoa and oatmeal contain zinc, which is an important mineral for healing and your immune system. A traditional Irish Oatmeal recipe will give you the zinc you need.
- Lean proteins –Lean proteins like beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, fish, poultry, eggs and low-fat dairy, can help cells repair and heal without adding unhealthy saturated fat. A recipe for Whole Roasted Tarragon Chicken with lemon provides plenty of protein and Vitamin C.
- Healthy fats – Foods with monounsaturated and omega-3 fats are the best choices for healing, as they have been shown to improve immune function, decrease inflammation in the body and improve heart health. These can be found in fish, olive oil, nuts, wheat germ and avocado. You will want to limit saturated fats found in high fat dairy products and butter and avoid trans-fats found in processed foods, deep-fried foods and margarine. Try this recipe for Grilled Salmon with Pear Salsa for a dish rich in omega 3.
Dana-Farber’s Nutrition Services help patients follow a healthy diet during and after cancer treatment. Visit the Nutrition Services website for more information on nutrition resources, meal planning and healthy recipes. You can also download the Dana-Farber Ask the Nutritionist: Recipes for Fighting Cancer app for iPhone and Android devices.