Mayo Clinic Q&A

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Episodes Diet and nutrition help cancer survivors return to good health

Diet and nutrition help cancer survivors return to good health
December 6, 2021

After cancer treatment, cancer survivors are eager to return to good health. The right diet and nutrition can play a big role in improving long-term health so cancer survivors can enjoy the years ahead.

Diet and nutrition recommendations for cancer survivors are no different from the recommendations for anyone who wants to improve their health: Eat a balanced diet with an emphasis on vegetables, fruits and whole grains; drink alcohol moderately, if at all; and maintain a healthy weight.

"Both the American Cancer Society and the American Institute for Cancer Research recommend the same exact diet for cancer survivors that we recommend for cancer prevention," says Dr. Dawn Mussallem, a Mayo Clinic hematologist and oncologist. "A low fat-diet is recommended. That's a predominantly whole food, plant-based diet that is rich with vegetables; whole grains; colorful fruits; and things like beans, lentils, seeds and nuts. This is really the essential diet that's good for all health and health-related diseases, not just cancer." 

Maintaining a healthy weight is important to overall health, but some cancer survivors may struggle to maintain weight during and after treatment due to nausea or lack of appetite.

"For underweight patients, it is very important that they work with a dietician," says Dr. Mussallem. "These patients need healthy, high calorie-dense foods and they may need to eat smaller portions throughout the day."