Cancer patients need to follow a proper diet plan which is nutritious enough to meet the needs of their body. A vegetarian diet is one of the best options for them. Here I discuss the importance of this diet for such patients, and suggest foods that can be included in their diet.
Patients dealing with cancer are in the most critical phase of their lives. During this phase, they need special care and attention as they tend to become weak. Proper diet can provide the essential nutrients to their body so that they can fight better with their illness. A vegetarian diet is healthy and is always considered good for a person. Studies suggest that it is equally beneficial for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
A cancer patient’s nutrition requirements are significantly different from healthy individuals. The need also varies due to changes in tolerance level for certain kinds of food. Cancer patients suffer from side effects like dry mouth, soreness within the mouth, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and feeling of fullness in the stomach. Such side effects tend to alter the food requirements in these patients. To cater to this, alterations in diet have to be made.
A vegetarian diet is safe for cancer patients and is capable of providing that extra calorie and protein requirement to the person. Careful food choices have to be made to help them get through these difficult times of their lives.
Diet Requirements of Cancer Patients
Every cancer patient has different requirements –
- He can insist on having small meals throughout the day.
- He can ask for either hot or cold food. This happens because body of cancer patients is capable of tolerating only such kinds of foods.
- Uncooked food can be demanded by a patient due to his inability to tolerate cooked food with increased flavor.
- Taste alterations can develop cravings for bland or spicy food.
Vegetarian Diet Menu
A vegetarian diet for patients suffering from cancer should include the following foods –
- Breakfast – Fresh fruits, milkshakes, fruit shakes, cheese, and yogurt.
- Meals – Vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, legumes, whole-fat yogurt, cereals, etc.
- Snacks – Burritos, vegetable soups, dried fruits, dried nuts and seeds, bagels, peanut butter with fruits, pizzas, tofu, etc.
- Desserts – Ice creams, puddings, custards, non-dairy frozen desserts, etc.
A vegetarian diet does not provide enough micronutrients to meet the needs of the body. Special care has to be taken to make sure that these are included adequately in the diet plan. Foods rich in micronutrients are mentioned below.
- Vitamin B12 – Vitamin supplements, soy milk, and cereals are good source of Vitamin B12.
- Iron – Legumes and blackstrap molasses can be included in the diet to provide the required amount of iron.
- Calcium – Figs, tofu, fortified soy milk, orange juice, almonds, and blackstrap molasses are capable of providing sufficient calcium to the body.
Diet Tips for Patients with Tender Mouths
Few points to be kept in mind for patients with tender mouths are –
- Do not provide foods with vinegar as they tend to be acidic.
- Avoid offering foods when hot.
- Do not give extra salty foods as it can cause irritation in the mouth.
- Serve fresh fruits like bananas, peaches, mangoes, etc.
- Avoid foods like nuts and crisp noodles.
- Serve foods with smooth texture for easy tolerance.
Diet Tips for Patients with Altered Taste
Few tips for patients with altered taste are –
- Patients with reduced sensitivity to taste can be served with firm tofu with an Italian dressing, along with extra pinch of oregano and basil to improve the taste.
- Patients with increased sense of taste can be served with silken tofu along with maple syrup. Mild foods with smooth textures will work well for such people.
It is important to pay attention to the dietary needs of cancer patients, and somebody should be always there to provide them with food as per their requirement. For cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, a cancer chemotherapy diet must be followed. Food choices can vary depending on their ability to chew, swallow, and digest the food. Patients in hospitals should have a small pantry of their own which can provide them with food, as and when required. A vegetarian diet can be started off for a cancer patient without any safety concern, as it is generally considered safe. However, it is always recommended to ask a registered dietitian to make a meal plan for such patients.