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What Kinds of Food Should Cancer Patients Eat?

author image Casey Holley
Casey Holley is a medical writer who began working in the health and fitness industries in 1995, while still in high school. She has worked as a nutrition consultant and has written numerous health and wellness articles for various online publications. She has also served in the Navy and is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in health administration from the University of Phoenix.
What Kinds of Food Should Cancer Patients Eat?
Eating a balanced diet is important while healing and recovering from cancer treatments. Photo Credit Jacob Wackerhausen/iStock/Getty Images


Diet is an important part of cancer treatment because it provides nutrients and energy for the body to help fight the cancer. Regardless of the type of cancer or the current treatment protocol, there are foods that are suitable for most, if not all, cancer patients.

Fruits and Vegetables

What Kinds of Food Should Cancer Patients Eat?
Because oranges have a thick skin they do not have to be cooked. Photo Credit Gunnar Pippel/iStock/Getty Images

Fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of nutrients, vitamins and carbohydrates for a cancer patient. Patients suffering from neutropenia, which is a low absolute neutrophil count, or ANC, should only consume fully cooked fruits and vegetables, as raw produce contains bacteria that may cause problems because of the compromised immune system associated with a low ANC. The exception to this is fruits with a thick skin that can be washed, such as oranges and bananas, notes the Association of Online Cancer Resources.


What Kinds of Food Should Cancer Patients Eat?
Boost your immune system by consuming protein. Photo Credit Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images

Protein sources, such as fish, chicken, beans and lean meat, help to keep the bones' immune system healthy and facilitate growth. It also helps to repair body tissues such as skin, bones and muscles. The American Cancer Society notes that cancer patients may need additional protein following procedures such as chemotherapy, radiation or surgery.


What Kinds of Food Should Cancer Patients Eat?
Low-fat dairy is an important part of any cancer patient's diet. Photo Credit tashka2000/iStock/Getty Images

Low-fat dairy products are a vital component in a cancer patient's diet. Hard cheeses, such as cheddar, Swiss and mozzarella, low-fat pasteurized milk, and low-fat yogurt are also good options. Some soft cheeses, such as cream cheese, are permissible as long as the patient hasn't been diagnosed with neutropenia. Imported cheeses and moldy cheeses, such as brie or feta, aren't acceptable choices. Mexican cheeses, such as cojita, aren't acceptable either, notes Medline Plus. The cheese should be prepackaged. Cheeses sliced in the deli are at an increased risk of contamination and should be avoided.


What Kinds of Food Should Cancer Patients Eat?
Whole grains are a good source of carbohydrates. Photo Credit Fuse/Fuse/Getty Images

Grains, especially whole grains, are a good source of carbohydrates for a cancer patient. Carbohydrates are a source of energy for the body. Prepackaged bread, doughnuts, muffins, pasta and rice are good options. Cereals are good choices as long as they don't contain fruits or nuts. Bakery breads or products prepared in a store or deli aren't good options. Any potato salad or macaroni salad that is prepared at home is permissible, but store bought varieties aren't.

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