Common Nutrition Questions During Treatment

  • What foods will bring up my blood counts?
    • There are no specific foods which will increase your blood counts, but good overall nutrition will help the body recover more quickly from low blood counts.
    • Aim to keep your weight stable which helps the body make new blood cells.
    • If you are advised to increase iron in your diet to help rebuild red blood cells, ask the dietitian about high iron food sources.
  • I want to lose weight…why are you telling me not to lose weight now?
    • During radiation, for example, it is important not to lose more than 10% of pre-treatment weight. Weight loss can interfere with the accuracy of where the radiation is directed.
    • With unintended weight loss, body protein stores are decreased. Maintaining body protein stores helps with: healing, maintaining strength and preventing complications.
  • Should I avoid sugar?
    • You may have read that “sugar feeds cancer”. Every cell in our body is fed by sugar including cancer cells. Eventually everything you eat breaks down into sugar to feed all cells.
    • Sugary foods are not the most healthful foods choices since they contain calories but little nutrition.
    • It is important not to stress about avoiding sugar, but do try to eat more healthful foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans/peas/legumes, nuts, fish, poultry, etc. 
  • Why should I eat high fat foods now since I usually follow a low-cholesterol, low-fat diet?
    • If treatment makes it harder to eat and to maintain your weight, you will need to eat high-fat and high-calorie foods to prevent weight loss.
    • You can return to a low-cholesterol lifestyle when you are able to maintain your weight after treatment ends.
  • Is it ok to take antioxidants and high-potency multivitamins?
    • Ask your oncologist and follow their advice.
    • Chemotherapy and radiation are trying to kill (oxidize) cancer cells. Most oncology experts advise against taking high doses of vitamins and antioxidants (over 100% Daily Value) in pill, powder or supplement form during treatment. Antioxidants include Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Selenium and CoQ10.
    • Foods that contain antioxidants are allowed and encouraged to eat.
  • Is it OK to take herbs and other supplements?
    • Take all of your supplements and herbs to your oncologist before starting treatment.
    • Some may interact with or prevent the treatment from working well. Some may affect blood clotting or have other unintended side-effects. 
    • These products may contain harmful substances or contaminants. No agency oversees or regulates this industry, therefore, strict standards are lacking.