Healthy eating tips for cancer patients

Maintain a healthy weight by eating a balanced diet and include daily physical activity:

Healthy body mass index (BMI) = 18.5 - 25 kg/m2

Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits daily for antioxidants, phytochemicals and fibres:

Aim for five to 10 servings per day

One serving:

  • Half a cup of cooked vegetables
  • One cup of raw vegetables
  • One medium fruit such as an apple, orange or peach
  • Two small fruits such as kiwi or plums
  • One cup of fruit cubes or berries
  • Half a cup of 100% fruit juice
  • Enjoy a variety of brightly coloured vegetables and fruits, such as broccoli, kale, red cabbage and blueberries

Include whole grains for a good source of energy, fibre, B vitamins and phytochemicals:

Oats, brown rice, quinoa, barley, bulgur and breads or chapattis made with whole grain flour

Include beans and legumes as a good source of both protein and energy, B vitamins and phytochemicals:

  • Replace half of your rice with lentils
  • Have homemade hummus as a veggie dip
  • Add a handful of chickpeas to your salad

Avoid sugars and refined carbohydrates:

• Sweets, cakes, biscuits, muffins, chocolates, donuts, soft drinks, ice teas, white breads and buns etc. should be eaten in moderation

Large quantities of these foods over a long period of time will increase your insulin and insulin growth factor which may encourage cancer cell growth

Reduce your insulin levels by including daily physical activity, losing weight if you are overweight, and choosing unrefined carbohydrates such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains

*If you have been diagnosed with cancer, you will have to discuss a safe way of managing your weight with your oncologist and dietician.

Limit your intake of red meat to a maximum of 300g per week, and avoid processed meats as far as possible:

  • Red meat includes lamb, mutton, beef and goat
  • Processed meats include smoked, cured, salted and canned meats, such as cold cuts, hot dogs, sausages and readymade burgers
  • Healthier choices of protein include beans and legumes, fresh fish, lean chicken and turkey

Replace unhealthy fats such as saturated fat and trans fats with healthy fats such as monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fats:

• Saturated fats

Animal fat (except fish), full-fat dairy, coconut and palm oils

• Trans fats

Hard margarine, processed foods, fast food, some crackers, biscuits

• Monounsaturated fats

Olive oil, canola oil, olives, avocado, nuts, nut butters

• Omega-3 fats

Salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel, tuna avoid frying or any dish which requires a large amount of oil. Rather use low-fat cooking methods such as steaming, baking, poaching or boiling

Avoid processed foods, such as readymade meals, canned foods, packet soups and sauces. Aim to use fresh ingredients and cook from scratch.