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Cancer Nutrition – Truths & Myths

Having a well-balanced diet is important throughout the cancer journey as this helps to keep energy levels up, maintain a good immune system and prevent malnutrition.

A well-balanced diet includes food from the various food groups. It is important to note that dietary recommendations may differ based on the type of cancer and the presence of other medical conditions.

Is there any specific food cancer patients should eat less/more of?

Consuming sufficient protein from meat, dairy products and meat alternatives such as tofu, nuts and beans is especially important during this time to prevent the breakdown of the patient's healthy body tissues and muscles during treatment.

Carbohydrates such as rice, noodles and bread provides the main source of energy for your body. Including adequate fruits and vegetables helps to ensure regular bowel movements by providing fibre, and their high antioxidant content also plays a role in cancer prevention.

The intake of processed foods that are high in saturated (unhealthy) fats, salt and added sugars should be avoided.

Does traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) or supplements help to enhance the immune system?

There is little evidence to show the benefit of consuming TCM and supplements to enhance the immune system. However, your doctor may prescribe vitamin or mineral supplements if there are any signs of nutrient deficiencies. As some TCM and supplements may interact with cancer drugs, it is important to check with your doctor before consuming any of these products.

What are some truths and myths about foods cancer patients should avoid?

Myth: Sugar from carbohydrate foods (e.g. bread, rice, fruits) should be avoided as they feed cancer cells.

Fact: All cells in your body use glucose, a form of sugar, to function. Avoiding all carbohydrate foods will deprive healthy cells of energy which is necessary for recovery. Instead of choosing foods that are high in added sugars, it is recommended to opt for complex carbohydrates such as rice and bread, which contain other essential nutrients such as fibre, vitamins and minerals.

Myth: Eating soy products increases the risk of developing breast cancer.

Fact: There is currently no evidence to show that natural soy foods such as soybeans, soymilk and tofu increase breast cancer risk or cancer recurrence. These foods are good sources of protein, especially for people who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. However, the effect of consuming processed soy products such as soy supplements and mock meats on breast cancer risk is unclear. As such, it is recommended to include natural soy foods in the diet and avoid processed soy products.