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LVHN Health Tips: Cancer is closely tied to diet and nutrition

Cancer is closely tied to diet and nutrition.

“Eating healthy foods and maintaining a healthy weight are two of the best things you can do to prevent many types of cancer,” says registered dietitian Erin Levine, RD, with Lehigh Valley Topper Cancer Institute. “Proper nutrition is also important during cancer treatment.”

Nutrition tips for cancer prevention

There are many ways to decrease your cancer risk, according to Levine:

• Maintain a healthy weight: Obesity is linked to chronic inflammation and higher levels of certain hormones, which can contribute to the development and growth of cancer.

• Exercise regularly and avoid sugary drinks: Get at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week and avoid regularly drinking sugary beverages, which can lead to obesity.

• Eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, whole grains and beans: Plant-based foods are associated with a lower risk for cancer. Eat at least five servings of vegetables and/or fruits per day, and half of the grains you consume should be whole grains.

• Limit red meat: Red meats are high in heme iron, which is known to increase cancer risk if eaten regularly. Eat less than 18 ounces per week.

• Avoid processed meats: Processed meats are high in nitrates, which can damage the lining of the gut and lead to gastrointestinal cancers.

• Watch your alcohol intake: The human body converts alcohol into acetaldehyde, known to cause cancer. Limit the number of drinks you consume (two for men and one for women per day).

Nutrition tips for those undergoing cancer treatment

“Getting proper nutrition is key for keeping your strength, energy and immunity up during your treatments, and also helps keep you from becoming dehydrated,” Levine says.

Some of Levine’s nutrition tips for cancer patients include:

• Eating small and frequent meals: A common side effect of many cancer treatments is decreased appetite. Try eating smaller portions throughout the day.

• Focusing on protein: Protein can help you maintain muscle mass, replenish blood cells and fight off infection. Include as many protein-rich foods (like fish, poultry, beans, nuts or lentils) as possible.

• Keeping hydrated: Drinking water helps flush toxins out of the body and reduces treatment side effects (including nausea, weakness, constipation and fatigue).

• Eating fruits and vegetables: Nausea, vomiting, mouth sores and diarrhea can make it hard to tolerate these foods during treatment. Eat protein-rich foods and incorporate fruits and vegetables into meals however you can (like blended into a smoothie, soup or sauce).

Cancer Nutrition Services at Lehigh Valley Topper Cancer Institute

The nutrition specialists at Lehigh Valley Topper Cancer Institute provide personalized care to any Cancer Institute patient.

“Many of our registered dietitians are certified in oncology nutrition and have vast experience working with cancer patients,” Levine says. “We offer diet education to help you manage your nutrition-related side effects, a personalized analysis of your diet, assessment for and management of cancer-related malnutrition and personalized nutrition plans specific to your needs.”

The Cancer Center at Lehigh Valley Hospital–Carbon is located at 2128 Blakeslee Blvd. Drive E., Lehighton, PA 18235. Call 888-402-LVHN (5846) to schedule an appointment.