Chemotherapy is the treatment administered to slow down or stop entirely the growth of cancer cells. The therapy involved here is systematic and therefore even though the cancer cells are the target, the whole body is affected. This therapy usually causes nausea and loss of appetite among other symptoms. The drugs are quite powerful and a patient has to eat well.

Before chemo: your goal is to boost your health and stamina. Here’s what you’ll need:

Lean protein: such as turkey, chicken, fish (Eat less than 18 oz. per week of red meat—such as hamburger, pork and lamb—says the American Institute for Cancer Research [AICR]. Avoid processed meats, like ham, hot dogs and sausages.)

Whole Grains

Think oats, brown rice.

Fruits and Vegetables

Enjoy a variety, including crucifers such as broccoli and cauliflower, leafy greens like chard and spinach, and winter squashes. Have an apple or berries for dessert.

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It is important for anyone who is being treated for cancer to watch what they eat. Extra attention should be paid to how the food is handled, prepared or stored. Some foods should be avoided completely even if you had no problems with them before the diagnosis.

Foods to avoid during Chemotherapy

Cold hot dogs or deli lunch meat (cold cuts)—Always cook or reheat until the meat is steaming hot.

Dry-cured, uncooked salami

Unpasteurized (raw) milk and milk products, including raw milk yogurt

Soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk, such as blue-veined (a type of blue cheese), Brie, Camembert, feta, goat cheese, and queso fresco/blanco

Smoked fish

Deli-prepared salads with egg, ham, chicken, or seafood

Refrigerated pâté—Sorry foodies!

Unwashed fresh fruits and vegetables, especially leafy vegetables that can hide dirt and other contaminants

Unpasteurized fruit juice or cider

Raw sprouts like alfalfa sprouts

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One of the side effects of chemo is loss of good taste in your mouth. To fight this you need to prepare tasty food. Things become distasteful including drinking plain water. You can some lemons to your drinking water. Drink plenty of water and eat fruits in order to fight constipation.


Coping With Side Effects of Chemo

Keep Food Tasty. Chemo can do a number on your taste buds, making certain foods and drinks taste metallic or unpleasant. Water and meat are the two most common items that become distasteful during chemo, says Cara Anselmo, clinical dietitian at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. If it becomes difficult to drink plain water, try drinking flavored mineral water or add sliced lemon to tap water. If certain meats become difficult to enjoy, try other sources of protein such as eggs, low-fat dairy, beans, and fish.

Fight Constipation. While some people experience diarrhea with chemo, others deal with constipation. Keeping hydrated is important to help prevent constipation. Including all types of fiber in your diet also can be helpful. If you aren’t accustomed to large amounts of fiber, make sure to increase your fiber slowly. Getting some exercise — even just a 20-minute walk — can be a powerful intestinal stimulant.

Manage Weight Gain. Some cancer patients tend to gain weight during treatment, says Jennifer Koorenny, MS, RD, oncology dietitian for Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. She suggests low-fat meals, snacks, and lots of vegetables.

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