Nutrition

Three key messages

  1. Eating well and being active are two of the most important things we can do for our health - you can start making little changes for the better today.
  2. It is important to eat a nutritious diet at all stages of your cancer journey - eat a wide and varied diet that is enjoyable, affordable and fits in with your lifestyle.
  3. There are no foods, supplements or diets that can cure cancer.

Introduction

After you have finished treatment it is important to eat a nutritious diet to boost your immune system, heal wounds, increase your energy, stay a healthy weight and reduce your future risk.

All of this sounds great, but it can be hard to know where to start.

There is a lot of information out there about what foods you should be eating; miracle diets, superfoods, toxic chemicals, and more, so it can all be pretty overwhelming.

But remember that healthy eating should not be complicated and you can start making little changes today for the better with our easy tips and links to helpful information.

Do note that if you have finished your treatment, but are still experiencing nutrition issues such as weight loss, diarrhoea or nausea, we recommend getting in touch with your doctor or dietitian for specific advice.

For more information about Nutrition, please submit a Request a Wellbeing after Cancer Callback form and a Wellbeing after Cancer Registered Nurse will contact you.

Getting started

Cancer survivors will benefit from maintaining or adopting a healthier lifestyle after their cancer treatment. There are lots of little changes you can make to improve your diet:

  1. Watch your portion size;
  2. Cut back on sugar and salt;
  3. Cut back on alcohol;
  4. Watch the fats you eat;
  5. Go for two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables.

To get more helpful tips to improve your diet or to create your own personalised meal plan, visit Cancer Council WA's LiveLighter site.

Eating foods from the five food groups

Healthy eating means eating foods from the five food groups, that is fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, meat and/or protein alternatives and dairy. Most of the food on your plate should be plant foods like vegetables, wholegrains and beans. Healthy eating also means not having too many junk foods like fast food, sugary drinks and alcohol.

Some people believe that high–dose vitamin, mineral or herbal supplements can prevent or cure cancer, but there is little evidence to support this. In fact, many supplements can be toxic at high levels. If you are managing to eat a variety of healthy foods, then using supplements is unnecessary.

Despite what you might read on the internet, there are no special foods or diets that are scientifically proven to prevent or cure cancer. But we can still decrease the risk of developing cancer by following nutrition guidelines.

It is important to note that your nutritional needs can change at different stages of your cancer journey so talk to your doctor or dietitian for specific advice.

Fruit and vegetables

Healthy eating comes from the five food groups, and most of the food on your plate should be plant foods like vegetables, legumes and beans.  Fruit and vegetables are low in kilojoules, but high in fibre which makes you feel full. This can help you maintain a healthy weight which also decreases your risk of some chronic diseases including cancer. They are also cheap, delicious and versatile.

But how much should we eat each day?

One serve of fruit is about one medium piece. Go for two of these serves a day.

We want to aim for five serves of vegetables each day. One serve of vegetables is 75g. That is about:

  • a cup of raw or leafy vegetables;
  • half a cup of cooked vegetables or legumes;
  • half a potato.
For some great recipes and ideas to increase fruit and vegetables in your diet, visit Cancer Council WA's LiveLighter website.

Diets that are not evidence-based

There are lots of claims made about diets like keto, 5:2, alkaline and others and their “miraculous” ability to prevent or cure cancer.

However, many of these are not backed up by scientific evidence. Caution should be exercised with any diet if it is:

  1. Claiming a cure - there are no foods, supplements or diets that can cure cancer. 
  2. Cutting out a whole food group - we should eat foods from the five food groups every day, that is - fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, dairy, and meat/or protein alternatives.
  3. If it is really hard - if it is expensive, restrictive or takes a lot of time, it is probably dubious. It is important to eat a wide and varied diet that is enjoyable, affordable and fits in with your lifestyle. 

Junk food

We know that Australians are eating too much junk food. In fact, Aussie adults are getting one third of their energy intake from unhealthy foods and drinks. Junk foods are packed with sugar, saturated fat and salt, and do not have any of the good nutrition we need to be eating more of – like vegetables, fruits and wholegrains.

Food to avoid or minimise include lollies, chips and fast food burgers, red wine and other alcohol, dark chocolate, soft cheeses, processed meats, muesli bars, veggie chips, and sports drinks.

Some tips on how to eat less junk food include:

  1. Cook at home, then you can control what goes in the food.
  2. Make your portion size small, and fill up on more nutritious foods, especially vegetables.
  3. Eat your treats mindfully. This means slowly, and without distractions.

Eating less junk food will be good for your health, your waistline and your wallet.

Food and cancer - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

There are lots of myths about food and cancer.

Check out the facts on our Food and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page.

Important links:

The expert content on this page has been informed by Gael Myers, an Accredited Practising Dietitian whose work focus is on tackling nutrition misinformation and helping people to live healthier lives by eating well and moving more; and Anne Finch, an Accredited Practising Dietitian working in public health nutrition – specifically, oncology and chronic disease prevention.