Vegetarianism for Cancer Patients
Guest Post by Jillian McKee
People may follow a vegetarian diet for a variety of reasons, including being concerned about animal welfare, the environment, desiring better health or simply disliking meat. Whatever the reason, beginning a vegetarian diet can be a smart health move, especially for patients with cancer.
Good nutrition is an essential component to battling cancer, succeeding in treatment and living a healthy life during remission. People with all types of cancer must take special care to ensure that their bodies receive the proper amounts of nutrients and calories each day. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet can provide all the fat, fiber, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and nutrients one needs, but some cancer patients find it difficult to eat normally during treatment, including mesothelioma treatments, due to unpleasant side effects like nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and changes in taste and smell. A vegetarian diet is often easier to tolerate because it is generally lower in fat and healthier than an animal-based diet.
The American Dietetic Association announced that a vegetarian diet may help prevent cancer and also can help patients succeed during treatment. The paper maintained that a well-planned vegetarian diet could give patients more energy during and after treatments, provide healthy vitamins and nutrients and help patients meet their nutritional needs without meat, fish or poultry.
Some cancer patients find it difficult to consume the proper nutrients each day due to symptoms and side effects like dry mouth, sore throat, nausea, mouth sores or fatigue. A vegetarian diet can help patients get the nutrients they need because plant-based foods are loaded with healthy vitamins and minerals. The foods generally contain more nutrients per calorie than animal-based or processed foods, so patients can gain enormous benefits even if they have a small appetite or find it difficult eating large amounts of food. For instance, just one serving of strawberries contains nearly 150 percent of the daily recommend amount of vitamin C. One cup of spinach contains more than half the daily amount of vitamin A and one cup of blueberries contains nearly 40 percent of the daily amount of vitamin K.
Protein is a vital component to any diet, but cancer patients require more of the nutrient than others because it helps rebuild body tissue that may have been damaged by the disease or by treatment. Healthy sources of protein for vegetarians include soy products, beans, lentils, nuts and low-fat dairy products.
According to the American Cancer Society, studies show that a vegetarian diet can improve health for cancer patients. A study of Seventh-Day Adventists, a religious group that forbids the consumption of all types of animal flesh, showed that followers of a vegetarian diet were less likely to develop certain types of cancer than omnivores. The religious group’s death rate from cancer was also half the rate of the general meat-eating population. A vegetarian diet was found to be largely responsible for these differences.
Other studies confirm that a vegetarian diet can reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer and dying from the disease. A German study showed that the death rate for vegetarians with colon cancer was significantly lower than that of meat-eaters. A 17-year British study confirmed that consuming fresh fruit each day can lead to a significant reduction in the rate of cancer deaths. In addition, vegetarian men had a greatly reduced risk of developing prostate cancer.
The benefits of a vegetarian diet are plenty, but they can only be reaped if the diet is well balanced and healthy. It is possible to call oneself a vegetarian and only consume processed foods like potato chips, ice cream and pasta, but the benefits of the diet will not be the same. A healthy vegetarian diet is based around whole grains, vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy products. By following this prescription and avoiding processed foods that are high in sugar and fat, cancer patients can achieve a well-balanced diet with many benefits.
Jillian McKee has worked as the Complementary Medicine Advocate at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance since June of 2009. Jillian spends most her time on outreach efforts and spreading information about the integration of complementary and alternative medicine when used in conjunction with traditional cancer treatment.