Nutrition & Physical Activity

Fruits, Vegetables and Whole Grains

Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are known to contain phytochemicals with antioxidant, antiestrogen and chemopreventive properties that may prevent cancer. We recommend five or more servings of fruit and vegetables daily. Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage and brussels sprouts) are especially rich in phytochemicals.

Whole grains are unprocessed foods that are high in complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. High fiber intakes may have a positive benefit by altering hormonal actions of breast cancer and other hormonal-dependent cancers. Daily fiber intake should be 25 to 35 grams of insoluble and soluble fiber.

Whole Foods by Plant Family

Grains
Wheat, rye, oats, rice, corn, bulgur, barley
Green leafy vegetables
Lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, endives, beet greens, romaine
Cruciferous vegetables
Broccoli, cabbage, turnip, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kohlrabi, bok choy, watercress, collards, kale, mustard greens, rutabaga
Umbelliferous vegetables
Celery, parsley, fennel, carrots, parsnip
Allium vegetables
Garlic, onion, shallots, chives, leek
Legumes
Soybeans, peas, chickpeas, lima beans, peanut, carob, dried beans (kidney, mung, pinto, black-eyed peas), lentils
Solanaceous vegetables
Nightshade family: eggplant, tomatoes
Cucurbitaceous vegetables
Gourd family: pumpkin, squash, cucumber, muskmelon, watermelon

Fat Intake Recommendations

  • Limit the intake of highly saturated foods such as beef, lamb, organ meats, cheeses, cream, butter, ice cream.
  • Decrease food containing trans fatty acids, such as commercially prepared baked goods, crackers and margarine.
  • Increase your intake of poultry, fish and vegetarian proteins (legumes and lentils). Increasing your intake of fish to 3 times per week will increase omega-3-polyunsaturated fat intake. Research has suggested that these fatty acids may inhibit the growth of breast tumors.

Physical Activity and the Cancer Patient

In the past, people being treated for a chronic illness (an illness a person may live with for a long time, like cancer or diabetes) were often told by their doctor to rest and reduce their physical activity. This is good advice if movement causes pain, rapid heart rate, or shortness of breath. But newer research has shown that exercise is not only safe and possible during cancer treatment, but it can improve how well you function physically and your quality of life.


Goals of an exercise program

During treatment

There are many reasons for being physically active during cancer treatment, but each person’s exercise program should be based on what’s safe and what works best for them. It should also be something you like doing. Your exercise plan should take into account any exercise program you already follow, what you can do now, and any physical problems or limits you have.

Certain things affect your ability to exercise, for instance:

  • The type and stage of cancer you have
  • Your cancer treatment
  • Your stamina (endurance), strength, and fitness level

If you exercised before treatment, you might need to exercise less than usual or at a lower intensity during treatment. The goal is to stay as active and fit as possible. People who were very sedentary (inactive) before cancer treatment may need to start with short, low-intensity activity, such as short slow walks. For older people, those with cancer that has spread to the bones or osteoporosis (bone thinning), or problems like arthritis or peripheral neuropathy (numbness in hands or feet), safety and balance are important to reduce the risk of falls and injuries. They may need a caregiver or health professional with them during exercise.

Some people can safely begin or maintain their own exercise program, but many will have better results with the help of an exercise specialist, physical therapist, or exercise physiologist. Be sure to get your doctor’s OK first, and be sure that the person working with you knows about your cancer diagnosis and any limitations you have. These specially trained professionals can help you find the type of exercise that’s right and safe for you. They can also help you figure out how often and how long you should exercise.

Whether you’re just starting exercise or continuing it, your doctor should have input on tailoring an exercise program to meet your interests and needs. Keep your cancer team informed on how you’re doing in regards to your activity level and exercise throughout your treatment.