Immune-Boosting Foods: What to Eat During Cancer Treatment

If you are heading into chemo or radiation treatment program, you might want to consider upping the number of immune-boosting foods in your diet. While the idea of most foods during treatment can sometimes seem nauseating, getting down these super foods can give your body the push it needs to keep infections at bay. According to the American Cancer Society, cancer and its treatments are known for compromising your immune system by affecting protective blood cells. Eating nutritious foods can supplement your immune system.

Healthy Protein

According to, eating healthy protein during treatment can lower side effects and may even help some treatments work better. Protein can speed up recovery as well but steer clear of that giant cheeseburger. Instead, try to incorporate healthy, nutrient-dense, protein into your daily diet. Try fish, eggs, tofu, poultry like chicken or turkey, or lean cuts of red meat. If meat or tofu isn’t your palate’s preference, turn toward other sources of protein like beans or nuts. Any time you can sneak plant-based protein into your diet you are getting the protein along with the healthy fiber which only ups the immune-boosting punch.

Water and Other Fluids

It may not seem like a fancy addition to your treatment diet but water is important to every cell in your body. Dehydration can cause a variety of health problems that will only add to your discomfort or treatment complications. While your body can use the water that’s in the foods you eat, it’s important to make sure you’re drinking enough every day. The American Cancer Society recommends 64 ounces of liquids and notes that soups and milk can go toward that fluid count. If water doesn’t sound good to you, try adding a bit of flavor by adding citrus, berries, or even a few slices of cucumber.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and veggies are important to any healthy diet but these immune-boosting foods can be especially helpful during cancer treatment. According to the American Cancer Society, you should aim for at least two and a half cups each day to keep up your defenses against infection. Look for colorful selections like blueberries, dark greens, and yellow squash to keep your body chock-full of supplements for your immune system. Try mixing raw vegetables in with sweet fruits in a smoothie or roast your veggies to give them a sweeter and richer taste.

Whole Grains

When rounding out your plate during treatment, save some room for whole grains. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, whole grains should join fruits and vegetables to make up two-thirds of meals. Phytochemicals can stimulate your immune system and you can find them in plant-based foods like whole grains. Shop for items such as brown rice, oatmeal, whole grain bread, and multigrain pasta. These immune-boosting foods are healthy and have lots of fiber to help with treatment-associated constipation.

It can feel overwhelming to eat the right foods during treatment when eating anything can feel impossible at times. Take your nutrition seriously but remember to make it as easy on your body as possible. Focus on getting healthy and immune-boosting foods into your body when you do feel like eating. Four sips of a watermelon and berry green smoothie will do more for your body than a bag of potato chips. Choose as wisely as you can while honoring your appetite.

The post Immune-Boosting Foods: What to Eat During Cancer Treatment appeared first on UVA Cancer Center Blog.

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