Diet and healthy eating
The information provided may be useful as first-line advice and should not replace specialist advice from your healthcare team. Some people have other medical conditions alongside a cancer diagnosis which may affect what they eat. Specialist advice from your healthcare team may be needed if you have more complex nutritional needs.
The body needs a variety of nutrients from the food we eat, so aiming for a varied and healthy diet is important for all of us.
If you are living with cancer or having cancer treatment, you might not be able to eat and drink the foods you used to, or as much – (due to poor appetite, taste changes).
This can be difficult, especially if you are used to enjoying your food!
On top of symptoms caused by the cancer itself, your treatment side effects may make it more difficult to eat, and absorb what you need from your food.
Please click the link below to view the short video on diet and health eating.
- Reduce high calorie foods and avoid sugary drinks
- Eat 5 portions of fruit/veg every day
- Eat a portion of pulses or wholegrain foods with every meal
- Limit red meat to no more than 500g (18oz) a week and eat minimal amounts of processed meats
- Limit your alcohol intake
- Lower your salt intake. This can be helped by reducing the amount of salty and processed foods you may consume
- Do not use dietary supplements for the prevention of cancer
The Eatwell Guide offers a visual way to help you choose the right foods at mealtimes.
- Symptoms, treatment, medications & side effects can cause changes in weight
- If you are concerned about unplanned weight changes support is available here:
- Weight gain: Macmillan healthy eating and cancer booklet
- Weight loss: Macmillan building up diet booklet
- Recipes for people affected by cancer: Macmillan Receipe booklet
- Eating problems and cancer: Eating problems booklet
- Seek support from your clinical team if you continue to be concerned about weight
Blueberries, beetroot, broccoli, garlic, green tea…
…there’s no such thing as a ‘superfood’
Eating fruit and veg is a great idea, and eating a range of different veg is helpful too, but the specific vegetable you choose doesn’t really matter …bodies are complex and cancer is too, so unable to say that any one food, on its own, could have a major influence …no evidence of any particular diet or food to help cure cancer – a healthy diet remains the best recommendation to help your body cope with treatment & help manage cancer symptoms.
Some studies suggest that alternative or complementary therapies, including some herbs, may help patients cope with the side effects of cancer treatment, no herbal products have been shown to be effective for treating cancer.
Some herbal products may be harmful when taken during chemotherapy or radiotherapy because they may interfere with how these treatments work.
Cancer patients should talk with their doctor about any complementary and alternative medicine products—including vitamins and herbal supplements—they may be using.
Please note, if your question needs an urgent response you should contact your clinical team directly.
The First Steps team aim to respond to your question within a few days. Please bear in mind the information team's working days are Monday to Friday. Any questions submitted may be used anonymously as part of the frequently asked question section of the First Steps website.