Think Pink: Building a better immune system during cancer treatment

Think Pink: Building a better immune system during cancer treatment

FOX19 - Maintaining a strong immune system is essential to surviving cancer treatment.  Much of your immunity resides in your gut tissue, so keeping a healthy gut is vital.

1.Start your day with whole grains.  Foods high in fiber help create heathy bacteria in your gut and maintain bowel regularity.  Choose bran cereal, whole wheat toast or steel cut oatmeal.  Enjoy whole wheat pasta, brown rice, farro, quinoa, barley and bulgur at other meals.

2.Include lean protein.  Protein malnutrition can weaken your immune system.  Enjoy eggs at breakfast, natural peanut butter on your toast or cottage cheese.  Include lean protein throughout the day such as fish, hard boiled eggs, chicken, lean beef, nuts, seeds or soy products.

3.Add vitamin C rich vegetables to your plate.  Vitamin C protects cells from damage and studies suggest obtaining vitamin C from food, not pills.  Good sources include asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, greens, peppers, berries, citrus fruit and tomatoes.  Include fruits and vegetables with lots of color.

4.Get a little nutty.  Nuts may be high in fat, but are a great source of zinc and magnesium, nutrients that can become depleted during cancer treatment. Add them to oatmeal, yogurt, salads or trail mix.

5.Include beans and peas.  These are good sources of protein, fiber, iron and folate, which keep your immune system strong.  Add them to soups, salads, casseroles or dips.

6.Choose high iron foods.  Anemia can be common during cancer treatment.  Include lean meat, fish, eggs or poultry in your diet or iron-fortified foods such as cereal and grains such as quinoa and farro.  Including a food high in vitamin C (like peppers and tomatoes) improves iron absorption in beans and grains.

7.Drink up.  Dehydration may worsen nausea, fatigue and other side effects of cancer treatment.  Drink at least 2 liters of water daily (equivalent to 8 cups).

8.Include fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha tea, sauerkraut, miso and kim chi.

9.Choose organic.  Organic milk, meat and eggs won't contain antibiotics or additional hormones, which can hinder immunity.  Organic produce will be lower in harmful pesticides than traditional fruits and vegetables.  Look for the "dirty dozen" to learn which are highest in pesticides.  Keep in mind that eating more fruits and vegetables (overall) is more important than choosing organic.

10.Eat what sounds good to you.  Nausea and anorexia (lack of appetite) can hinder intake and impact nutritional status during treatment.  Choose nutrient-dense foods whenever possible, but if cake sounds good- eat it.

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