Frequently asked questions:

1. Should I take vitamin or herbal supplements during treatment?

There is no scientific evidence that vitamin supplements prevent or cure cancer. They may be beneficial as an addition to a healthy diet; however, during cancer treatment, it is recommended that patients refrain from taking vitamin or herbal supplements. Most products have not been tested in conjunction with cancer treatments to determine benefit or harm.

2. I'm overweight and looking forward to losing some weight during treatment. What rate of weight loss is recommended?

Undergoing treatment for cancer is not the best time for weight loss. Research has shown that patients who lose weight and are undernourished have increased hospitalizations and complications from cancer treatment. Weight loss may also decrease your immune health and leads to a decreased quality of life. It is best to contact a registered dietitian to ensure adequate intake of calories and protein for a slow, healthy weight loss during treatment. It would also be beneficial to meet with a registered dietitian at the completion of treatment to establish healthy lifestyle changes for weight loss. 

3. My treatment is completed and I am returning to a regular diet. What foods should I be eating now?

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) recommends choosing a plant-based diet for cancer prevention. That means choosing a diet mainly of foods of plant origin and limiting animal products. Recommended foods are:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains (wheat, bran, oat)
  • Beans
  • Nuts and seeds

These foods provide the body with important cancer-fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals.

AICR recommends limiting red meat to no more than 18 ounces of cooked meat each week.

4. I've heard that sugar feeds cancer, should I stay away from all sugar?

Sugar feeds all cells in our body. Our body breaks down glucose from starches and carbohydrates into sugar to feed our brain and provide our body with energy. If we do not feed our body a source of glucose, it will find it from other sources such as muscle and fat. Moreover, important cancer fighting foods are sources of glucose, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (beans).

The negative effects of sugar are that a high sugar intake causes an increase of insulin. The body requires insulin to function, however, too much may provide the body with an environment for cancer cells to grow.

Eating sugar with a fat, protein, or fiber will reduce the amount of insulin. Overall, sugar is not bad and does not cause cancer cells to grow. Remember that too much sugar may replace healthy cancer-fighting foods in your diet and cause an excess of insulin. Limiting simple sugars is still a good idea. This includes limiting sweet snacks and sugary beverages.

5. What are good sources of whole grains?

A whole grain is a grain whose three layers are intact; the bran, germ, and endosperm. The outermost two layers, the bran and germ, contain fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals. The inner layer, the endosperm, contains the carbohydrate and protein, with only small amounts of vitamins or minerals.

Some foods contain "refined" grains. That means the healthy bran and germ have been removed to create a softer texture and lighter taste. Most white breads, crackers, and pasta are "refined" grains.

To distinguish a whole grain, read the ingredient list. The first ingredient should be "whole" and not "refined" or "enriched". Food labeling confuses the public, with fiber being added to many items such as cereals and breads. These items may still contain "refined" grains. If the first ingredient is not "whole", there is probably a healthier alternative on the shelf.