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What to eat during chemotherapy

"Good nutrition is crucial when you are undergoing chemotherapy because it can help keep your immune system stronger, keep your body weight stable and decrease side effects throughout treatment," says Shayna Komar, RD, LD, a registered and licensed dietitian at Thomas F. Chapman Family Cancer Wellness at Piedmont. "It can also help your emotional well-being when you are eating better because you will feel better."

The best foods to eat during chemotherapy

During the weeks or months you are undergoing chemotherapy, Komar recommends eating foods that are:

  • Hydrating, such as watermelon, cucumbers, smoothies and coconut water

  • Lean protein, such as eggs, chicken, turkey and fish

  • Nausea-reducing, such as ginger, peppermint, oranges, lemons, limes, simple crackers, cereal and cinnamon toast

The worst foods to eat during chemotherapy

When undergoing chemotherapy, avoid or limit foods and beverages that cause inflammation and slow your body's healing process, such as:

  • Caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, tea and energy drinks

  • Fried foods or foods high in unhealthy saturated and trans fat

  • Sugary baked goods, such as cookies, cake, pie or pastries

  • Sugary drinks, such as soda, juice with added sugar or sweetened coffee beverages

The right amount of food at the right time

Chemotherapy affects enzymes in the digestive tract that help the body process food, so Komar recommends eating small meals every three hours to help the process go more smoothly.

"Think about food as part of the medicine your doctor may recommend," encourages Komar. "Remind yourself that each bite needs to have more 'bang for your buck.' Don't waste your bites or time on unhealthy foods."

See more nutrition tips for cancer survivors.

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