Eat Smart to Recover From Colon Cancer and Help Prevent Its Return

Health Writer
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As a colon cancer patient, you’re probably familiar with the side effects of treatment and disease: diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, weight loss, weight gain. All of these increase the difficulties of getting essential nutrients. Factor in your desire to prevent colon cancer recurrence in the future, and you’ve got a recipe for a challenging nutritional plan. So, here are some ways to squeeze every ounce of nutrition out of each meal. (Bonus: they taste good, too!)


Eat a rainbow of plants for colon health

It’s true for almost everyone, but the vitamins and antioxidants present in fruits and vegetables make them a can’t-miss component of your colon cancer recovery diet. Make sure to eat a variety of colors, from blueberries to kale; each has its own specific superpower. (If you’re prepping for surgery, check with your care team about eating raw fruits and veggies with skin.)


Fight colon cancer recurrence by eating tree nuts

Snack on at least two ounces of tree nuts — including cashews, pecans, walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts — per week. Research shows that Stage 3 colorectal cancer patients who did so lowered their risk of colorectal cancer recurrence by 46 percent, and their risk of death by 53 percent.


Manage sugar as part of a colon cancer diet

To maintain a consistent blood sugar level, mimic diets recommended for diabetes patients, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute suggests. That means eating frequent, small meals containing protein and limiting sugar and refined carbohydrates.


Boost flavors to combat dulled taste

Don’t be surprised if your tastes change during treatment — it’s common, and not necessarily permanent. But don’t despair that you’ll never enjoy your favorite foods again. Add spices and fresh herbs to boost flavors. Learn to make your own marinades, which can transform a boring dish to a vibrant meal.


Pack in the nutrition with a smoothie or juice

Hydration, electrolytes, vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, and yumminess in one glass? Yes, please. Here are some super simple antioxidant-rich smoothies and juices to whip up. Incorporating these into your daily diet can help to increase your fruit and vegetable intake and help reduce your risk of cancer.


Eat more fish to lower colon cancer risk

Consumption of fish has been linked to a lower risk of colorectal cancer. Thanks to the omega-3 fatty acids, lean protein, and vitamin D most fish contain, eating it one to three times a week can boost your nutrition profile big-time.


Reduce inflammation with versatile whole grains

If you’re picturing bland, dense, brown bread when you think “whole grains,” think again. Steel-cut oats, quinoa, farro, and brown rice are all compelling high-fiber options that contain vitamins and minerals such as iron, magnesium, and folate. Grain salads can be prepped ahead of time and enjoyed hot or cold—perfect for temperature-sensitive palates common to cancer patients. (Again, get your care team’s recommendations about your special needs or limitations concerning fiber intake.)


Find treatment-friendly indulgences to replace alcohol and caffeine

Alcohol use has been linked to colon cancer. In addition, lots of medications react badly with alcohol and caffeine, so limiting your use of both of them is your best bet. If the thought of giving up your morning coffee invokes nightmares, have a backup drink to sip. Substitute green or ginger tea to give you a warm feeling without the caffeine found in coffee.


Find the colon cancer diet that works for you

After colon cancer treatment, maintaining a high-quality, nutritious diet can pay big dividends. As your appetite and diet expand, continue making healthy choices to prevent colon cancer recurrence, while incorporating foods that take your post-treatment needs into account. Seek the advice of a Registered Dietitian if you need help with meal planning to support your recovery.