Nutrition is an important part of life, cancer treatment, recovery, and prevention. Food is one of the few things you can be in control of during your treatment. The oncology certified registered dietitians at the Stanford Cancer Center are here to help you make informed choices about nutrition, answer your nutrition-related questions, and help you to achieve and maintain good health.
Nutrition During Radiation to the Head, Neck, or Esophagus
Achieving adequate nutritional status in people with cancer means getting enough calories and protein to prevent weight loss, regain strength, and rebuild healthy tissues. Important nutrients are highlighted below:
Helps repair body tissue and maintain a healthy immune system.
Cancer patients usually need additional protein, especially following surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
Good sources of protein include lean meat, fish, poultry, dairy products (cheese, Greek yogurt, milk, cottage cheese), eggs, nuts, beans & lentils, soyfoods (tofu, soymilk, tempeh, edamame), commercial nutrition beverages (like Ensure® , Boost®, or Orgain™, Enu™) and protein powders.
Carbohydrates and fat
Helps supply the body with the bulk of calories that it needs to maintain weight.
Good sources of carbohydrate include: all fruits, starchy vegetables (corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes), grains (rice, quinoa, oatmeal, etc), pastas, cereals, beans, peas, certain dairy products (including yogurt, kefir, and milk), honey, maple syrup, and jelly/jam.
Good sources of fat include: olive oil and other oils, nuts, seeds, avocado, butter, mayonnaise, gravy, full fat dairy products (whole milk, sour cream, cream cheese, full fat yogurt, ice cream, cheese), foods made with oil or butter (like pastries, chips, tuna canned in oil, etc).
Vitamins and minerals
Helps to ensure proper growth and development of our body’s cells.
Allows the body to use the energy in foods.
Eating a well-balanced diet with enough protein and calories usually contains plenty of vitamins and minerals. Eat a variety and choose foods from the many colors of the rainbow! Try these: tomatoes, watermelon, cherries, melon, carrots, sweet potatoes, oranges, apples, pears, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, edamame, garlic, onions, plums, blueberries, grapes, green tea, oatmeal, quinoa, barley, walnuts, almonds, etc.
Head and neck cancers and esophageal cancers can change your eating ability and compromise your nutrition status from the side effects of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. See below for nutrition tips and strategies.
Practice good oral hygiene as recommended by your radiation team.
Broccoli, cabbage, collard greens, kale, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts are all cruciferous vegetables. This vegetable family contains powerful phytochemicals, including carotenoids, indoles and glucosinolates and isothiocyanates, which have been studied and shown to slow the growth of many cancers.