Breast Cancer: Nutrition

Eating a healthy diet is good for all of us. We do not know whether a particular diet can prevent breast cancer or recurrence, though studies are ongoing to see how diet may affect breast cancer.

Obtaining and Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Pictured: Donald Garrity
Video

Donald Garrity, Nutrition Counselor, discusses how eating well and staying hydrated can help reduce fatigue caused by cancer treatment.

(11:00)

We encourage the safe integration of dietary choices, exercise, and lifestyle changes to encourage gradual weight loss if you are overweight, and to maintain weight if you are of a healthy body weight. “Overweight” is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or greater. “Obesity” is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater. Speak with your doctor or a registered dietitian to learn more.

Dietary Choices

There are health benefits associated with eating a diet rich in whole vegetables and fruits, and adequate in fiber. Aim for 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day. To reach dietary fiber goals, most adults will need about 2½ cups of vegetables and/or legumes, 2 cups of fruit, and the equivalent of 1 cup of whole grains each day. Aim to consume produce in a variety of colors over the course of the week. It is important to limit your total calorie intake to maintain a healthy weight.

It is also important to drink adequate amounts of fluid during treatment to prevent dehydration. Water or low-calorie beverages are best. Drinking electrolyte-enhanced beverages may be beneficial if you are experiencing vomiting or diarrhea; check with your nurse to see whether you might benefit from these beverages. Be sure to contact your healthcare provider if such symptoms persist.

If you drink alcohol, do so only in moderation. Limit your alcohol intake during treatment, and avoid alcohol for a few days before and after each treatment. Be wary of dehydration.

Food Safety

Patients receiving chemotherapy treatment are more likely to get food-borne illnesses (or food poisoning). This is because the treatments can lower the number of cells in the body that fight germs. Food-borne illnesses can come from foods that were not processed, prepared, stored, or handled correctly. These problems can happen where you shop or even at home. Avoid eating raw seafood (such as sushi) or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs, or items containing these foods. Avoid products that are not pasteurized as well as soft or molded cheeses. Avoid salad bars — they may carry germs from other people, and some salads may not have been properly washed or refrigerated. Wash your fruits and vegetables thoroughly.

Registered dietitians are available at Memorial Sloan Kettering to give you dietary guidance. Ask your doctor or nurse for a referral.