There are many reasons a person might be considering eating a vegetarian diet during cancer treatment. Healing from cancer, and going through cancer therapy, are difficult processes for the body, mind and spirit. Good nutrition, and a happy and healthy relationship toward nourishing the body, are vital components during mesothelioma treatments, as well as during treatments for any other cancer or disease.
Many cancer treatments have an effect on a person’s appetite and ability to tolerate foods. Some cancers and treatments take a toll on the digestive tract and mouth, making it harder to eat, and affecting the sense of taste and smell, which are a big part of enjoying food. Finding foods that are both acceptable, and which provide the correct nutrients, can be a challenge for cancer patients.
Although vegetarianism is associated with a lower risk for some cancers, vegetarians are not immune from getting cancer. A person who is already a vegetarian will most likely wish to remain so during treatment and healing. Knowing that it is possible to provide the body with the right nutrients without eating meat can be important for emotional and spiritual reasons for a vegetarian who is healing from cancer.
People who have not been vegetarian may also want to consider eating a meat free diet during cancer treatment for a variety of reasons. For some cancer patients, the taste of meat becomes unpleasant. Some people experience a metallic aftertaste when eating meat during chemotherapy. Animal foods can also concentrate toxins, or have high amounts of undesirable types of fat, depending on how the animal was raised and feed. Plant based foods can be cleaner and freer of these toxins making it easier for the body to heal.
It is possible to get all the nutrients the body needs during cancer treatment on a diet that does notinclude meat. Including organic dairy products will make it easier to get the amounts of protein that are needed. Protein requirements increase during cancer treatment. Keeping up with this important nutritional requirement can be one of the biggest challenges when eating a vegetarian diet while healing from cancer.
Fortunately, there are many alternatives for getting the high amounts of protein needed. Seeds and nuts are a very good source of protein and nut butters are easy to incorporate into many foods. They can be eaten on bread or vegetable sticks, used in sauces and added to fruit smoothies. Pumpkin and sesame seeds are also high in zinc, which is needed by the immune system.
Getting adequate amounts of zinc and protein can also be made easier by including hearts of palm in the diet. Hearts of palm are one of the highest sources of zinc found in plant foods. They taste somewhat like an artichoke and can be eaten in salad or added to cooked dishes like casseroles.
Vitamin B12 is a nutrient present in animal foods, which can be obtained in several ways when eating a non-meat based diet. B12 is found in soil and eating fresh, home grown vegetables that are not too well washed will provide some of this important vitamin from the small amounts of soil that remain on the crop.
Another easy way of getting B12 is by eating seaweed like nori and dulce. Seaweed is high in many trace minerals, and small quantities can deliver significant amounts. They have a pleasing, salty taste that goes well sprinkled on salad, or used as a base in meatless soups.
For people who wish to eliminate dairy along with meat, the most important nutrient to replace is calcium. Calcium is found in high amounts in almonds, broccoli, kale and collard greens. Many people undergoing cancer treatment find vegetable juices easy to take, and juicing greens is also a good way of keeping up with needed amounts of iron when eating a vegetarian diet.
Vegetarian diets can provide all the needed nutrients during healing from cancer, as long as meals are planned carefully to assure adequate amounts of protein, vitamins and trace minerals. Plant based meals can be easier to tolerate than meat for many cancer patients. Consulting with physicians and nutritionists about diet while healing from cancer is always a good idea.
Source: Bringing a wealth of personal and professional experience to the organization, Jillian McKee has worked as the Complementary Medicine Advocate at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance since June of 2009. Jillian spends most her time on outreach efforts and spreading information about the integration of complementary and alternative medicine when used in conjunction with traditional cancer treatment.