A Clinical and community nutritionist

Cancer is one of the hard hitting pandemics affecting most Kenyan families according statistics released by the Ministry of Health.

Globally, cancer causes more deaths than HIV, TB and Malaria combined. 70% of the global Cancer burden is in LMICs (low and middle income countries) like Kenya. Cancer causes 7% of deaths in Kenya per year.

39,000 new cases of cancer are reported each year in Kenya. 60% of Kenyans affected by the pandemic are younger than 70 years.

The nutrient needs of people with cancer vary from person to person. Eating well while you’re being treated for cancer can help you;

1.      Feel better.

2.       Keep up your strength and energy.

3.       Maintain your weight and your body’s store of

4.      Better tolerate treatment-related side effects.

5.      Lower your risk of infection.

6.      Heal and recover faster.

Eating well means eating a variety of foods to get the nutrients your body needs to fight the
cancer. These nutrients include: protein, carbohydrates, fat, water, vitamins, and minerals. Let us have a look at their benefits.

We need protein for growth, to repair body tissue, and to keep our immune systems healthy. When your body doesn’t get enough protein, it might break down muscle for the fuel it needs. This makes it take longer to recover from illness and can lower resistance to infection. People with cancer often need more protein than usual.
After surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy, extra protein is usually needed to heal tissues and help fight infection.
Good sources of protein include fish, poultry, lean red meat, eggs, low-fat dairy products, nuts and nut butters, dried beans, peas and lentils, and soy foods.


Fats play an important role in nutrition. Fats and oils are made of fatty acids and serve as a rich source of energy for the body. The body breaks down fats and uses them to store energy, insulate body tissues, and transport some types of vitamins through the blood.
You may have heard that some fats are better for you than others well, it is very true. When considering the effects of fats on your heart and cholesterol level, choose MONOUNSATURATED and POLYUNSATURATED fats more often than saturated fats.

MONOUNSATURATED fats are found mainly in vegetable oils like olive, and peanut oils.

POLYUNSATURATED fats are found mainly in vegetable oils like, sunflower and corn oil, they are also the main fats found in sea-foods.

SATURATED fats are mainly found in animal sources like meat and poultry, whole or reduced-fat milk, cheese, and butter. Some vegetable oils like coconut and palm oil are saturated. Saturated fats can raise cholesterol and INCREASE your risk for heart disease. Less than 10% of your calories should come from saturated fat.


Carbohydrates are the body’s major source of energy. Carbohydrates give the body the fuel it needs for physical activity and proper organ function. The best sources of carbohydrates are; fruits, vegetables, and whole grains – also supply needed vitamins and minerals, fiber and phytonutrients to the body’s cells. (Phytonutrients are chemicals in plant-based foods that we don’t need to live, but that might promote health.)
Whole grains or foods made from them contain all the essential parts and naturally occurring
nutrients of the entire grain seed. Whole grains are found in cereals, breads, and flours. Some
whole grains, such as brown rice, or barley, can be used as side dishes. When choosing a whole-grain product, look for the words “whole grain,” “stone ground,” “whole ground,” “whole-wheat flour,” or “whole-oat flour.” Note that some bakeries will use whole-wheat flour along with white flour but label the product “whole wheat.” Look at the ingredient list to find out.
Fiber is the part of plant foods that the body can’t digest. There are 2 types of fiber;
INSOLUBLE fiber which helps to move food waste out of the body quickly, and SOLUBLE fiber that binds with water in the stool to help keep stool soft.
Other sources of carbohydrates include bread, potatoes, rice, spaghetti, pasta, cereals, corn (maize) peas, and beans. Sweets (desserts, candy, and drinks with sugar) can supply carbohydrates, but provide very little in the way of vitamins and minerals.


Water and liquids or fluids are vital to your health. All body cells need water to function. If you don’t take in enough fluids or if you lose fluids through vomiting or diarrhea, you can become dehydrated (your body doesn’t have as much fluid as it should). If this happens, the fluids
and minerals that help keep your body working can become dangerously out of balance. You get
water from the foods you eat, but a person should also drink about eight 8 glasses of
water each day to be sure that all the body cells get the fluid they need. You may need extra
fluids if you’re vomiting, have diarrhea, or even if you’re just not eating much. Keep in mind
that all liquids (soups, milk, even ice cream) count toward your fluid goals.


The body needs small amounts of vitamins and minerals to help it function properly. Most are
found naturally in foods. They are also sold as supplements in pill and liquid form. They help
the body use the energy (calories) found in foods.

A person who eats a balanced diet with enough calories and protein usually gets plenty of
vitamins and minerals. But it can be hard to eat a balanced diet when you’re being treated
for cancer, especially if you have treatment side effects that last for a long time. In this
case, your doctor or dietitian may suggest a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement. If
your food intake has been limited for several weeks or months because of the effects of
treatment, be sure to tell your doctor. You might need to be checked for vitamin or mineral deficiencies.
If you’re thinking of taking a vitamin or supplement, be sure to discuss this with your
doctor first. Some people with cancer take large amounts of vitamins, minerals, and other
dietary supplements to try to boost their immune system or even destroy cancer cells. But some of these substances can be harmful, especially when taken in large doses. In fact, large doses of
some vitamins and minerals may make chemotherapy and radiation therapy less effective.
If your oncologist says it’s OK for you to take a vitamin during treatment, it may be best to
choose a supplement with not more than 100% of the Daily Value (DV) of vitamins and minerals
and one without iron (unless your doctor thinks you need iron).


Antioxidants include vitamins A, C, and E; selenium and zinc; and some enzymes that absorb and attach to free radicals, preventing them from attacking normal cells. If you want to take in more antioxidants, i recommend eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, which are good sources of antioxidants. NOTE: Taking large doses of antioxidant supplements or vitamin-enhanced foods or liquids is usually not recommended while getting chemo or radiation therapy. Talk with your doctor to find out the best time to take antioxidant supplements.Well,there you have it see you next time.

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