Diet for Patients With Colon Cancer

Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D.
blueberry smoothies

If you have colon cancer, altering your diet can help ease symptoms, keep your body weight within a healthy range, and accelerate your recovery. Knowing what to eat -- and what to avoid -- when you have colon cancer is a must.

Colon Cancer Nutrition Guidelines

Whether you have colon cancer, are receiving cancer treatment, or simply want to reduce your risk of developing colon cancer, what you eat is important. MedlinePlus, Cleveland Clinic, and Indiana University Health Goshen Center for Cancer Care provide recommendations for people with colon cancer, which applies to colon cancer prevention:

  • Get 25 to 30 grams of fiber each day.
  • Eat three whole-grain foods daily.
  • Eat five to nine servings of fruits and veggies daily -- especially broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, dark leafy greens, peppers, carrots, and oranges.
  • Eat lentils and beans at least three times weekly.
  • Choose protein-rich eggs, fish, nuts, and soy products.
  • Get plenty of calcium and vitamin D from dairy foods like low-fat milk and yogurt.
  • Eat omega-3 rich foods like fatty fish, walnuts, and flaxseed oil.
  • Drink plenty of water and green tea daily.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.

Foods to Avoid

Based on recommendations from MedlinePlus, Cleveland Clinic, and Indian University Health Goshen Center for Cancer Care, you should avoid the following when you have, or want to reduce your risk of developing, colon cancer:

  • Excess alcohol
  • Red meat
  • Charbroiled meats
  • Processed meats
  • Highly salted meats
  • Greasy foods
  • Fried foods
  • Spicy foods

Considerations During Cancer Treatment

If you're experiencing side effects during colon cancer treatment, such as nausea and diarrhea, you may have to alter your diet to ease symptoms and maintain your weight. If you're feeling nauseated or are vomiting, stay away from greasy, fried, and spicy foods, drink plenty of fluids, and eat five or six small meals daily instead of fewer big meals, suggests Cleveland Clinic. If you're having problems with diarrhea, focus on foods rich in soluble fiber - like bananas, oatmeal, applesauce, citrus fruits, or soluble fiber-rich supplements, Cleveland Clinic recommends.

What About Supplements?

To ensure you're getting proper nutrients and maintaining a healthy weight, your doctor might recommend certain dietary supplements -- like multivitamin, omega-3, fiber, probiotic, or protein supplements. He might also suggest a high-calorie nutrition shake if you're struggling with unwanted weight loss or malnutrition during cancer treatment.

Sample Meal Plans

The number of calories you should eat daily depends on your gender, size, age, and activity level. It's important to avoid losing weight during cancer treatment (unless your doctor recommends it) to maximize your recovery. A sample meal plan (you may have to alter it if you're experiencing nausea and diarrhea from treatment) includes the following:

Breakfast

  • Oatmeal made with soy or almond milk topped with sliced almonds, flax seeds, and bananas
  • Scrambled eggs

OR

  • Omelet made with spinach, black beans, and feta cheese
  • Whole grain toast topped with tub butter spread
  • Orange slices

Snack

  • Plain nonfat Greek yogurt with strawberries and walnuts

OR

  • Low-fat cottage cheese topped with blueberries and flax seeds

Lunch

  • Leafy greens topped with grilled chicken breast, tomatoes, peppers, shredded cheese, and Italian salad dressing
  • Whole grain pita bread with hummus
  • Green tea

OR

  • Burrito made with leafy greens, peppers, grilled chicken breast or tofu, black beans, shredded cheese, and mild salsa on a whole-grain tortilla
  • Green tea

OR

  • Turkey burger on a whole-grain bun topped with tomatoes, leafy greens, and reduced-fat cheese
  • Fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, and carrot sticks
  • Green tea

OR

  • Tuna salad sandwich on whole-grain bread with tomatoes and leafy greens
  • Cold three bean salad
  • Green tea

Snack

  • Smoothie made with soy milk or almond milk, protein powder, fruit, and flax seeds

Dinner

  • Grilled salmon
  • Whole grain couscous
  • Brussels sprouts or steamed broccoli

OR

  • Grilled chicken breast or tofu
  • Quinoa
  • Asparagus or broccoli

Bottom Line

Eating a nutrient-dense diet packed with lean protein, fish, healthy fats, nuts, seeds, fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, dairy, and soy foods is beneficial when you have colon cancer. You may need to alter your diet if you're experiencing side effects during treatment. Ask your doctor if adding dietary supplements is right for you.

Diet for Patients With Colon Cancer