The importance of nutrition in cancer care

At the Parkview Cancer Institute, we know that cancer treatment and recovery goes beyond innovative technology and quiet, healing spaces. That’s why we have created a unique approach to our care model: The Nutrition and Metabolism Clinic. The clinic provides nutritional support to cancer patients throughout their treatment journey. Registered dietitian nutritionists, Ciersten Deardorf, MS, RDN, CD; Sam Martinez, RDN, CD; and Diane Glass, MS, RDN, CD, explain special dietary needs cancer patients may require during their treatment journey.  

What role does nutrition play during cancer treatment?

A healthy and well-balanced diet that provides adequate nutrition is an important part of cancer treatment. Proper nutrition provides patients with the ability to recover between cancer treatments, and as a result, improve their quality of life. At the Nutrition and Metabolism Clinic, there are registered dietitians who specialize in oncology nutrition to help form individualized plans for patients to ensure they receive appropriate nutrition and help them through complex dietary needs. The right foods can promote strength and overall wellness in patients. Adopting certain eating habits can also help combat common side effects that may arise from treatments such as decreased appetite, constipation, diarrhea, altered taste and weight loss.

What key nutrients are important during cancer treatment and why?

The building blocks of the human cell. Cancer patients need more protein than the average person in order to heal the “good” cells damaged by treatment. Some valuable sources of protein include the following:

  • Plant-based proteins such as nuts, seeds, and legumes, including split peas, kidney beans, cannellini beans, chick peas, black-eyed peas and lentils
  • Lean meats like chicken, fish, beef and pork in addition to eggs
  • Dairy products such as Greek yogurt, low-fat cheese and milk

They provide fuel for our bodies and energy for life. Carbohydrates come in many forms including:

  • Starches
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Dairy products
  • Desserts

Choose whole grain breads and cereals, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products for your primary source of carbohydrates.

It’s a common misconception that sugar “fuels” cancer growth. It’s true that cancer cells require more energy because of their accelerated growth rate; however, it’s not true that avoiding all sugar will starve or stop cancerous growth. It is best for cancer patients to consume more natural sugars such as those from fruit than added sugars from processed foods.


Our bodies need fat for energy and to absorb vitamins and minerals. There are good and bad fats. Good fats come mainly from vegetables, nuts, seeds and fish. Healthy fats also help fight inflammation and are part of an anti-inflammatory diet.

Who staffs the Nutrition and Metabolism Clinic?

Parkview Cancer Institute registered dietitian nutritionists meet one-on-one with patients at all stages of treatment to discuss areas of improvement and any recommended dietary changes.

Registered dietitian nutritionists are credentialed by:

  • Completing a minimum of a bachelor’s degree.
  • Completing an ACEND-accredited supervised practice program.
  • Passing a national examination.
  • Completing continued professional educational requirements to maintain registration.

The Nutrition and Metabolism Clinic is designed to keep the patient and their families in mind. They are here to serve you and your nutritional needs. That’s better cancer care.

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