Nutritional Support

Nutrition FAQ
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The Vernon Cancer Center at Newton-Wellesley Hospital offers comprehensive nutrition services to oncology patients. All nutrition services are provided by a dietitian who is registered by the American Dietetic Association and has experience working with cancer patients.

As a member of your health care team, the registered dietitian will work with you individually to provide practical, scientifically-based nutrition advice.

The nutrition services available at the Vernon Cancer Center include:

  • Management of treatment side effects
  • Assistance with coordination of existing nutritional issues with those imposed by cancer therapies
  • Customized eating plans
  • Strategies for managing changes in appetite and weight loss
  • Recommendations for IV nutrition and tube feedings
  • Guidance regarding foods, supplements, vitamins and herbs
  • Education and useful resources

Nutrition counseling appointments can be made on a recurring basis for on-going management of nutrition issues or as needed to address general questions and concerns. Nutrition care provided in the Vernon Cancer Center may also be utilized to help bridge inpatient care to home.

Group classes will also be available to address nutrition concerns, provide recipe and cooking ideas and to offer support.

For questions or to book an appointment, please call 617-219-1230

Nutrition FAQ

Why is good nutrition helpful for cancer patients?
Eating well and maintaining good nutrition before, during and after cancer treatment is important for all patients. A healthful diet can help patients maintain strength and energy while going through treatment, as well as withstand any side effects they may experience. Maintaining a healthy weight and eating a balanced diet are also important for patients once their treatments are finished to help ensure continued health.

What is the role of the dietitian at the Vernon Cancer Center?
The Vernon Cancer Center's dietitian works with each patient to help optimize their diet and provides individual counseling to address particular nutritional concerns depending on the stage and type of treatment. The dietitian works closely with the physicians and other members of the Oncology team and is available for one-on-one appointments with patients, family members and caretakers to provide diet education and on-going support.

Does high sugar intake increase the risk of cancer?
Research shows that diets high in sugar are often lower in other nutrients like fruit, vegetables, whole grains and beans. In addition to having less nutritional value, diets that are higher in sugar do increase an individual’s risk of being overweight and of having higher levels of insulin production. Although sugar intake is not directly linked to an increased risk of cancer, increased obesity risk and elevation of insulin levels may indirectly increase cancer risk. Increasing your intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and beans, and reducing intake of refined sugars found in foods like cookies, candy, cakes, some cereals, soda and other high-sugar beverages, can reduce sugar intake and improve general health and well-being.

Does aspartame cause cancer?
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that is actually much sweeter than regular sugar - about 200 times sweeter. It is found in many "low sugar" and/or "diet" products. Current research does not show any evidence to connect aspartame with increased risk of cancer.

If I eat more fruits and vegetables, will I lower my risk of cancer?
Many research studies have found that people who eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables do have a lower risk of certain types of cancer, particularly oral, esophageal, colon, lung and stomach cancers. Current research, however, has not been able to pin-point which nutrients in fruits and vegetables are connected to a reduced cancer risk. Many nutritional components of fruits and vegetables work together to create a protective effect and researchers are still working to better understand this concept. Current recommendations advise eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Since different colored fruits and vegetables contain different nutrients, it is best to choose from many different types and to eat a variety of colors.

Are organic foods better than conventional foods?
When considering the research on this topic, it is important to understand that the majority of studies looking at the benefits of organic food consumption are generally small and have only examined a few foods. The possible "pros" of eating an organic diet include less exposure to pesticides and hormones, higher content of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients versus conventional foods, and that most organic foods are produced in a manner that is more environmentally friendly. The "cons" of consuming an all-organic diet are the expense and the potentially higher spoilage rate of organic foods - although this is a controversial point.

The bottom line is we do not need to feel that we are compromising our health if we are not eating only organic foods. We know from countless studies that eating a plant-based diet, organic or not, is important in reducing the risk of all cancer. The research also indicates exposure to pesticides in conventional foods is small and does not outweigh the benefits of eating non-organic foods.

What do you mean by a plant-based diet?
A plant-based diet is one that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Current guidelines from the American Institute for Cancer Research recommend that 2/3 of your plate be filled with plant-based foods at meals with 1/3 of your plate left over for animal protein. Research indicates eating a plant-based diet in addition to regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and limiting alcohol intake, can help reduce the risk of cancer and many other health problems.

What are antioxidants?
Antioxidants are phytochemicals, vitamins and other nutrients that are known to protect the body from free radical damage that is associated with cancer and other diseases. Free radicals are products of normal metabolism but also come from smoking and exposure to environmental toxins and pollution. Dietary sources of antioxidants include fruits and vegetables, flaxseed, beans, nuts, soy, whole grains, green tea and spices.

What are phytochemicals?
Phytochemicals are plant compounds (phyto = plant) thought to promote the growth of healthy body tissue and protect against disease. There are more than 900 phytochemicals we know of such as beta carotene, lycopene, isoflavones and lutein. Colorful fruits and vegetables are rich in phytochemicals. To maximize your intake of the many different phytochemicals available in our diets it is recommended you eat at least five servings of a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables every day.

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