When you have cancer, how to make a healthy smoothie

If you’ve been told you have cancer, you might not be as hungry as you used to be. Still, you need food more than ever to stay strong during treatment and while you’re getting better.

Dietitian Mia DiGeronimo, RD LD, an expert on nutrition for cancer patients, says that smoothies are a tasty way to get important nutrients into your diet.

Here are some tips on how to make smoothies with ingredients that make you stronger and that taste good and are easy on your stomach.

How to put together a smoothie

Each of the following pairs makes about two servings.

Choose your liquid

Use two cups of any of the following liquids:

  • A water filter. A good choice if you want to count calories or make a smoothie with a milder taste.
  • Water from a coconut. A natural drink that helps you rehydrate by giving you sodium and potassium.
  • Almond milk. This milk substitute is like water in that it has few calories and no caffeine, but it has a smooth, silky texture.
  • Fat-free milk. A good source of electrolytes that also has protein.
  • Fruit juice. A good choice for adding calories or making a smoothie with more body and flavour.

Try a fruit that isn’t too sweet.

Add 1 cup of slightly sweet, fibre-rich fruit to improve digestion and balance the flavours:

  • Banana. A good source of potassium for a healthy balance of electrolytes and blood pressure.
  • Ripe pear. A good source of flavonols, which are plant antioxidants that are good for your heart.
  • Mango. A great source of vitamins A and C, which help the immune system.

Add fruit with a dark colour.

Include 1 cup of dark-coloured fruit to get the phytochemicals that fight cancer from those fruits. All of these have antioxidant plant compounds that are good for the heart:

  • Berries or cherries. Sources of anthocyanin that are good.
  • Watermelon. A good way to get lycopene.
  • Grapes in red or purple. A good place to get resveratrol from.

Mix in some greens

Add 1 cup of tightly packed leafy greens to give your body B vitamins, iron, and other nutrients that help make new blood cells.

  • Spinach. An iron-rich vegetable that also has a lot of the powerful antioxidant vitamin A.
  • Kale. A green superfood that has a lot of colours and is high in the antioxidant vitamins A and C.
  • Romaine lettuce. It’s high in vitamin A and has a very mild taste, so if you’ve never tried greens in a smoothie before, it might be a good choice.

Choose a protein

Try adding protein to help keep your blood sugar stable:

  • Nuts as-is or nut butter. Try putting in 1 tablespoon of almonds, walnuts, or natural peanut butter.
  • Greek yoghurt. For a smooth finish, use 4 ounces of plain Greek yoghurt.
  • Protein powder. Mix in 1/2 cup of protein powder that is low in sugar. (You could use whey, hemp, rice, or pea.)

Add some healthy fats to it.

Did you know that healthy fats make you feel fuller for longer and help you absorb nutrients?

  • Chia seeds or flax. Spoon in 1 teaspoon of chia or flax seeds, which help lower blood pressure and are full of antioxidants, protein, iron, and calcium.
  • Avocado. Cut up 1 ripe avocado, which is high in anti-inflammatory oleic acid and also has a lot of fibre.
  • Coconut oil. Put 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in your smoothie. Coconut oil is known to raise HDL cholesterol and help keep your heart healthy.

Extra ingredients that add calories

If you want to add more calories to your meal, you can always add any of the following:

  • Cold dessert. Choose one scoop of ice cream whose flavour goes well with the rest of your smoothie’s ingredients.
  • Oil from olives. Add 1 tablespoon to make a smoothie smoother and better for you. When it rains every day, it keeps the doctor away.
  • Honey. If you want to sweeten your smoothie in a healthier way, try adding 1 tablespoon.
  • Coconut cream. Just 1 tablespoon of this healthy fat adds calories to your smoothie.
  • Powdered milk. A great source of vitamin E, which is good for the health of your skin, nails, and hair. Put 1 tablespoon in.

Have an upset stomach?

If treatment makes you feel sick or gives you an upset stomach, try adding in:

  • Plain yoghurt. A good source of probiotics, which are bacteria that help keep your gut healthy.
  • Minty fresh. Use four to six leaves.
  • Ginger that was just grated. Should be fine with 2 teaspoons.
  • Lemon zest. A natural stomach soother can be made from half a teaspoon.

A friendly reminder

It’s important to remember that nutrition is very different for each person, and this is especially true for people with cancer.

Smoothie recipes should be changed based on your tastes, what you can handle, and the different side effects of chemotherapy or radiation you’re feeling.

“It can be hard to find the right combination of smoothie ingredients, especially if you are just starting treatment,” says DiGeronimo. If a patient isn’t sure what to eat, they should talk to a registered dietitian at the Taussig Cancer Center.

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