Nutrition Before During and After Cancer

Information on nutritional needs for cancer patients


What’s the problem with eating sugar?


The federal government’s decision to update food labels marked a change for consumers. For the first time, beginning in 2018, nutrition labels will be required to list a breakdown of both the total sugars and the added sugars in packaged foods.


Why are food labels being revised?

The shift came after years of urging by many nutrition experts, who say that excess sugar is a primary cause of obesity and heart disease. Many in the food industry opposed the emphasis on added sugars, arguing that the focus should be on calories rather than sugar. They say that highlighting added sugar on labels is unscientific, and that the sugar that occurs naturally in foods like fruits and vegetables is essentially no different than the sugar commonly added to packaged foods.


What about “natural” sweeteners?

Food companies like to market agave nectar, beet sugar, evaporated cane juice and many other “natural” sweeteners as healthier alternatives to high-fructose corn syrup. But whatever their source, they are all very similar. To suggest one is healthier than another is a stretch. In fact, the F.D.A. urged food companies to stop using the term evaporated cane juice because it is “false or misleading” and “does not reveal that the ingredient’s basic nature and characterizing properties are those of a sugar.”

 What’s the issue with added sugars?

It mainly comes down to the way they’re packaged.

Naturally occurring sugar is almost always found in foods that contain fiber, which slows the rate at which the sugar is digested and absorbed. (One exception to that rule is honey, which has no fiber.) Fiber also limits the amount of sugar you can consume in one sitting.


A medium apple contains about 19 grams of sugar and four grams of fiber, or roughly 20 percent of a day’s worth of fiber. Not many people would eat three apples at one time. But plenty of children and adults can drink a 16-ounce bottle of Pepsi, which has 55 grams of added sugar – roughly the amount in three medium apples – and no fiber. Fiber not only limits how much you can eat, but how quickly sugar leaves the intestine and reaches the liver.

Why is it a problem to have too much sugar?

Many nutrition experts say that sugar in moderation is fine for most people. But in excess it can lead to metabolic problems beyond its effects on weight gain. The reason, studies suggest, is fructose. Any fructose you eat is sent straight to your liver, which specializes in turning it into droplets of fat called triglycerides.

While many health organizations – including AICR – recommend avoiding sugary drinks, this highlights the powerful affect that cutting out one single part of the diet may have, independent of other healthy changes.


A study focused on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition that can eventually cause cirrhosis and even liver cancer, suggests that a daily sugary drink increases the risk for NAFLD, especially – but not only – among overweight individuals.

Obesity and overweight are key risk factors for NAFLD, when there is extra fat in liver cells not caused by alcohol. AICR’s latest report on liver cancer, found that obesity increases the risk of this cancer. And research currently links sugary beverages to weight gain and obesity.

How much sugar is too much?

One of the largest studies of added sugar consumption, which was led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that adults who got more than 15 percent of their daily calories from added sugar had a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. The biggest sources for adults were soft drinks, fruit juices, desserts and candy.

While those might seem like obvious junk foods, about half of the sugar Americans consume is “hidden” in less obvious places like salad dressings, bread, low-fat yogurt and ketchup. In fact, of the 600,000 food items for sale in America, about 80 percent contain added sugar.

 Follow the World Health Organization’s guidelines, which recommend that adults and children consume no more than about six teaspoons daily of added sugar.



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These Foods can be part of a healthy diet

It is usually assumed that cutting certain foods from your diet will automatically make it healthy, or help with weight loss. However, if you’re solely focused on what you shouldn’t eat, you could be missing out on key benefits and nutrients and the pleasure of eating foods you really like that aren’t necessarily as damaging to your diet as you may think. The less you think exclusion, the more likely you’ll continue your healthy-eating habits long-term.

Here are some surprisingly healthy foods you might be missing out on:



Eggs have vitamin B-12, they are particularly important if you eat a mostly veggie-based diet. It’s the most biologically available protein. If you are worried about too much cholesterol, have egg whites.


Dairy Products

Dairy has eight grams of protein, if you switch to soy, almond or coconut you lose all that, it is a great source of calcium and potassium, items like cheese and milk don’t usually make it into all the fancy diets . So, don’t ditch dairy for the wrong reasons. Keep cheese limited to a one-ounce serving, and stick to a cup of skim milk to keep calories in check.



People do not gain weight from eating pasta; they gain weight from eating too much pasta, serving size matters. Instead of creamy sauces, toss with olive oil, veggies, and a lean protein source like shrimp to balance out.



White potatoes have been deemed useless for some time now, they are a good source of fiber and potassium, and they’re not high in calories. It’s all in the way you prepare potatoes, the French fries, potato skins, baked potatoes with lot of cream and cheese are not the way to go, instead top your potatoes with salsa, Greek yogurt, or hummus.


Pile of assorted nuts close up

They are an excellent source of healthy fats and protein. Portion them out — a serving is roughly the size of a shot glass. Just never eat them straight out of a container.



Bread should be truly a source of whole grains (“whole wheat” should be the only flour you see on the label), so it’s rich in protein, fiber and other important nutrients.



Alcohol can be a part of a well-balanced diet, keep your intake modest, rotating with water. A glass of red wine or a vodka soda with lime is a far, far better option than a piña colada. If you cut it all out, you may think you can’t be social — and all of a sudden, healthy eating becomes a chore instead of a better lifestyle choice.


Dark Chocolate

Yes chocolate too. Research shows that consuming chocolate increases the antioxidants in our blood. Cocoa powder ranks as having the highest antioxidants of the chocolate products, followed by dark chocolate and milk chocolate, make it sugar free.

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The Chocolate

The health benefits of chocolate depend upon the type of chocolates you choose – and how many.

The Healthy Insides

Dark Chocolate

Most of the health benefits with dark chocolate relate to cardiovascular disease. Dark chocolate is packed with flavonoids, a group of phytochemicals that act as antioxidants. Research shows that consuming chocolate increases the antioxidants in our blood. Cocoa powder ranks as having the highest antioxidants of the chocolate products, followed by dark chocolate and milk chocolate. Studies link eating chocolate in moderation with heart health, including improving blood vessel function and lowering blood pressure. The flavonoids can slow the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (the “bad” type). When LDL cholesterol becomes oxidized it can clog blood vessels.

Cocoa Powder

Given chocolate’s rich supply of flavonoids, researchers have also investigated whether it may play a role in cancer prevention. The studies in cancer prevention are still emerging. A recent review of studies on the cancer protective properties of cocoa concluded that the evidence is limited but suggestive.

Cacao Beans

From Cacao to Cocoa

Whatever the chocolate, it all begins with the cacao bean. First, the cacao bean is roasted and ground into thick chocolate liquor (non-alcoholic). This liquor, hardened, is unsweetened chocolate. When pressure is added to the liquor, it pushes out the bean’s fat, called cocoa butter. Cocoa powder is made by drying and sifting the remaining material from the liquor. Mix up some chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, sugar and milk, and the commercial chocolate treat emerges. In general, higher the percentage of cacao, the darker the chocolate, more intense the flavor and less room for sugar.

White chocolate contains cocoa butter but not any chocolate liquor; technically it is not chocolate. (It gets its name because it contains cocoa butter.)

Pick Your Pleasure

There are plenty of ways to get the same healthful plant compounds contained in chocolate, such as by eating fruits and vegetables. For chocolate lovers, you can enjoy it all. Whether it’s dark or milk, aim for the plain chocolates without sugar.