Sarcoma Alliance Dishes Up Information on Healthy Diets for Cancer Patients

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The national nonprofit added information to its website about nutrition before, during and after treatment, with help from Meals to Heal.

Jessica Iannotta, a registered dietitian certified in oncology nutrition, is responsible for a

Jessica Iannotta, a registered dietitian certified in oncology nutrition, is responsible for all clinical operations at Meals to Heal.

A well-balanced diet can give you the nutrients needed to fight off infections, and the fuel to repair damage done to healthy cells during treatment. Healthy eating also can reduce the amount and severity of treatment side effects.

The Sarcoma Alliance launched a new website section today, featuring an article on nutrition by Jessica Iannotta, chief clinical officer of Meals to Heal.

"A well-balanced diet can give you the nutrients needed to fight off infections, and the fuel to repair damage done to healthy cells during treatment. Healthy eating also can reduce the amount and severity of treatment side effects," says Iannotta, a registered dietitian and certified specialist in oncology nutrition. "The proper balance of proteins, carbohydrates and healthy fats helps prevent swings in blood sugar, hormones and energy levels. It can also help you to feel less fatigued, with a more positive mood."

Meals to Heal is a New York company that FedExes fresh and healthy meals to the doorsteps of cancer patients, she says. The meals are designed to meet the nutritional needs and tastes of each patient.

"All of our registered dietitians have experience working with sarcoma patients," she says.

Sarcoma arises in connective tissue, including bone, muscle, nerve and fat tissue. It occurs in people of all ages, from birth on up. The Sarcoma Alliance, a national nonprofit based in Mill Valley, Calif., provides education, guidance and support to people affected by this rare cancer.

Board member Suzie Siegel of Tampa says she sought the help of Meals to Heal because cancer patients get so much misinformation on diet.

"What you eat can increase your risk of getting certain cancers. But that's not true for sarcoma, as far as we know," says Siegel, a 10-year survivor of leiomyosarcoma. "There is no scientific evidence linking diet to sarcoma, nor is there any evidence that diet alone can cure sarcoma. But I agree with Jessica -- a healthy diet can help in many ways."

The Meals to Heal website recommends the Mediterranean diet, which is generally rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, beans, nuts, legumes, seeds, herbs and spices.

Many cancer centers have registered dietitians who can ease patients into a healthier but still delicious diet, Siegel says.

"Dietitians can recommend foods, beverages, meal plans and supplements to improve your nutrition before, during and after cancer treatment," Iannotta says. "They can tailor this information to your individual needs, treatments and side effects."

"Do your best, but don't feel guilty or get stressed out if you eat a Big Mac," Siegel adds. "You need to maintain a healthy weight, not waste away because you're afraid to eat 'bad food.' "

"If you're in the hospital, and your diet is not restricted, ask about different menus. If nothing looks good, ask if the kitchen can make something special for you. If your doctor allows it, you also can eat food brought from home or you can have a restaurant deliver."

Iannotta also offers these tips:
-- Eat small meals and snacks frequently throughout the day.
-- Get information from sources that rely on sound, scientific evidence.
-- Avoid “miracle cures” and unknown dietary supplements, most of which do not have evidence to support their use or benefit during or after cancer treatment. If something sounds too good to be true, chances are it is.

For more information on sarcoma help, go to http://sarcomaalliance.org. The Alliance connects patients with one another and gives grants to help reimburse sarcoma patients who seek a second opinion from an expert.

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