Adequate protein is essential to meet the increased demands of the body, especially during anti-cancer treatment.
Eating adequate dietary protein is essential, especially during anti-cancer treatments. It's important to improve protein intake to better meet the increased demands that the body requires while on chemo, radiation and/or immunotherapies.
This is one of the recommendations that patients receive rather consistently from their medical teams. But recommendations on how to increase protein is imbued with myths and propaganda, which inevitably result in confusion.
Some people (including our brilliant doctors!) wrongly claim that red meat is required to maintain red blood cell health. Red meat is not required to maintain or to boost immunity, red blood cells or hemoglobin. Protein, B-vitamins and iron can be gotten from other sources like lentils, whole grains or fortified cereals. Others claim that proteins should only be from vegetarian sources (including our brilliant doctors!). Some use powders and other use potions like bone broth.
So what protein is best during treatment?
In general, and without contraindications, I advocate for a plant-based diet. This does not mean vegetarian, but it does reduce our reliance on meat and animal products. The reason is because large intakes of animal products and red meat may result in elevations in a hormone, called IGF-1 that leads to inflammation.
Saving best for last are vegetarian proteins, which are hands-down the healthiest and least expensive sources.
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Amanda Bontempo, MS RD CSO CDN