Jasmyn Walker, MS, RD, CSO, CNSC, LD
If you're like the average person, you're probably missing some essential nutrients in your daily diet.
The good news is that now is a fantastic time to pick out fresh fruits and vegetables at local farmers' markets or even your local grocery store. Doing so will help you get the maximum nutrients needed to maintain a proper immune function.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are low in fat, calories and sodium but packed full of flavor and essential nutrients. Cancer patients, in particular, need to make sure they eat foods with vitamins and minerals because some forms of treatment can weaken or suppress their immune systems.
Aim to eat between five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily. For many people, achieving this goal can be a challenge. But it can be done: One serving is 1 cup of raw or 1/2 cup of cooked fruits or vegetables.
Fruits and vegetables with deep, dark colors—reds, oranges, blues, purples and greens—have carotenoids and bioflavonoids, which boost your immune system. They also contain folate, vitamin C, lycopene, calcium and beta-carotene. These nutrients are important for DNA production and repair, and they help maintain bone health and fight aging.
If you're reluctant to try new fruits and vegetables, take some time to visit with the farmers at your local farmers' market and ask how they recommend preparing different fruits and vegetables. You can even ask about how grow your favorite fruits and vegetables, which will give you an even closer connection to the foods you eat.
If you aren't a fan of raw veggies, try roasting them, blending some into a smoothie or steaming them. Avoid boiling fruits and vegetables because most all lose their nutrients in the water.
I encourage everyone to experiment with different combinations of fruits and vegetables:
- Make a salsa with mango, tomatoes and strawberries
- Add spinach to a blueberry smoothie
- Put kale into a smoothie with grapes and apple
The possibilities and benefits with fruits and vegetables are endless. It's never too late to eat healthier or to improve your immune system, especially if you're fighting cancer. Start today by visiting your local farmers' market or adding some produce to your cart at the grocery store.
Learn more about the benefits of good nutrition during cancer care.