Smoothie Tips for People With Cancer

If you have cancer, eating right can give you strength you need. Smoothies are one way to get the nutrients your body uses to fight the disease and handle the effects of treatment.

Smoothies are a good option if your treatment gives you side effects. Smoothies are also cold, which can soothe a sore mouth and throat. If you’re just too tired to eat, or you don’t have an appetite, drinking your calories may be an easy alternative.

Everyone has different nutritional needs. Your medical team can help figure out yours. Once you know them, you can use these guidelines to whip up a nutritious and delicious smoothie when eating may seem too much.

Start with fruit.

Fruit adds sweetness and fiber -- which help your digestive health -- and disease-fighting antioxidants. Try mixing different fruits for a blend of nutrients and flavors.

If your mouth is sore, skip fruits with small seeds, like berries. Seeds may make your mouth hurt worse.

You can use fresh or frozen fruit. If you want a thicker texture, choose frozen.

There are plenty of good fruit options. Bananas are high in potassium, a mineral your body needs for your nerves and muscles to work well. Pears have lots of fiber, which may help ease constipation. Mangoes contain vitamins A and C, which help make your immune system stronger. Watermelon can help hydrate you, plus it has lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. Cherries and other dark-colored fruits have chemical compounds called phytochemicals, which can help fight your cancer.

Keep in mind that cancer treatment can make your smoothies taste too sweet. If that’s the case, try frozen cranberries, which add tartness.

Pile on the veggies.

Vegetables are a good source of nutrients and fiber. They’re also low in sugar. That can help keep your blood sugar in check. Consider adding:

Leafy greens, which provide B vitamins and iron. Your body uses these to make blood cells. Spinach, kale, and romaine lettuce are good options.
Carrot and pumpkin are naturally sweet fruits that are high in vitamin A.

Avocado, which is technically a fruit, is high in heart-healthy fats. It’s also a great way to add some calories.

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Add some protein.

Your body uses it to repair tissue and make your immune system stronger. A lot of the time, people with cancer need more protein than those who don’t have it. It helps heal tissue and fight off infection during and after treatments like surgery and chemotherapy.

Good sources of protein include:

  • Nut butters or whole nuts
  • Unsweetened Greek yogurt
  • Protein powder

Look for low-sugar protein powders, with things such as whey, hemp, rice, or peanut. A budget-friendly option is dry skim milk powder. Don’t go overboard with the protein. Your body can’t process more than about 30 grams of it at once.

Pour in some liquid.

Smoothies can help you stay hydrated. That’s especially important if you have nausea or diarrhea.

Filtered water adds liquid without calories. It also creates a milder-tasting smoothie. Coconut water contains sodium and potassium, so it can replace electrolytes. Low-fat milk is a good option if you want to add creaminess and calcium to your smoothie. Plant-based milks, like almond, soy, oat, and rice milks, are options, also. Choose unsweetened versions and those fortified with vitamin D and calcium. Juice is a great choice if you need to get more calories. Look for varieties with 100% juice.

Give it a boost.

Consider adding seeds, spices, or herbs to your smoothie for extra flavor and nutrition.

Ginger or mint can soothe an upset stomach. Cinnamon, turmeric, and cardamom have anti-inflammatory compounds. Flax meal is high in fiber. It also contains healthy omega-3 fats. Chia seeds contain protein, fiber, calcium, and omega-3 fats.

Skip the added sugars. It’s a myth that sugar causes cancer to grow faster. But added sugar provides extra calories without much nutrition. Skip the table sugar, honey, maple syrup, and agave. Fruit gives your smoothie natural sweetness.

Practice food safety. Cancer and certain treatments can weaken your immune system. This makes it harder to fight off disease-causing bacteria found in contaminated food. That’s why it’s important to handle and prepare food carefully.

Make sure to:

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Try these blends.

  • 1 cup filtered water
    ½ frozen banana
    ½ ripe pear
    ½ Granny Smith apple
    2.5 cups spinach
    Juice of ¼ lemon
  • 2 cups frozen unsweetened blueberries
    ½ cup calcium-fortified orange juice
    ¾ cup low-fat or nonfat vanilla yogurt
    ½ medium frozen banana
    ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 mango, peeled and cut into chunks
    ½ orange, peeled and quartered
    1 carrot, sliced into chunks
    1½ cups unsweetened soy milk
    1-inch piece of ginger, peeled
    6 ice cubes
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
    ½ cup brewed green tea
    1½ tablespoons ground flax or chia seeds
    ½ teaspoon fresh minced ginger
    ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
    1 tablespoon lemon juice
    ½ cup berries
    ½ cup banana or mango
    2 cups spinach or kale
    1 tablespoon almond butter

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on December 11, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

American Institute for Cancer Research: “Blueberry Blast Smoothie,” “Mango Carrot Ginger Smoothie,” “Tips to Build a Better Smoothie.”

Cleveland Clinic: “6 Tips for Smoothies When You Have Cancer.”

FDA: “Food Safety for People with Cancer.”

Mayo Clinic: “Cancer Causes: Popular Myths About the Causes of Cancer.”

National Cancer Institute: “Eating Hints: Before, During, and After Cancer Treatment.”

National Foundation for Cancer Research: “Green Goddess: Healthy Anti-Cancer Smoothie Recipe.”

Pancreatic Cancer Action Network: “The Power of Protein Smoothies for Pancreatic Cancer Patients.”

Penn Medicine OncoLink: “Protein Needs During Cancer Treatment.”

Stanford Health Care: “Tips for Making Smoothies and Shakes.”

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center: “How to Make a Healthier Smoothie.”

University of California San Francisco Helen Diller Comprehensive Cancer Center: “Rainbow Smoothie.”

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