The importance of eating well
Most people understand that eating well is important for overall health and wellbeing, but they may not be aware of all the benefits.
Good nutrition can:
- give you more energy and strength
- help you achieve or maintain a healthy weight
- improve your mood
- help prevent or reduce the risk of some conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even some cancers.
If you have been diagnosed with cancer, both the disease and treatment will place extra demands on your body. Research shows that eating well benefits people before, during and after cancer treatment. It can:
- improve quality of life by giving you more energy, keeping your muscles strong, helping you stay a healthy weight, and boosting mood
- help manage the side effects of treatment, improve response to treatment, reduce hospital stays, and speed up recovery
- help heal wounds and rebuild damaged tissues after surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or other treatment
- improve your immune system and ability to fight infections
- reduce the risk of cancer coming back.
Learn more about:
The Australian Dietary Guidelines provide advice on eating for health and wellbeing for the general population. They were developed by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). Following these guidelines will help ensure your diet is healthy and may reduce your risk of developing some cancers. See our summary of the key recommendations from the guidelines. It is also important to be as physically active as you can.
Eating well after a cancer diagnosis will help you prepare for and manage treatment and recovery. During this time, some people find it difficult to eat enough or they may have trouble eating some foods. You may need to be more flexible with your food choices so that you maintain your weight or regain weight you have lost. Eating well after a cancer diagnosis explains how your nutritional needs may vary from the Australian Dietary Guidelines before, during and after cancer treatment.
Fluids are an essential part of any diet. All of the organs, tissues and cells in your body need fluids to keep working properly. As a general guide, you should aim to drink at least 8–10 glasses of fluid per day. Most of this should be plain water, but you can also get fluid from soups, smoothies, milk, fruit juices, fruit or ice cubes.
Many people drink alcohol to relax and socialise. However, drinking too much alcohol may lead to weight gain and increase the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
When it comes to cancer risk, there is no safe level of alcohol consumption.
For healthy men and women who choose to drink alcohol, Cancer Council recommends you follow the NHMRC guidelines and limit your intake to an average of no more than 10 standard drinks a week, and no more than 4 standard drinks in one session (see the Department of Health website for standard drink sizes).
Those who do not drink should not take up drinking alcohol.
Alcohol can interact with some medicines, so check with your doctors before drinking alcohol during cancer treatment.
Jenelle Loeliger, Head of Nutrition and Speech Pathology Department, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Rebecca Blower, Public Health Advisor, Cancer Prevention, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; Julia Davenport, Consumer; Irene Deftereos, Senior Dietitian, Western Health, VIC; Lynda Menzies, A/Senior Dietitian – Cancer Care (APD), Sunshine Coast University Hospital, QLD; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Janice Savage, Consumer.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.