7 foods to help recover after cancer surgery

According to the National Center for Health Statistics [1] 1,898,160 new cancer cases are projected to occur in the United States in 2021 and many of them will be treated by chemo therapy, radiation, and surgery.

Why is cancer surgery necessary?[2]

Cancer surgery is a traditional cancer treatment and is the most efficient way to get rid of most cancers before they spread (metastasize) to lymph nodes or remote areas. Surgery can be done alone or in combination with other treatments, such as radiation or chemotherapy.

What are the types of cancer surgery?[2]

Diagnostic surgery:

Through diagnostic surgery, the classification and type of tumor can be found and confirmed. Biopsy is also one of the diagnostic procedures.

Curative surgery:

It is especially useful for treating early-stage cancer. Commonly used radical surgery involves removing both the lymph nodes and the primary lesion surrounding the tumor, which includes radical mastectomy or radical cervical resection.

Depending on the scope of surgery, for early cancers with a small size confined to the organs, conservative surgery may be performed to selectively remove the cancer and some of the surrounding tissues. However, if the cancer is large or the extent of infiltration is deep, extensive excisions are made to completely remove the cancer.

Prophylactic surgery:

Some polyps, known as precancerous (pre-cancerous) lesions, may be left untreated and then progress to cancer. In this case, removing harmless precancerous lesions can help prevent cancer.

Palliative surgery:

The purpose of this surgery is to reduce the size of the tumor, thereby delaying the growth of the tumor, alleviating the symptoms of cancer and improving the patient’s quality of life.

For example, if you have intestinal obstruction due to colon cancer, you can relieve the symptoms of intestinal obstruction by making a stoma. After cancer surgery, most patients receive treatment for side effects.

After cancer surgery, there are many important things such as exercise, taking medicine, continuous treatment, and lifestyle changes, but among them, diet is one that you can easily do at home to alleviate the side effects.

The importance of diet after cancer surgery [3][4][5][6]

Eating the right food prevents complications such as high blood sugar and provides the essential building blocks of proteins that are essential for your skin to heal quickly. Also, supplying your body with proper nutrition can help you get back to your daily routine quickly.

Here are 7 foods that fight infection after cancer surgery, aid in rapid healing, increase strength and energy, and provide nutrients to aid in recovery.


Berry varieties that are rich in antioxidants help the body repair damage. Also, berries are a great source of vitamin C. Research shows that vitamin C helps rebuild collagen and soft tissue, so the surgical incisions heal faster. Berries include grapes, pomegranates, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, goji berries, and blackberries.


The vitamins and minerals found in vegetables are some of the most important nutrients in ahealing diet. Including vegetables in your daily diet adds a healthy source of carbohydrates to combat the fatigue you experience after being discharged from the hospital.

Carbohydrates provide energy to the brain and prevent muscle breakdown. Vegetables also provide vitamins A and C, which are necessary to form and maintain function of the skin and mucous membranes. Another great benefit is that the fiber in a vegetable-rich diet reduces constipation, a common side effect of pain relievers. Recommended vegetables include carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, sweet potatoes, and potatoes.

Recommended vegetables include carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, sweet potatoes, and potatoes.

Healthy fats (nuts, oil, fish)

anticancer foods

Many people think that fat is bad, but healthy fats are good and help to recover after surgery. Healthy fats, especially after surgery, help body absorb all the vitamins obtained from fruits and vegetables. Fats are essential for strengthening the immune system and reducing the chance of infection after cancer surgery

Healthy fats include olive oil, avocado, coconut oil, nuts, and seeds. Fat provides a long-lasting energy source. Healthy fats and nuts are rich in vitamin E, which helps wounds heal faster and reduces scarring.

Dark green and yellow vegetables


Dark greenish-yellow vegetables are rich in vitamins A, C, and E, as well as vitamin K, which is essential for blood clotting. Kale, spinach, beetroot, bok choy, and lettuce are typical green and yellow vegetables and contain a lot of vitamins. It also absorbs B-complex vitamins, which help produce energy.

Moreover, dark greenish-yellow vegetables contain fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, and calcium, which helps a lot in returning to daily life after cancer surgery, just like a multivitamin.

Meat and protein foods

It is important to consume the right amount of protein to recover. The body needs large amounts of protein and iron after cancer surgery. Cancer surgery is a operation that remove a part of the body’s organs, so during the surgery, muscles are potentially damaged, requiring rapid recovery.

The amino acids in protein help repair muscle damage by regenerating tissue and speeding up wound healing. As iron creates new blood cells, it helps you restore energy levels faster. These foods include not only meat, but also seafood, beans, nuts, eggs, and tofu. If you have trouble digesting or chewing tougher meat after surgery, try slow-cooked minced meat.


Probiotics are healthy bacteria that the body needs to digest food, provide mental balance, and fight all germs and infections that are likely to occur after hospitalization or surgery. Foods rich in probiotics include yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi.

Cancer surgery is a major surgery that puts a lot of strain on the body. Anesthetics, antibiotics and painkillers disrupt the complex balance of the intestine. As a result, you may experience digestive problems, constipation, and nausea as side effects after surgery. Taking healthy probiotics can help keep your body in balance and speed recovery.

Fucoidan from brown seaweeds [7]

Fucoidan, which is contained in brown seaweeds, helps the body to recover. It is an anticancer substance and has unique functions including immune boosting.

If you get cancer, your immunity will be weakened. Cancer surgery is a treatment that cuts out the cancer-causing area by opening an organ, so your immunity may decrease significantly. Fucoidan boosts immune system by activating T cells, B cells, and NK cells.

The reason for returning to the hospital after surgery is the recurrence and metastasis of cancer. Fucoidan is a combination of polysaccharides including fucose and sulfate groups, and has a component that induces cancer cell Apoptosis (self-destruction), which is explained by the fact that fucoidan touches the receptors of cancer cells and induces cancer cells to self-destruct.

Fucoidan also helps prevent cancer metastasis by inhibiting the angiogenesis of cancer cells. Through these efficay, Fucoidan can help heal cancer after surgery and prevent possible metastasis and recurrence. The popular brown seaweeds from which fucoidan is extracted are Mekabu, Mozuku, and Bladderwrack (fucus).

Healthy diet tips after surgery [5]

anticancer food list

After cancer surgery, it is important not only what you eat, but also a healthy diet. The habit of eating salty food damages the gastric mucosa and promotes the action of carcinogens on damaged cells. Therefore, it is better to eat less salty.

If your taste buds change, change your diet to stay hydrated. Rehydrate with water-rich fruits and vegetables such as watermelon, pears, and cucumbers. When food doesn’t taste good, season it with healthy and delicious seasonings. For example, try lemon, garlic, cayenne, dill, or rosemary.

Divide the meal into several portions. Instead of eating large portions 3 times a day, eat 6 small meals throughout the day. This will help you eat more slowly and prevent bloating.
Maintain a healthy weight. Measure your BMI to see if your weight is appropriate for your height. Obesity is associated with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure. This also increases the patient’s risk of developing cancer.

If you have issues in the mouth, it’s a good idea to gently chop the texture of vegetables and meat.


[1] https://www.cancer.org/research/cancer-facts-statistics/all-cancer-facts-figures/cancer-facts-figures-2021.html
[2] Type of cancer treatment, National Cancer Institute
[3] Why diet is important, Cancer Research UK
[4] Cancer survivors: Care for your body after treatment, Mayo Clinic,
[5] Eating hints: Before, During, After cancer treatment, National Cancer Institue
[6] Nutrition for the person cancer during treatment, America Cancer Society
[7] Fucoidan induces cancer cell apoptosis by modulating the endoplasmic reticulum stress cascades , Shaohua Chen, Yang Zhao et al, PMCID: PMC4169461

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