In January, Missouri Cancer Associates hosted an Eating Well Through Cancer event held at the Barred Owl Restaurant in Columbia, Missouri. Chef Parks shared his passion and knowledge of the food industry and how important it is to know where food is being sourced and the growing conditions. He opened the evening with a cooking demonstration and prepared a wonderful 4-course meal for attendees.

The evening was interactive and the content was found valuable by all. We wanted to share some questions cancer patients and their caregivers had during the event. The answer to each question is intended to provide clarification and allow you to make an informed choice.

Why Is Protein Consumption Important During Cancer Treatments?


Eating nutritiously during cancer is very important to help treatments work most effectively, prevent hospitalizations and make you feel better. Protein is an important source of nutritious calories in our diet.


  1. Protein is a healer. With cancer treatments, the goal is to kill off the bad cells but in the process, some healthy cells are killed off and adequate protein can help rebuild those good cells.
  2. It can also help rebuild your strength after taxing treatments and strengthen a weakened immune system.
  3. Protein can help you maintain muscle and weight more effectively and give you needed energy throughout your treatments.
Protein-rich foods include meat (chicken, beef, fish, and pork), beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, soy, eggs, whole grains, and dairy products.


Soy Foods & Cancer: Is There A Correlation?


The answer , in short,is no. Some women worry about this since soy contains isoflavones which are very similar to estrogen. Soy will not produce more estrogen. Estrogen is even shown to reduce some other types of cancer including colorectal cancer. If you are still uneasy about soy products and want protein other than meat, you can opt for beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds.

Read more about soy and cancer.


What Are Some Ways To Fight Appetite Loss During Chemotherapy?


The best way to combat appetite loss is eating small meals frequently. This keeps your metabolism burning quickly, which in turn makes you feel hungry more often. Preparing foods that look and smell good can help trigger your appetite. If the problem persists, talk with your doctor about medication that can help regain your appetite. Sometimes with a cancer diagnosis, other issues may be causing the loss of appetite (nausea or depression). Talking with your physician can help treat those symptoms as well as increase your appetite naturally.

Read more about appetite loss

Healthy Oils To Use In Cooking: What To Use & How?


There are a variety of cooking oils readily available in your grocery aisle. Here’s the lowdown on what to add to your kitchen and how to use each to keep your body a well-oiled machine.

Avocado Oil: This oil is pressed directly from avocados. It can withstand a higher heat point so it’s a good oil to cook with veggies, chicken, and also makes a great dressing/marinade. It is also shown to have heart-healthy benefits.

Olive Oil: This oil is good at room temperature, but it breaks down at high heat so avoid it with high heat cooking. Using it for dipping oils, salad dressing and pasta salads are all great options. This oil has long been said to aid in cardiovascular health as well.

Vegetable Oil, Canola Oils. These oils often get a bad reputation but according to a Harvard study it is low in saturated fat and it helps reduce the absorption of cholesterol in your body. Canola has a similar fatty makeup as olive oil they just undergo different refining processes to reduce odor and taste to give the fat a more neutral profile. These oils are safe to use in moderation as well.

To read more about these oils, follow these links:

Remember that oil is a fat, and fat calories are still fat calories, no matter which type of oil you use. So, you should use the least amount of fat possible to prepare your foods while still getting the greatest amount of taste and health benefits.

Saturated Fats:

Saturated fats are found mostly in animal protein. They are also in oils like coconut and palm oil which are solids at room temperature. We don’t necessarily encourage adding these oils to foods because often you are getting enough saturated fat from protein and packaged goods like crackers, chips, biscuits etc. Asking for sauces on the side, using butter substitutes when sautéing and checking the nutrition facts on the food label can help lower over-consumption of saturated fats. Saturated fats aren’t bad to use, just use them in moderation.

General Fat Guidelines:

For patients without special diets, we don’t recommend restricting total fat intake. Avoiding overly processed foods, fried foods and heavy starches and sugars will help reduce overall fat consumption.

Avoid “low-fat” options for cookies, crackers, packaged goods and foods that are naturally high fat. They are usually higher in sodium and refined carbohydrates. Choose healthy fat-rich foods like nuts, seeds, avocados, and fish.

Should I Avoid Eating Raw Vegetables?

Food safety is important for people both during and after cancer treatment. Cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, often weaken the immune system. This makes it harder for your body to protect itself from foodborne illness. You don’t need to avoid eating raw vegetables, rather, just make sure you safely wash them before eating. 

Always wash your fruits and veggies under running tap water anywhere from cold to room temperature. Tap water alone is very effective (about 98%) in removing any surface contaminants. If you’re in an area with mineral heavy tap water, you can use potable or filtered water as well. Avoid soaps and chemical rinses because they often leave residues and don’t clean the item any better than regular water. For thick-skinned items like oranges and melons, use a scrubbing brush or glove to create friction that removes chemicals, bacteria, and dirt from the surface. Produce with lots of hard to scrub areas (broccoli, cauliflower) require a cold-water soak for 2 minutes. Rinse right after and leave to dry.

American Cancer Society has great food handling tips.

Need easy to follow recipes? We would love to offer you a complimentary Eating Well Through Cancer cookbook that shares easy-to-follow, 30-minute recipes that focus on the best foods tolerated to ease side effects during chemotherapy and radiation. The book helps cancer patients and caregivers stay nourished during treatment!

With an oncologist’s chapter introduction, doc’s notes, menu planning, tips, nutritional analysis, diabetic exchanges, the book serves as a guide for nutrition before, during, and after cancer treatment.

To receive a complimentary Eating Well Through Cancer cookbook, email us at

A special thank you to Missouri Cancer Associates oncologist, Dr. Mark Vellek, Boone Hospital Dietician Kelsie Knerr, Chef Parks with Barred Owl Butcher and Missouri Cancer Associates patients for participating in the Eating Well Through Cancer Event held in January 2018 and served as inspiration for this blog post.

Pictured (Dr. Mark Vellek, Harry, and Linda Morris)