Ask the Nutritionist
Q: My wife is 42 years old and last year she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and her entire thyroid gland was removed. We'd like to find out what type of diet is best for her post-gland-removal period. For example, sugar is bad for her and a large intake of veggies is good for her. Fast food is completely out. Could you please indicate the useful nutritional chart for her daily diet?
Fariborz Farzaneh, Laguna Niguel, California
A: The optimal diet post-thyroid gland removal should minimize processed foods and include rich amounts of plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein sources, and omega-3 fatty acids. Eating a well-balanced, plant-based diet is the recommendation for all cancer survivors. Plant-based foods contain naturally occurring compounds called phytonutrients which are beneficial to immune function. It is important to consume a variety of fruits and vegetables of varying colors. The different pigments represent different types of phytonutrients contained within plant-based foods essential for your health.
A high intake of vegetables in the diet is good for you. Increasing vegetable intake is beneficial by providing essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that your body needs. Non-cruciferous and non-starchy vegetables are associated with decreased risk of thyroid cancer. One example of these are leafy greens such lettuce or spinach. Aim for five to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. A serving for most fruits and vegetables counts as ½ cup and 1 cup for leafy greens, berries, and melon.
Increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables can replace processed and refined foods that tend to be high in sugars and lead to unhealthy weight gain and insulin resistance. However, foods with naturally occurring sugars, such as fruits, should not be restricted because they contain cancer-fighting nutrients that provide energy and protection from disease. In addition, it is important to remain physically active to maintain a healthy weight and minimize weight gain after thyroid removal.