Spring 2002 Nutrition Nuggets Newsletter

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The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: April 14, 2002

The registered dietitians of the The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania are pleased to introduce a new quarterly cancer and nutrition information newsletter written for Cancer Center patients and staff. It is filled with current and hopefully helpful information on nutrition and cancer. Each newsletter will spotlight nutrition tips for cancer treatment related side effects, supplement and herbal use, new food products, complementary and alternative therapies, as well as cancer fighting foods and recipes.

The New American Plate: How does your plate measure up?

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is an organization that promotes research on diet and nutrition in the prevention and treatment of cancer. Recently, the AICR introduced the New American Plate program to promote better food choices as a way to reduce cancer risk and control weight gain. As the name implies, the program encourages us to look at our plates in a new way with greater emphasis on plant-based foods and closer monitoring of portion size. Plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans should represent two-thirds of your plate.

Meat, fish and poultry should account for the remaining third. This is the reverse of the typical American dinner plate where the meat is the focus of the meal. Instead, meat is used as a side dish or condiment. Portion size is also considered important. Americans have become used to larger servings of foods and this has been a factor in the prevalence of obesity. Weight control can be achieved by learning what standard portion sizes are and how many portions of different foods should be included in your daily diet. For more information on the New American Plate, as well as to order pamphlets on the program, visit the AICR web site.

Glutamine: Is it a Magic Supplement?

Glutamine is an amino acid usually available in the body, but deficiencies can occur during metabolic stress. Glutamine is the preferred fuel for the sensitive, fast-growing cells that make up your gastrointestinal tract, including the mouth and throat areas. Glutamine is found predominantly in protein rich foods and it is also synthesized in the body from glutamic acid. Many researchers now believe that supplementation of glutamine may be beneficial during many cancer treatments to minimize the toxic effects on the gastrointestinal tract. For example, recent studies have shown that using glutamine as a "swish and swallow" oral solution may help reduce the severity of painful mouth sores usually associated with radiation to the head and/or neck areas. Glutamine is safe and may also be helpful in reducing diarrhea resulting from abdominal radiation or certain chemotherapy regimens. Check with your doctor first to see if glutamine is appropriate for you. A good source for more glutamine information is Cambridge Nutraceuticals.

Coping with Cancer Treatment

Remedies for Thick Mucus

Effects of cancer treatments and medications can cause thick saliva or mucus production in the throat or mouth areas. This can interfere with eating, sleeping, and social activities.

Some helpful remedies to reduce mucus or 'thin' it out are listed below.

  • Drinking ample fluids (48-64 ounces per day) throughout the day and eating moist foods can help thin out mucus
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol
  • Drink pineapple juice before meals. The enzymes in some tropical juices helps thin saliva
  • Add lemonade or papaya juice to Sprite or Gingerale
  • Moisten foods with gravy, sauce, broth, or butter
  • Suck on sour, sugar-free lemon candy or frozen grapes

Cancer Prevention Pantry: Mushrooms

Broccoli: Bursting with Benefits

This cruciferous vegetable is full of powerful nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and fiber. More importantly, researchers have discovered that broccoli is rich in substances called isothiocyanates (mainly sulforaphane) - natural chemicals shown to stimulate the body's production of its own cancer-fighting substances, called "phase two enzymes". According to research, these enzymes neutralize potential cancer causing substances before they have a chance to damage the DNA of healthy cells. Even if you don't like broccoli, other cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, kale, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and bok choy all appear to lower risk for many forms of cancer.

Broccoli, Orange, and Watercress Salad
From www.cookinglight.com
  • 2 medium oranges
  • 1 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. horseradish
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • Dash of pepper
  • 2 cups small broccoli florets
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion, separated into rings
  • 2 cups trimmed watercress

Peel and section oranges over a large bowl, and squeeze membranes to extract juice. Set orange sections aside, and reserve 1 TB juice. Discard orange membranes. Add the oil and next 4 ingredients to reserved orange juice. Stir well; set aside. Steam the broccoli, covered, 1-1/2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Rinse broccoli under cold water ; drain well. Add the broccoli, orange sections, onion, and watercress to the orange juice mixture and toss well. Makes 2 servings.

One serving: 121 calories, 4gm fat, 8 gm fiber

Ask The Dietitian


A friend of mine has recommended I take a supplement called Blue-Green Algae. Is this okay and will it help my immune system as it claims?


Blue-green algae, also called spirulina, is one of many forms of algae used in algae supplement products. Another common form of algae is called chlorella. The blue-green color of spirulina comes from its high chlorophyll and phycocyanin content which has been studied for potential anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antiviral properties. Spirulina is a source of protein and some vitamins and minerals, namely iron. However, it is a more expensive protein source than equivalent amounts of dietary sources and it doesn't take the place of fruits and vegetables in the diet. Although this supplement contains vitamins and minerals, the amounts are unknown. There is not enough scientific research on blue-green algae to recommend it as an immune stimulant. Also, some spirulina products are not tested for safety, and have been found to be contaminated with microbes and/or heavy metals that can cause liver toxicity. Use of these products is not recommended during any cancer.

Meet Your Dietitians

Katrina Claghorn, MS, RD
Katrina Claghorn, MS, RD is a registered dietitian at the The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania Before specializing in oncology Katrina worked in medical nutrition and with patients with eating disorders. Since 1995 she has specialized in oncology nutrition. She now works as an outpatient dietitian in her role as the nutritionist for the The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania. She is also a section editor on nutrition and diet for OncoLink.
Ellen Sweeney, RD
Ellen Sweeney, RD is a registered dietitian at the The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania. Ellen has worked in several nutrition position, including in-patient acute care, cardiac nutrition, elderly nutrition, and clinical research. She has specialized in oncology nutrition for the past four years and currently works with outpatients at the The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania.