Finding the time, energy and even the appetite to eat right can be a challenge while undergoing cancer treatment—but it's precisely the time your body needs nutrients the most.

Smoothies blend foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and liquids, like dairy or water, into a beverage. They can provide a quick way for survivors to get nutrients, says Daniella Chace, a nutritionist who lives in Port Townsend, Washington. Chace is the author of Healing Smoothies, which offers 100 recipes developed for cancer patients during and after treatment.

“[Cancer patients and survivors] just want to know what to do right now,” Chace says. “What’s the simplest thing that they can do to get those nutrients into their bodies?”

Tropical Lime

Follow this recipe to make a delicious smoothie.

1/2 frozen banana
1 lime wedge
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 cup fresh mango
1/2 cup frozen green tea ice cubes
2 tablespoons shredded unsweetened coconut
2 tablespoons hulled hemp seed

Combine all ingredients in a high-power blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Drink immediately.

Reprinted with permission from Healing Smoothies.

While no single food or ingredient has been shown to prevent cancer or reduce recurrence, a healthy diet with a lot of fruits and vegetables is beneficial to overall health. Each recipe in Chace’s book was inspired by cell, human or animal studies that explore the potential roles of ingredients, such as green tea and turmeric, in cancer prevention or recovery.

Smoothies may also help with side effects of treatment. For example, a cold smoothie, with an antioxidant such as curcumin, can help soothe chemotherapy-induced mouth sores, and the mild flavor of creamier smoothies made with coconut, almond or cashew milk can help minimize nausea, says Chace, who has worked with cancer patients and survivors for 20 years.

Smoothie-Making Tips​

Take these steps to create a nutritious treat.

  1. Reduce sugar by avoiding or limiting sweeteners such as table sugar, honey and agave.
  2. Increase protein. Use hulled hemp or chia seeds or a vegan protein powder.
  3. Start with a liquid base that’s low in sugar such as coconut milk or water, green tea or currant juice. You also could freeze the liquid into ice cubes.
  4. Use herbs, such as basil, and spices such as vanilla beans, turmeric and ginger.
  5. Wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly to avoid possible infections for immune-compromised people in treatment.​

For those interested in making smoothies at home, Chace recommends starting with a low-sugar base, such as cultured coconut milk, and adding strawberries or wild blueberries, ice cubes made with green tea, and a protein, such as hulled hemp seeds. People undergoing cancer treatment often need a sizable amount of protein to help them recover from treatment and prevent infection and muscle wasting, Chace says.

Cancer patients and survivors should aim to consume essential nutrients every day—and making smoothies can be one way to get closer to that goal.