What are the smoothies for cancer patients?

Having cancer and going through cancer treatment can take a toll on your body. Cancer itself, as well as treatments like chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery can all affect your ability to eat and digest food properly. This can lead to unwanted weight loss, loss of muscle mass, and malnutrition, which can negatively impact your treatment outcomes. While you may not feel like eating solid foods during this time, getting adequate nutrition from other sources is extremely important. Smoothies can be a great option for getting nutrients in liquid form when you need an easy-to-digest meal or snack.

Why are smoothies good for cancer patients?

There are several reasons why smoothies can benefit cancer patients:

  • Smoothies provide nutrients in an easily digestible form. When your body is struggling with nausea, vomiting, mouth sores, or lack of appetite from cancer treatments, smoothies allow you to get down nutrients without having to chew or swallow solids.
  • They can help you meet increased calorie and protein needs to prevent malnutrition and maintain strength. Cancer patients often need more calories and protein than normal. Smoothies provide an efficient way to get extra nutrition from nutrient-dense ingredients.
  • Smoothies can help ensure adequate intake of fruits and vegetables. Getting enough micronutrients from produce can help support immune function and healing. Smoothies make it easy to incorporate servings of different fruits and veggies.
  • You can adjust the nutrition profile of smoothies. You can add protein powders, healthy fats, yogurt, or nut butters to tailor your smoothie to your specific needs.
  • Smoothies can alleviate treatment side effects. Some research indicates that specific fruits and vegetables in smoothies may help lessen common side effects like nausea, diarrhea, mouth sores, and constipation.
  • They require minimal chewing. If chewing and swallowing solid foods is difficult or painful, smoothies provide key nutrients without having to chew.
  • Smoothies are versatile and can be used as a snack or meal replacement when needed. You can sip them anytime throughout the day.

The liquid consistency of smoothies makes them a versatile and convenient nutritional option. Your medical team can help determine if smoothies may be useful for you depending on your specific condition and needs.

What to include in smoothies for cancer patients

Smoothies are highly customizable, which is great for cancer patients who may have changing nutritional needs and treatment side effects. Some nutritious ingredients to consider adding include:


Fruits provide antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds that can support your body during cancer treatment. Some good options include:

  • Berries: blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries
  • Bananas: a creamy base when blended; provides potassium
  • Avocados: healthy fats and fiber
  • Apples: provide fiber to help manage diarrhea
  • Pineapple: contains bromelain enzyme that may help reduce inflammation
  • Citrus fruits: oranges, grapefruits – high in vitamin C
  • Mangos: high in vitamins A and C
  • Cherries: contain anthocyanins and antioxidants


Vegetables add nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.Consider adding:

  • Spinach, kale, lettuce: leafy greens are packed with nutrients
  • Carrots: great source of beta carotene
  • Sweet potatoes: provide vitamin A, fiber, potassium
  • Beets: may have anti-cancer benefits from phytonutrients like betalains
  • Tomatoes: provide lycopene antioxidant
  • Broccoli, cauliflower: contain sulforaphane with anti-cancer effects
  • Ginger: may help alleviate nausea
  • Turmeric: contains curcumin that has anti-inflammatory properties

Protein foods

Protein is important for preserving muscle mass and strength when battling cancer. Add in:

  • Greek yogurt: provides protein, calcium; can make smoothies creamy
  • Cottage cheese: high in protein and calcium
  • Nut butters: look for all-natural peanut, almond, cashew
  • Chia seeds or flaxseeds: plant-based protein and fiber
  • Protein powders: whey, plant-based options like pea or rice protein
  • Tofu: plant-based complete protein

Healthy fats

Fats provide energy, essential fatty acids, and aid the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Incorporate:

  • Avocados
  • Coconut oil or flakes
  • Olive oil or olives
  • Nuts like almonds, walnuts, cashews
  • Nut butters
  • Flaxseed or chia seeds
  • Full-fat coconut milk or Greek yogurt


Fluids form the liquid base of the smoothie. Use:

  • Water
  • Unsweetened almond milk, oat milk or coconut milk
  • Coconut water
  • Full-fat milk if tolerated
  • Green tea or herbal tea
  • Fresh juices like carrot juice or green juice

Boosts and mix-ins

Other items you can add to smoothies include:

  • Ground flax or chia for fiber and healthy fats
  • Cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, black pepper, nutmeg for flavor and benefits
  • Vanilla extract, honey, maple syrup, pitted dates to sweeten if needed
  • Ice cubes to chill
  • Hemp seeds for protein, omega-3s
  • Green powder supplements like wheatgrass or spirulina

Nutritious smoothie recipes for cancer patients

Here are some healthy smoothie recipe ideas that provide a mix of protein, fruits, veggies, and other nutrients:

The Fighter

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen mango chunks
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
  • Ice cubes as needed

Green Protein Powerhouse

  • 1 cup coconut water or unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 cup kale or spinach
  • 1 green apple, cored and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter or peanut butter
  • 1 scoop unflavored protein powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon matcha green tea powder (optional)
  • Ice cubes as needed

Purple Produce Blend

  • 1 cup unsweetened cashew milk
  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries
  • 1 small beet, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen pineapple chunks
  • 1/2 medium banana
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon nut butter
  • 1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup (optional)

Tropical Turmeric Smoothie

  • 1 cup light coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup diced mango
  • 1/2 cup diced pineapple
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/2 cup chopped kale or spinach
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup (optional)
  • Ice cubes as needed

Green Avocado Cream

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk
  • 1 avocado, pitted and peeled
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 kiwi, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons nut butter
  • 1-2 pitted dates or other sweetener if desired
  • Ice cubes as needed

Tips for making smoothies easier to tolerate

Here are some tips to help make smoothies gentler on sensitive digestive systems:

  • Go easy on raw vegetables/greens. Cook them or use smaller amounts.
  • Remove seeds, peels, and skins which can aggravate digestive issues.
  • Limit high-fiber ingredients like raw spinach, kale, chia seeds, and flaxseeds.
  • Avoid very cold smoothies. Use frozen fruit sparingly or let smoothies sit for 5-10 minutes after blending.
  • Add a pinch of ginger, mint, or chamomile tea to help calm nausea.
  • Use semi-ripe bananas instead of ripe bananas, which tend to be higher in fiber.
  • Add probiotic yogurt for extra nutrients and gut-soothing effects.
  • Dilute thicker smoothies with water, coconut water, or herbal tea.
  • Use a straw to drink smoothies to avoid excess air intake.
  • Refrigerate leftover smoothies and drink within 24 hours.

Should cancer patients avoid certain foods in smoothies?

Some foods may be best limited or avoided in smoothies for cancer patients depending on your medical condition and specific tolerances. For example:

  • Cruciferous raw vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts. Cook before using.
  • High-fiber foods: raw greens, flaxseed, chia seeds, beans/legumes, bran cereals.
  • Spicy foods: fresh chili peppers, horseradish, black pepper. Use ginger sparingly.
  • High-fat foods: excessive oils, coconut milk, heavy creams, fatty meats.
  • Gas-producing foods: cauliflower, cabbage, carbonated beverages, beans.
  • Sugar alcohols: xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol. Can cause bloating.

Check with your doctor or medical team before adding new ingredients to your diet. They can provide guidance on foods to include or avoid based on your specific cancer type and treatment plan.

Should cancer patients take any precautions with smoothies?

It’s important for cancer patients to take some basic food safety precautions when making and consuming smoothies:

  • Wash all produce thoroughly under running water before use.
  • Scrub firm produce like melons with a clean produce brush.
  • Avoid unpasteurized juices and dairy products.
  • Use pasteurized eggs when adding raw eggs to smoothies.
  • Discard any smoothies left at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
  • Store smoothies in the refrigerator for no more than 24 hours.
  • Select frozen fruit and vegetables that are marked “frozen before packaging.”
  • Rinse blender thoroughly between uses.
  • Clean blender blades properly to avoid bacterial growth.

Those with weakened immune systems should take extra care to prevent exposure to harmful bacteria or other contaminants when preparing smoothies.

Are there any smoothie safety concerns during cancer treatment?

Certain cancer treatments may require you to be cautious about raw foods or other smoothie ingredients:

  • Radiation therapy: You may need to avoid high-fiber plant materials if you experience digestive issues like diarrhea, gas or cramping.
  • Chemotherapy: Check with your doctor about avoiding specific foods like grapefruit, turmeric, and green tea that can interact with some chemotherapy drugs.
  • Surgery: Avoid raw fruits and vegetables both before and after major surgery, as they increase infection risk.
  • Immunosuppression: Those with weakened immune systems should not consume raw sprouts or unpasteurized products.
  • Mouth or throat sores: Opt for smooth, creamy smoothies that require little to no chewing until mouth sores have healed.

Talk to your healthcare team about any specific dietary precautions you may need to take before adding new foods or ingredients to your smoothies while undergoing treatment.

Should smoothies replace meals for cancer patients?

Smoothies can serve as a great occasional meal replacement when you are unable to eat solid foods or need extra calories and nutrition. However, smoothies don’t necessarily provide complete, balanced nutrition on their own. Some tips:

  • Aim to incorporate a source of protein and healthy fats when having a smoothie meal.
  • Pair your smoothie with a whole grain toast or small side salad to add fiber, nutrients.
  • Limit meal replacement smoothies to 1-2 times per day at most.
  • Don’t drink smoothies too quickly. Sip them slowly as you would regular meals.
  • Discuss how often it’s appropriate to have smoothies instead of solid meals with your healthcare team.

While very useful in some circumstances, smoothies should not completely replace balanced, nutrient-rich solid meals in your diet on an ongoing basis. Work with your medical team to ensure your smoothies complement your diet and treatment needs.


Smoothies can be a nutritious and convenient dietary option for cancer patients struggling with treatment side effects. Focus on ingredients that provide protein, healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, and fluids. Avoid ingredients that may irritate digestion issues. Take precautions for safe food handling and preparation. While useful in moderation, smoothies should not fully replace meals. They can be a great complementary addition when solid foods are not appealing or well-tolerated. Discuss how to incorporate smoothies into your diet with your healthcare team to meet your specific nutritional needs during cancer treatment.

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