fresh papaya

Cooling Off

Hot weather isn’t the only reason you may want to get some cold foods and drinks this summer. Consuming chilly foods and beverages may be beneficial for patients going through radiation and/or chemotherapy for many reasons.

Common side effects of these treatments are painful mouth sores, irritation and inflammation caused by a condition called mucositis. While there is no complete cure, some patients find that chilled foods and drinks are easier to tolerate than their hot counterparts.  Patients who also experience nausea or vomiting after treatments also may find that heated foods have stronger smells and flavors, making them harder to tolerate.

Finding chilled food options

There are numerous ways to find delicious cold foods, especially during the summer months. Local grocery stores, ice cream parlors and smoothie shops are great places to look for soothing solutions, but there also are a lot of options for those who like to cook at home.

The papaya pineapple smoothie recipe found below is great for those patients who like to make fruity smoothies in the comfort of their own kitchens.  Not only is this treat full of great flavor, some studies have shown that certain enzymes in papaya may help improve symptoms of a dry mouth, and this fruit also has an abundance of cancer-fighting antioxidants.

More than smoothies

If you are tired of the typical ice cream or smoothie, try something a little more savory, such as the “Cooling Cucumber Avocado Soup” (recipe below).  This soup is not only refreshing way to soothe a sore mouth, but the avocado also has numerous health benefits, including good fats, protein and vitamins. For those who do not like avocado, substituting plain Greek yogurt is one way to maintain the health benefits without sacrificing the flavor.

While cool foods and drinks typically are easier for patients with sore mouths to consume, it is important to remember that not all chilled dishes are created equally:  Some patients experiencing mouth sores may find that sour or tart dishes, such as citrusy smoothies, can irritate their mouths even more, while some patients find that these flavors make their foods more appealing and easier to eat.

Be cautious when trying new dishes to find flavors that work best for you.  Once that’s done, these foods can be prepared in advance and kept in the refrigerator and enjoyed for 3-5 days.



Fresh papaya can be soothing.

Papaya Pineapple Smoothie

  • ½ cup chopped papaya
  • 2 cups chopped fresh pineapple
  • 8 ice cubes
  • 1 cup rice milk or almond milk
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • ¼ cup coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon finely ground flax seeds
  • ½ teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ½ teaspoon maple syrup

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Serve immediately.

Variation: Add 1 tablespoon of unrefined virgin coconut oil for additional healthy fat and calories.

For extra protein, add a scoop of whey protein powder.

If using frozen fruit, leave out ice cubes as the smoothie will be thick enough without them.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Storage: Store in an airtight glass container in the refrigerator for 2 days. Shake well before serving.

Per serving: Calories: 125; Total Fat: 4.7 g (2.8 g saturated, .7 g mono-unsaturated); carbohydrates: 21 g; Protein 2 g; Fiber 2 g: Sodium 20 mg.



Cucumber avocado soup with shrimp offers good fats and protein.

Cooling Cucumber Avocado Soup

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 lbs English cucumbers – peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
  • 2 ripe avocados, pitted and peeled
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ¼ teaspoon agave nectar
  • sea salt
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro

Pour 1 cup of the water into the blender, then add the cucumbers, avocados, lime juice, agave nectar, ¼ teaspoon of salt, and the cayenne. Blend until extremely smooth, gradually adding more water until you reach the desired consistency. Taste and adjust the amount of salt, adding as much as ¾ teaspoon more. Chill for at least 2 hours, then stir in the mint and cilantro just before serving.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Storage: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Per serving: Calories 95; Total Fat: 7.2 g (1 g saturated, 4.5 g mono-unsaturated); Carbohydrates 8 g; Protein 2 g;  Fiber 4 g; Sodium 105 mg


Recipes from The Cancer Fighting Kitchen by Rebecca Katz with Mat Edelson


Post by Jenna Brammell

Dietetic Intern, University of Kentucky