Monday, September 21, 2009

How to gain weight on a vegan diet - for those with cancer

My brother has had cancer for 2 years - an ongoing and frustrating battle.

In good news, he is still around and there are still treatment options available to him.
In bad news, he still has cancer and he's losing weight - he's now 70kg which is pretty slim for a 6' tall man.

He has gone vegan for the last year which is great. But its very hard to find good advice from doctors on what he should eat to gain weight. For a start, doctors get very little tuition on nutrition, diet and disease. Many tell him to eat meat because he needs protein (which immediately shows their lack of knowledge on vegan diets).

Visiting the cancer websites and their offerings on how to gain weight all suggest very unhealthy options (and most of them are non-vegan) such as cheese, cream, full-fat milk, fatty meat.... all the worst culprits for cultivating this disease in the first place.

My brother is avoiding all fried foods (not even cooking with oil, just adding it raw), and all animal products except the odd egg. And he is incredibly unhungry.

I would love some ideas on what high-calorie, high protein, high fat vegan foods I could feed him. Anything to keep the weight on, without having to resort to processed or unhealthy foods would be great.


  1. Hi Niki, I'm a vegan med student and know how single-minded doctors can be on the vegan diet issue. My advice is to up the nuts, seeds and oils. Add flax seed oil to everything, stir nut butters into casseroles and soups, sprinkle chopped nuts and seeds into everything. Another great way of upping calorie intake is with smoothies. To your standard smoothie mix, add goodies such as LSA and vegan protein powders (I think there's one called phytoprotein which is meant to be good, or something like spirulina). Hope this helps! Georgie

  2. Thanks Georgie, that's great! Sounds pretty easy too to just add extra oils and nuts into everything instead of having to come up with entirely new meals. I will pass on your advice. It's so nice to get some advice on weight gain that doesn't insist on animal products. BTW, LSA - does this need to be freshly ground? I have heard prepackaged stuff has lost a lot of nutrients?

  3. The crew at may have some simple solutions. Even I (fairly inept as a chef) can make any of the recipes often posted there, & simple filtering will reduce the amount of scanning you have to do to find something suitable for your Bro which is high-cal but otherwise healthy.

    Found you via the Melbourne Vegan Planet, hi from Albany, WA.

    I'm a mostly-vegetarian (Vegan when possible) but have an unfair metabolism: I suffer from unusually high cholesterol, even with a quite moderate blood pressure.

    I've noticed that mass (dunno about chol) can increase rapidly as a result of emotional shock: I now weigh 106kg, dropping about 1kg a week; I got that down to 92kg by May last year (at a rate of 2-3kg a week), then a "friend" willing to help me recover from the total trashing my life took in December 2007, suddenly re-trashed my life & sent me up to 119kg, only 9kg short of where it got to during the original trashing.

    So, if I could hand your Bro about 20kg, that would seem to be a mutually beneficial arrangement. (-:

  4. Georgie, some personal experience of mine WRT diet:

    My first wife left me because her father had convinced her she was going to die on a veggo diet (not even Vegan). She had constantly (monthly?) had blood tests to check her iron, which was always fine.

    4 months after she silently vanished (to her parents' house, it turned out, after having slept (while living with me) with another bloke for a month before shooting through) & hit the meat big time, she had another test... & was found iron-deficient.

    My GP has been constantly telling me (from about Mar 2008 up to about June this year) to decrease my cholesterol intake AND cease being veggo... go figure.

  5. Hi Leon, sounds like you have been through the ringer! Poor you! Does your cholesterol still stay high when you avoid all animal products?

    I certainly feel for your with GP advice about eating meat - so frustrating and hard to bite your tongue and ask exactly how much modern literature and science they have read on the subject of nutrition or whether it's just the stuff provided for 'education' from the Dairy Industry and Agribusiness.

    Thanks so much for the link, I'm off to have a look now and see what I can find to cook for him.

    PS. Have you checked out ?
    Excellent, practical and inspiring blog written by a (once) diabetic who who has tackled her weight, cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes through her diet.

    PPS. Hand over those 20kg, I sure could do with them!

  6. Dammit! I just deleted my comment!

    Here are my suggestions, and I am a vegan who has no problems what-so-bloody-ever putting on weight! I'm assuming we're after healthy foods here, so I wont' even mention chocolate, chips and BBQ Shapes!

    - avocado, especially on toast
    - olive oil. Roast stuff, put it in pasta sauce, drizzle it on stuff.
    - peanut butter, peanut butter.
    - snack and graze, especially on seeds and nuts
    - pasta, rice and bread pack a calorie punch, as do dried fruits
    - serve big portions; you will eat much more than you think you will
    - home-popped popcorn, in olive oil: not really outrageously fatty, but full of carbs and easy to graze on.

    I hope this helps your brother gain some healthy weight!

  7. Miss T, that's so helpful. Didn't even think of popcorn, and GREAT idea about avocado - how did I miss that?

    Passed on your ideas already, thanks so much!

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