Nutrition and mental health for chronic illnesses

Chronic illnesses are very tricky to deal with, and these make you frustrated and drained. It happens because you cannot see satisfying progress despite pulling all your weight.

Chronic illnesses are usually categorized as any disease that lasts more than three months and gets intense with time. I am sure you all are terrified even by reading its literal meaning (1).

Living with these conditions not only poses physical challenges but also takes a toll on mental health. The constant management, potential complications, and lifestyle adjustments can lead to heightened stress, anxiety, depression, and overall reduced quality of life. Moreover, the psychological impact of chronic illness often exacerbates symptoms and hampers treatment outcomes.

This blog will cover the most common chronic illnesses, which are cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, and arthritis. Maybe most of you have seen these diseases affecting your elders or family members.


Diabetes mellitus is a disease in which either patients are not able to produce insulin or are insulin resistant. They have fasting blood sugar above 126mg/dl. In both cases, they need to manage their blood sugar levels. If the patients are unaware of the foods that can spike their blood glucose levels, they might suffer daily.

Effects of hypertension on daily life.Hypertension:

Hypertension, aka blood pressure, impacts the daily life of the patients. Its patients can feel anxiety, severe headaches, dizziness, and shortness of breath. It results in heart disease and stroke. Hypertensive should vigilantly control their intake of salt and preservatives. 


Cancer is one of the most haunting diseases that make you believe that you are going to die the next day. Your brain should be tuned to positivity and hope. You must believe that you can recover and deserve to live. This thinking generates a positive wave inside your body. It can increase the effectiveness of the medication and treatment.

Which nutrition is recommended for chronic illnesses?

Let’s dig into recommendations for each food group:


While choosing meat, you should opt for low-fat sources. Consuming fatty fish (sardines and salmon), fatty liver, organs of lamb, or cow meat can increase the cholesterol deposits in the body. This can lead to the deposition of fats in arteries that can cause a heart attack.  

You can enjoy meat like chicken, tuna, snapper, and low-fat fish (tilapia, bawal, cod, and flounder).


I wonder how many of you eat raw vegetables daily. It is recommended to have 1-3 cups of raw vegetables a day (2). These provide you with lots of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. 

Make sure to include all groups of vegetables in your diet, that are green leafy vegetables, red and orange vegetables, starchy ones, beans, and peas. 

If you are a diabetic patient then you must consider the allowed portion of starchy vegetables (potatoes).

Variety of fruitsFruits:

If you want to boost your immunity, you must rush to eat citrus fruits rich in Vitamin C. It works as an antiviral and antitumor agent (3). Therefore, it is required to deal with cancer and heart problems and for healing. So don’t miss out on your favorite fruit. You can pick the fruits from the image given below.

Image sourced by: MyFoodData (4)

Remember, if you are a diabetic patient, you should eat low glycemic load fruits. These fruits will not raise your blood glucose drastically. I have prepared a diabetic fruit list so you can enjoy fruits while you are safe!

Diabetic Fruits List


Allowed portion size

Glycemic Load




19.2 kcal


1/2 cup 


30.8 kcal


1/2 large apple 


32.5 kcal


1/2 fruit


101 kcal


1/2 cup diced


22.8 kcal


1 fruit 


67.6 kcal


2 small 


59.2 kcal


1 medium 


46.4 kcal



33.6 kcal


1 medium 


37.4 kcal


2 medium


60.8 kcal


½ fruit 


25.6 kcal


1 small 


45.1 kcal


½ fruit 


38.25 kcal


For heart disease, choose low-fat or skim milk, reduced-fat yoghurt, and cheeses to manage cholesterol levels. People with diabetes can choose plain Greek yoghurt, unsweetened almond or soy milk, and cottage cheese for better blood sugar control. While cancer patients should look for low-fat dairy options and hormone-free products.


For all chronic illnesses, it is recommended to consume whole wheat products like buckwheat, maize, whole-wheat bread, flour, or bran rice. These fibre-rich grains contribute to better control of glucose levels and promote heart health.

How do chronically ill patients manage mental health?

Mental health is equally important as physical health. It is affected a lot when a person cannot continue their current lifestyle. They feel oppressed and unheard when asked to make a sudden shift.

For example, when a hypertensive patient is asked to limit smoking, then they might feel helpless. In such cases, they should look for support groups. There are separate groups for different diseases where people share their feelings about the new change and their queries. Peer support can prove to be a blessing in disguise.

Beyond Type 2 is for diabetics, PERSUADE (5) is for diabetics, hypertensive and cancer patients. Moreover, you can join multiple groups for cancer support through this link.


Besides this, patients who have stamina must exercise. It can enhance mood by releasing endorphins, reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression in chronically ill patients. It also improves sleep quality and self-esteem. Additionally, physical activity can mitigate stress, providing a sense of control and empowerment amidst health challenges.

You can make a routine of walking for 30 mins or hitting the gym 3-4 times a week. This will allow you to interact with nature and new people. It will create a positive vibe inside you.


If you don’t have strength for exercise, then you can do yoga and meditation or say affirmations to yourself. For example, “I will recover soon.” “My body is strong and capable of beating my disease.” Etc. This strategy will surely help you to maintain your mental health.

Mental health matters for chronic illnessesCounseling and therapy:

You can also seek help from mental health professionals. They can guide you well and channel your feelings in a good way. You will feel relaxed and light after sharing the feelings that were disturbing you. So don’t shy away from booking your appointment for counseling!

If you need help on how nutrition can help you, please feel free to connect with our dietitian or download our mobile app to get in touch.

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