Week of December 10, 2012
Contact: Alice Bender, (202) 328-7744

AICR HealthTalk
Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: Are the green and orange colored tortilla wraps more nutritious than regular tortillas since they are made with vegetables?

A: No. So little spinach and tomatoes are used to make “spinach” and “tomato” tortillas that the nutritional difference between colored and regular tortillas is negligible. The four to six percent of daily value for vitamin A or C that may be found on labels of some of these specialty tortillas is not enough to qualify them as a good source of these nutrients. It’s more important to choose tortillas that are made from whole grain and not refined flour, and to pay attention to calorie differences stemming from tortilla size and the amount of fat added. Make vegetables a major part of the filling, and perhaps have an extra salad to accompany your wrap to get the important nutritional value vegetables provide.

Q: Are there tricks for dealing with taste changes that occur during chemotherapy or radiation treatment of cancer?

A: Taste changes affect some people more than others, but usually gradually disappear a few months after the end of treatments. If food seems too bland, make it more flavorful with extra herbs, or (as long as you don’t have mouth or throat sores) add lemon or lime juice, salt or spices. If food seems too salty, counter by adding sweet flavorings, such as fruit, honey, molasses, or sweet spices such as cinnamon. For food that is too sweet, try adding salty or acidic foods or flavorings, such as lemon juice or buttermilk. If food seems too bitter, producing an aversion to meat, choose other protein sources such as poultry, fish, eggs, tofu or beans. You can reduce metallic tastes that appear in foods by eating from plastic silverware. Overall, you can make food more flavorful by using marinades and sauces, highlighting the types of flavors that most need to be added based on these taste differences. When food tastes and smells become offensive, you may tolerate cold foods better than hot foods, which tend to have more aroma. Make sure to talk with your cancer care team about mouth hygiene, perhaps using mouth rinses to keep the mouth clean and to reduce problems with sores and bacterial growth. Your team can also offer suggestions to deal with a dry mouth from decreased saliva, if that develops. Ask if your cancer center has a Registered Dietitian who can help you plan meals that fit your lifestyle and tastes and meet your nutritional needs. This is a time when being proactive – before limited food tolerances affect your health – is the best approach.

Our Mission: The American Institute for Cancer Research champions the latest and most authoritative scientific research from around the world on cancer prevention and survival through diet, weight and physical activity, so that we can help people make informed lifestyle choices to reduce their cancer risk.

We have contributed over $105 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. Find evidence-based tools and information for lowering cancer risk, including AICR’s Recommendations for Cancer Prevention, at


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