Savor Health

Protein: The Building Block for Recovery

Protein, one of the three major macronutrients in our diet, is critical for maintaining health especially during times of stress. Undergoing cancer treatment of any form (radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery) puts are bodies under a great deal of stress. This is not only something that we only feel emotionally, as it can damage your body as well. During this time, it is of utmost importance to consume a proper amount of calories and protein in order to promote healing and recovery, as well as prevent malnutrition [i].


Importance of Maintaining Proper Protein Intake

It is extremely important to maintain proper dietary intake during treatment and recovery. Not only is eating a healthy diet going to support your overall health, but it may also aid in the success of your treatment and keep you out of the hospital. Ample research has found that poor nutrition status is associated with higher rates of hospital admissions or re-admissions, increased length of hospital stay, reduced quality of life, and mortality in adult oncology patients. Poor nutrition status is also associated with decreased tolerance to chemotherapy and radiation treatment in adults [ii].  Ensuring that you are maintaining proper intake of food is important to your health, and will help you tolerate treatment.


How Much Protein Do I Need?

In general, adults are recommended to consume roughly 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight each day. However, during times of stress, our protein needs increase in order to support healing and recovery. Our very own Jessica Iannotta MS, RD, CSO, CDN recommends that most cancer patients consume between 1.0 – 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram body weight. For those patients who may be malnourished or find that they are beginning to lose weight and muscle mass at a high rate, 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram body weight may be beneficial.

To calculate how much protein you should be aiming for, calculate your body weight in kilograms first by dividing your weight in pounds by 2.2. Then multiply this value by 1.0 and 1.2 to find your desirable protein range. The majority of cancer patients can aim towards the lower end of the range. However, if you are finding that you are losing weight during treatment, increasing your protein consumption will help increase your overall calorie intake and possibly protect against excess loss of muscle mass.


Should I Consider Taking a Protein Supplement?

If you are consuming a proper diet through oral intake, it is likely that you are meeting your protein needs. In fact, most Americans consume more than enough protein on a daily basis [iii].  However, if you find that you have lost your appetite, or have trouble eating due to side-effects of your treatment, it is possible that your diet is not providing you with the proper protein that your body needs to stay healthy and recover.

If you are unsure of whether or not you are consuming enough protein, evaluate what types of foods you usually eat in your diet. Foods that are high in protein include: meat, dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, and legumes such as lentils, beans, and peas. If you typically consume a diet with a wide variety of these foods, it is likely you are consuming an adequate amount of protein each day. In this case, taking a protein supplement would not provide you with any benefits other than that of supplementing additional calories.

To start, you should always try and attempt to provide your body with the nutrients that it needs from whole food products. If you find that you are having trouble consuming enough in the form of solid foods, you may benefit from supplementing your diet with liquids that are high in calories and contain a significant amount of protein. These can include smoothies or milkshakes made with yogurt, milk, or ice cream. However, if you can only handle small portions at a time or are unable to make a smoothie or milkshake for yourself, you may think about trying a protein supplement option.


How to Pick Your Protein Supplements

There are thousands of protein supplements available in the marketplace! From protein drinks to protein bars, there is a never ending variety of options available to you. There are so many options out there in the marketplace, going about finding a healthy option can be difficult. There are a few tips a tricks when looking for a supplement.

  1. Watch Out for Sugars –  Lots of nationwide brands and food companies add a great deal of sugars to their products. The protein energy bars are the biggest offenders in this category. One bar we checked out advertised as “high protein” had nearly 15g of sugar, which accounts for 60 of the 170 calories in the bar. That’s 35% of calories from sugar! Another protein bar advertised that it had 20 grams of protein, but it also contains 20 grams of sugar. When looking for a protein bar, try aiming for a bar that has less than 10 grams of sugar. And don’t be fooled, sugar can hide in many forms. Sugar can also be labeled as: dextrose, fructose, maltodextrin, corn syrup solids, tapioca syrup, brown rice syrup, sucrose, glucose, and cane syrup. Check the label. If one of those ingredients is listed in the top three ingredients, look for a better option.
  2. Keep the Ingredients Simple –  Some protein supplements can be chalk full of ingredients, the company has to shrink the print in order to fit all the ingredients on the label! Look for products that have few ingredients, especially ones that you can pronounce.
  3. No Single Source Is Best – Protein supplements use different sources for proteins. Whey, casein, hemp, soy, or rice, are all different sources that you may have seen in protein supplements on the market. No specific protein is better than the other. Protein molecules are made up of a string of amino acids, which get broken down in the stomach during digestion. Though each protein source may contain a different variety or concentration of certain amino acids, they ultimately serve the same function. You can choose from a variety of options based on your dietary preferences. If you do not have any dietary restrictions, whey protein is a dairy based protein that blends well in liquids. If you are vegan, choose from a plant based option. Many options out there are gluten free as well. Just read the label carefully if you have any special dietary restrictions. 
  4. Look for Organic Options – Many protein supplements contain some form of corn or soy, which is typically from GMO sources unless it is labeled organic or GMO free. Look for organic or non-GMO sources such as Orgain or ENU. These products also keep the ingredients rather simple compared to some other national brands, and are relatively low in sugar. Both products contain 25 grams of protein and each have less than 15% of calories from sugar, all in one small 11 oz bottle. Orgain is available in a vegan formula.
  5. Keep An Eye Out for Quality – Unlike the strict regulations that the FDA requires regarding prescription drugs, supplements are entirely unregulated by the government. These items are not required to be tested for any claims they may make, or for the efficacy or purity of their product. Some companies have implemented quality control measures for their products by third party organizations, however this is completely optional. If you are looking into buying a protein supplement, play it safe. Be sure to buy products that are manufactured by companies you trust.


[i] Claghorn, Katrina. Protein Needs During Cancer Treatment. OncoLink. Published December 23, 2014. Accessed December 16, 2015.
[ii] Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Evidence Analysis Library. “ONC: Nutrition Status and Outcomes in Adult Oncology Patients (2013)”. Accessed 16 December 2015.
[iii] Fulgoni VL III. Current protein intake in America: analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2003–2004. Am J Clin Nutr 2008:87(5);1554S-1557S.

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Susan started Savor Health after losing a close friend to a brain tumor and, through that experience, becoming aware of the significant unmet nutritional needs of people with cancer.  Struck by the fact that her friend was told “nutrition doesn’t matter” and “eat whatever you want,” Susan read the evidence-based literature on the subject, interviewed oncologists, oncology nurses and oncology dietitians, as well as patients and caregivers, and found that, in fact, nutrition does matter in oncology. Armed with solid scientific evidence supporting the clinical and quality of life benefits of proper nutrition, Susan left Wall Street and created Savor Health, an AI-based provider of personalized and clinically appropriate nutrition solutions for cancer patients, their caregivers and health enterprises. Susan brings to Savor Health over 25 years of industry experience in healthcare and business as well as expertise in strategy, finance and management.

Susan is an outspoken and tireless advocate for cancer patients receiving proper nutrition and nutrition support before, during and after treatment. She strongly believes that the U. S. healthcare system requires new innovation to transform it into a more holistic and integrated system of care whereby multiple disciplines coordinate care together for the benefit of the whole patient. As part of this, her goal is for nutrition to be an integral component of such an integrated cancer care delivery system.  Susan’s commitment to the field of oncology extends beyond Savor Health to volunteer work at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in pediatrics and as a runner for Fred’s Team to raise money for research at Memorial Sloan Kettering. Susan participated in the Cancer Moonshot in June of 2016 where she was a breakout session group “igniter” tasked with starting and leading discussion. Susan’s first book, the Meals to Heal Cancer Cookbook, was published in March 2016.

In addition to her role as CEO of Savor Health, Susan speaks nationally about the importance of ensuring proper nutrition in the cancer patient and on topics including leadership and startups. She has been a speaker at the Harvard Medical School’s Career Advancement and Leadership Skills for Women in Healthcare, ESMO World Congress on GI Cancer, BioPharm America, AARP Live @50+, Lake Nona Impact Forum, and IIR ePharma Summit.

Prior to starting Savor Health, Susan had a successful career on Wall Street as a healthcare services investment banker working at prestigious firms including Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, Wasserstein Perella and Robertson Stephens. Susan earned a B.A. from Duke University and M.B.A. from the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business.

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Marissa Buchan is a registered dietitian, with advanced practice certifications in Oncology Nutrition (CSO) and Clinical Research (CCRP). She received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Duke University, and Master’s of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. Marissa worked for 10 years at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in both the clinical research and nutrition departments.  In addition to counseling patients before, during, and after cancer therapy, she spearheaded nutrition-research efforts for the bone marrow transplant service. She has co-authored over 20 articles and has a particular interest in the role of nutrition on the intestinal microbiota and its impact on patient outcomes. When Marissa’s not wearing her lab coat, she’s in her apron whipping up healthy and delicious recipes that you can find on her blog, Get Off Your Tush and Cook.

Marissa is Chief Operating Officer of Savor Health where she leads operations working with the technology, clinical, and business development teams and management. Prior to assuming the role of COO in March 2020, Marissa was Vice President, Clinical Research and Operations at Savor Health where she worked closely with Savor Health’s Chief Medical Advisor, Scientific Advisory Board, and Clinical Operations Team to evaluate, design and conduct clinical research.  She also counsels patients on oncology nutrition issues and contributes to the Company website’s clinical content.

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Dr. DeFrance has a unique background including clinical interventional cardiologist, chief medical officer, educator, outcomes researcher and entrepreneur. He has expertise in Lifestyle medicine in which he was board certified in 2020 and is highly interested in the prevention and reversal of chronic disease. Dr. DeFrance also has expertise in appropriate utilization of technology in medicine, healthcare economics, value-based metrics, and educational design and delivery. He worked as Chief Medical Officer for HealthHelp, one of the largest specialty benefit managers in the US, and led large teams of healthcare professionals in writing evidence based appropriate care guidelines and rule sets which improve the quality and safety of medicine for over 20 million people in the US while also creating sustained savings in healthcare. He has also designed clinical decision support systems that are currently in use helping to improve patient care.

In 2018 Dr. DeFrance founded MedMentor Education, a company that provides state of the art CME content using the latest in eLearning science and online delivery platforms. Dr. DeFrance is also the founder and President of Digimedica, a consulting and educational design and delivery company for healthcare professionals, hospitals, and universities. He is passionate about creating systems to optimize knowledge transfer and has won numerous awards for teaching excellence during his career. He is an expert in cardiovascular CT imaging and has taught more than 3,000 physicians how to perform and interpret cardiac CT nationally and internationally and has lectured extensively on this subject.

Dr. DeFrance has a stellar reputation in the medical field and continues work to improve the quality and safety of patient care in the US.

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Alyson is a registered nurse and is certified in oncology nursing (OCN) through the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS). She also has her certification as an ONS Biotherapy and Chemotherapy Provider. Alyson studied nursing at Thomas Jefferson University where she obtained her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN). Since starting her nursing career in 2004, Alyson has had a strong dedication and commitment to oncology patients. She has worked inpatient specializing in Bone Marrow and Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplantation. Alyson currently works in outpatient oncology at the North Shore-LIJ Monter Cancer Center. Alyson is part of the clinical team at Savor Health where she counsels patients on oncology and oncology nutrition issues and contributes to website and other Savor Health content.

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Chelsey is a Registered Dietitian and Board Certified Specialist in Oncology nutrition (CSO). She completed her Dietetic Internship at Northwell Health, received her BS in Dietetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and her MS in Nutrition at Stony Brook University’s School of Medicine. Chelsey works as an outpatient dietitian at Mount Sinai covering all of the downtown cancer services at Mount Sinai Beth Israel and Philips Ambulatory Care Center. Chelsey works with patients and families before, during and after treatment to optimize their nutrition through dietary counseling and support. Chelsey has experience counseling clients with a variety of diagnoses including breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, head & neck cancer, and more. Chelsey also enjoys sharing nutrition knowledge with her peers by running a monthly Employee Wellness program that showcases healthy topics, recipes and food demos.

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Michelle is a Registered Dietitian specializing in oncology. She works as a clinical dietitian at an ambulatory cancer center in New York City and is a consultant for Savor Health. She is passionate about educating oncology patients on the importance of nutrition during their fight against cancer and helping them to optimize their nutrition through all phases of treatment. Michelle received her Bachelor of Science degree in dietetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her Master of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University.

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Denise Sievering is a Registered Dietitian who is board certified in Oncology Nutrition as well as Nutrition Support. A fluent Spanish speaker, Denise joined the Savor Health team to support Spanish speaking cancer patients and to continue to expand the Platform’s nutritional strategies and recommendations in Spanish. Denise holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Rutgers University, and completed her internship at New York Presbyterian Hospital (NYP). Denise started her career as a registered dietitian at NYP-Columbia University Medical Center, primarily covering inpatient Oncology units. Denise also holds a Master of Arts degree in Mental Health Counseling from New York University, and incorporates her advanced training in motivational interviewing and empathic listening in her patient encounters, particularly those whose lives have been forever changed by a cancer diagnosis. A New Jersey native, Denise now resides in sunny San Diego, CA where she works as a part-time outpatient Oncology dietitian at Scripps Health-MD Anderson Cancer Center, and also works as an inpatient dietitian at Kaiser Permanente. In her spare time, Denise can be found at a mom-and-pop taco shop, one of the many local craft breweries, and exploring her new city of San Diego with her husband and her rescue pup, Ripley.

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Karen is a Registered Dietitian, Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition and registered in New York as a Certified Dietitian Nutritionist. Fluent in Spanish, Karen joined the Savor Health team to support Spanish speaking cancer patients and to continue to expand the Platform’s nutritional strategies and recommendations in Spanish. Karen received her Bachelor of Science degree from Ithaca College and her Master of Science degree from Hunter College. She works as an outpatient oncology dietitian in New York. Karen often works with local community centers to host nutrition programs for cancer survivors and their families, leading classes on how to live healthier lifestyles throughout their continuum of care. The American Institute of Cancer Research selected to showcase one of her many programs at their conference in 2019. Karen has written for and lent commentary to various publications and truly enjoys teaching people how to eat better. She loves to cook and strongly feels that healthy food doesn’t have to taste bad.

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Allie is a Registered Dietitian and a Certified Specialist in Oncology (CSO). She joins Savor in 2023, bringing years of experience from the John Theurer Cancer Center in New Jersey, where she worked with patients with a variety of cancers. Her goal is to help people feel their best, both mentally and physically, when physical health challenges arise. She believes in the power of nutrition ever since the impact it made on her athletic career as a volleyball player during college. Allie graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree from University of Maryland-Baltimore County and has her Master’s degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Wisconsin Stout. She enjoys travelling, enjoying different cuisines, cooking, and hiking and other outdoor activities with her family and dog.

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Julia Penberg is a seasoned healthcare professional with more than 30 years of experience focusing on maximizing operational excellence, leading clinical program development and building strong cross-functional teams. Her previous roles include overseeing the performance of clinical managers and nurse practitioners across multiple markets within United Healthcare-Optum’s Medicare Advantage and dual-eligible special needs populations, payer outreach and program development at Mayo Clinic, ground level specialty hospital development and direct patient care as a family and dermatology nurse practitioner. Julia volunteered as an operating room nurse and nurse practitioner on several mission trips to Romania and was a support group leader for the Kansas City chapter of the International Myeloma Foundation. Her motivation throughout her career has been with wellness promotion, disease risk modification and ensuring the best patient experience across the health continuum. Ms. Penberg received an MBA from the University of Dallas; a MS in Nursing from the University of Kansas and a BS in Nursing from the University of Texas-Austin. She is board certified as a Family Nurse Practitioner.

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Rachel is a Registered Dietitian and Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition (“CSO”). She joined NYP-Columbia as the outpatient oncology dietitian in 2020 after working at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center for two years. Rachel completed her dietetic internship through Keene State College in 2017. She is pursuing an MS in Integrative Nutrition at Stony Brook University and has a BS in Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise from Virginia Tech. Rachel provides nutrition counseling to all types of oncology patients and helps them understand the mental and physical benefits of nutrition as an ally in their fight against cancer. In her free time she enjoys slow meals with family and friends, Pilates, and tending to her fire escape garden.

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Allie Werner is a Registered Dietitian at Fresenius Kidney Care where she provides medical nutrition therapy diet counseling to patients on Dialysis. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in nutrition from Indiana University and completed her Master’s Degree and dietetic internship at Loyola University Chicago. In her free time she enjoys spending time with friends and family, checking out the amazing food scene in downtown Chicago, and exercising on her Peloton bike.

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Immersed in the tech world for a decade, I've coded, led teams, and honed my skills in architecture and design. As a tech enthusiast, I've seamlessly woven through full-stack projects, fusing my love for code with the art of leadership.

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Mohit is a full-stack developer with expertise in Python and JavaScript, known for his efficient coding and ability to deliver scalable software solutions. His technical contributions are highlighted on GitHub and Stack Overflow, demonstrating his commitment to the tech community and problem-solving skills. With a solid educational foundation and a diverse project portfolio, Mohit excels at navigating complex challenges and is well-equipped to contribute to dynamic software projects.

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Rayna McCann is a Registered Dietitian and Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition. She is a Registered Yoga Teacher and yoga4cancer certified. She received her BS in Nutrition at Penn State University and her MS from Stony Brook University. For work, Rayna wears many hats in the world of nutrition and worked for years in clinical settings focusing on oncology nutrition. She is also an Adjunct Professor and passionate about inspiring the future of dietitians. Throughout her career, she has received awards recognizing her dedication to patient safety and her contributions to improving malnutrition awareness. In 2022, Rayna was proud to accept the ‘Dietitian of the Year’ award through the Long Island Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Rayna has co-authored abstracts for poster presentations within the American Institute for Cancer Research conference, as well as, the Nutrition and Dietetics Food and Nutrition Conference Expo and subsequent publication. She has enjoyed authoring articles, including an article for The Cure magazine regarding Multiple Myeloma and nutrition. When Rayna is not participating in nutrition related activities, she is dedicated to dog rescue.

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