How to Eat When Battling Cancer

Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN

A cancer diagnosis is probably just about the scariest news anyone could ever receive in their life. It can also be very confusing. There’s tons of information to weed through and it’s very easy to become overwhelmed, scared, and discouraged.

As such, here’s an attempt to simplify the basics of a critical component for anyone following a cancer diagnosis — your nutrition.

A healthy, nutritious diet is really important when you’re being treated for cancer. It can make a big impact on the outcome of your treatments and your quality of life. So, it’s essential that you take your diet very seriously during this time.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with cancer, we really hope this helps to take some of the guesswork out of the equation.

Eat Fresh Vegetables

According to research, eating fruits and vegetables could lower one’s overall risk of dying from cancer.1 So, they should form the foundation of your diet. In particular, pay extra attention to cruciferous vegetables (e.g. kale, broccoli, radishes, and cauliflower). They’re notable for their anti-cancer properties.

Specific compounds in cruciferous vegetables have been shown to kill ovarian, prostate, lung, and breast cancer cells in culture.2-5 In one study, eating broccoli was associated with an increased rate of survival in bladder cancer patients.6

Avoid Sugar

Avoid refined carbohydrates, sweets, and foods with added sweeteners. They contain simple carbohydrates which are quickly broken down into sugar.

Cancer cells thrive on sugar, and insulin (a glucose-transporter) is a growth factor for many tumors.7 In animal studies, low carb diets have been associated with slowed tumor growth.8

Be careful with juicing. It’s a great way to incorporate more vegetables into your diet, but it can also be a source of excess sugar (if you’re juicing fruits). Eat whole fruits instead.

Cut Back on Inflammatory Foods

Cancer is inflammatory in nature. In fact, it’s believed that 95% of cancers involve nuclear factor-kappa B, a key orchestrator of inflammation. 9

Cut back on animal products (meat, chicken, and dairy). They’re a source of omega-6 fatty acids and saturated fats. In the body, they’re processed and converted into 5-LOX, an inflammatory enzyme linked to cancer development and proliferation.10

Eat anti-inflammatory foods instead. Flax seeds, chia seeds, tart cherries, olives, soy, seaweed, dark fruits, berries, cold water fish, green tea, ginger, and nuts are just to name a few. And let’s not forget, omega-3s which help to ease inflammation.

Eat Immune Boosting Foods

Incorporate immune boosting foods into your diet. These include garlic, onions, ginger, green tea, yogurt, oats, barley, and mushrooms.

Maitake and shiitake mushrooms, for example, contain beta glucans and other polysaccharides with immune stimulating properties. These natural compounds activate key players in the immune system to prevent the proliferation and spread of cancer cells.11

Add Turmeric to Your Dishes

Add turmeric to your dishes. Not only does it add color, it adds nutritional value as well. Its key ingredient, curcumin, has been shown to fight cancer in a number of studies.12

Clinical trials are in the early stages, but so far compelling results have been seen for cancers of the breast, uterus, cervix, prostate, and GI tract.

Take Your Supplements

A variety of supplements may help during cancer treatments. For example, higher vitamin D levels have been associated with higher rates of survival among colorectal cancer patients.13

However, since supplementation can be tricky for cancer patients, it’s best to receive personalized suggestions before starting a new program. And just in case you didn't already know, we have a team of oncology health advisors on staff that can help with just that.

If you’d like some guidance, consider giving them a call at 1-800-226-2370 (yes, it's free)!


  1. Am J Epidemiol. 2004 Dec 15;160(12):1223-33.
  2. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2007 Oct;86(10):1263-8.
  3. PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e47186.
  4. J Nat Prod. 2008 Nov;71(11):1911-4.
  5. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2004 Sep;229(8):835-42.
  6. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2010 Jul;19(7):1806-11.
  7. Integr Cancer Ther. 2003 Dec;2(4):315-29.
  8. Prostate. 2013 Apr;73(5):449-54.
  9. Mol Cell Biochem. 2010 Mar;336(1-2):25-37.
  10. Cancer Metastasis Rev. 2007 Dec;26(3-4):503-24.
  11. Int Immunopharmacol. 2007 Jun;7(6):701-24.
  12. Front Biosci (Schol Ed). 2012 Jan 1;4:335-55.
  13. Br J Cancer. 2009 Sep 15;101(6):916-23.


Unknown said...

how harmful in terms of raising the level of blood glucose "useful" sweeteners such as sorbitol and xylitol?

Anonymous said...

Xylitol and Sorbitol I don't think raise blood sugar but they're not really healthy and I'd avoid those as well. Stevia should be a safer more natural alternative.

Life Extension said...

илья колдунов - Sorbitol and xylitol are safe alternatives.

Anonymous said...

I think stevia is my choice. at least its plant dirived, and I can grow the plant & just steep the leaves in water for any sweetness I'll need. I won't use those horrid chemical substitutes.

Anonymous said...

Added sugar in any form is toxic. slippery elm, white oak bark, cayenne pepper (loose) fresh green blended veggie beverage (strained) sterile water by boiling for 5 minutes can help. Test acid/alkaline in urine using PH paper weekly for proper balance, and deal with your worry/revenge IQ. thank you for your information.

Life Extension said...

Anonymous - Stevia is a great choice! Thanks for reading. :-)

Stephe in Florida said...

I am a supporter of the more holistic approach to cancer treatment, and I have read/authored a few articles on cancer fighting foods. That being said, I was not aware that turmeric was such a great cancer fighter. The only other thing I would have added would have been a shout out for eating more garlic, in particular raw garlic. Plenty of research has shown how this really is a "super" food.

LifeExtension said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maggie said...

Hi Thanks for this great information. I'd like to ring for the supplement advice (I am a caner patient) but live in the UK, do you have any number in Europe to call?

Anonymous said...

Avoid ALL dairy products, eggs, pork, wheat and gluten, corn, soy, and canola oil which all feed cancer causing viruses. Strictly limit the amount of fat in the diet because too much fat in the diet weakens your liver making it harder to eliminate toxins from the body. Too much fat in the diet also causes insulin resistance, thick blood, dehydration, and it speeds up the oxidation of toxic heavy metals. The natural sugar in fruit is beneficial not harmful. The sugar in fruit juice is no different than the sugar in a whole fruit that hasn't been juiced. Just make sure if you buy fruit juice in a grocery store that it doesn't have any added sugars, preservatives, added flavors or other additives and it shouldn't be from concentrate. Natural sugars are needed to carry nutrients into the cells. Green tea should be avoided because the caffeine it contains is dehydrating to the body just like other caffeine containing beverages are. The natural sweetener you should use is raw honey which kills cancer causing viruses.

Unknown said...

If anon is still around, I'd like to know why beef and fish are not on the list of foods to avoid

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