Nutritional Therapy for Cancer Treatment: Foods to Eat and Foods to Avoid

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Updated on May 7, 2020

Good nutrition during and after cancer treatment is important for patients to stay strong. Healthy eating habits can help with some of the side effects of cancer treatments such as malnutrition, anorexia, and cachexia.1 What foods should cancer patients eat? And what foods should they avoid?

What foods should I avoid if I have cancer?

Cancer patients should avoid eating certain foods, such as:1

  • Meats that have been deep-fried or otherwise subjected to high heat. Heat creates heterocyclic amines as byproducts, which are known to cause cancer.
  • Excessive salt and sugar.
  • Fat-rich foods.
  • Processed meats like ham, bacon, sausages and red meats.
  • Foods containing preservatives, such as jams and pickles, because they contain nitrites which are known to cause cancer.
  • Excessive alcohol.

What kind of foods feed cancer?

There is a common belief that sugar feeds cancer cells. Although this is not untrue, the situation is much more complex.2 Sugar is the source of energy for all cells in the body. Stopping sugar completely will starve healthy cells and make the immune system less efficient, so cancer may progress. Moreover, there’s strong evidence that some cancer cells also feed on proteins and fats.2 Experts, therefore, advise that limiting sugar intake does not starve cancer cells. However, eating too much sugar can lead to obesity, which is a risk factor for certain types of cancers.2

What not to eat if I have cancer?

Some cancer treatments weaken the immune system, making the body more prone to infections. That’s why it’s a good idea to avoid raw or undercooked foods that can potentially lead to food poisoning.3 This includes cold meats, raw or undercooked meats, raw milk and milk products, deli-prepared salads and sandwiches, smoked fish, unwashed fruits and vegetables, sushi and sashimi, and undercooked eggs.3

What nutritional protocols can I follow to beat cancer?

One of the best-known nutritional protocols for cancer patients is the Gerson therapy or Gerson diet. It consists of a strict organic vegetarian diet, supplements, and coffee enemas.4 However, this regimen is not approved by the FDA as a treatment for cancer.

What foods cure cancer?

It is not possible for a diet alone to cure cancer. Most patients require a combination of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery to achieve remission. However, nutrition is an important part of cancer recovery and one of the few things that patients can control.

Can cancer be reversed with diet?

Diet cannot reverse cancer. However, patients can maximize their chances of fighting cancer by providing the body with adequate nutrition. Here are some nutritional guidelines for cancer patients:5

  • Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat high-fiber foods like whole grains and cereals.
  • Eat lean meats like chicken, turkey, and fat-trimmed pork and beef.
  • Consume low-fat milk and milk products.
  • Use healthy cooking methods like steaming, roasting, broiling, and grilling.
  • Limit salt and sugar intake.
  • Eat small amounts of food with several meals throughout the day.

Do vegans have a lower incidence of cancer?

There is no scientific evidence to prove that following a vegan or vegetarian diet can improve a patient’s prognosis or control the side effects of cancer treatment. For patients who already follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, doctors do not recommend switching to a different diet.5



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