Fighting Cancer and Navigating the Food Table to Find your Best Mix

The end-of-the-year gauntlet that weighs eating healthy vs. chowing down on everything grandma has on the table remains one of the most daunting challenges of the holiday season. (After all, what harm is there in that second piece of apple pie topped with ice cream?)

For cancer patients, a healthy diet is essential to fighting the disease. Beyond that, diet also is crucial in cancer prevention. Indeed, the adage “you are what you eat” stands the test of time. Strive to eat a rainbow of veggies and fruits to ensure the full range of nutrients and phytochemicals that help prevent various cancers.

Here are six tips to help navigate the sure-to-be-scrumptious food spread:

Eat more fruits and vegetables

People who eat the least fruits and vegetables are twice as likely to get most cancer types (lung, larynx, oral cavity, esophagus, stomach, colon and rectum, bladder, pancreas, cervix, and ovary) as those who eat the most fruits and veggies. [1]

Prioritize foods that decrease cancer risk

If there is a family-history risk or genetic pre-cursors for a particular type of cancer (or already have a cancer diagnosis), prioritize certain fruits and veggies. For example, if your grandfather died of lung cancer, and you have a gene that raises cancer risk. Take the benefit of prioritizing foods that decrease the risk of lung cancer.

Load up on high-carotene foods

Foods high in carotenes have been linked to a lower risk of breast cancer. [2]. High-carotene foods include:

  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Cantaloupe
  • Peaches
  • Apricots
  • Orange peppers

Eat more probiotic foods

Probiotics ­– Bifidobacterium longum, L. acidophilus, and L. casei – are linked to lower cancer risk [3]. Probiotics help reduce colorectal cancer risk; probiotics help improve mucosa and reduce bacteria-related inflammation in the colon. Lacto fermenting vegetables, fruits, and dairy products include some yogurts, kefir, and kimchi.

Reduce sugar intake

Cancer cells depend on sugar more than healthy cells. A low carb diet has been shown to reduce tumor growth ­– but other studies have found that a high fat/high protein diet can increase cancer risk. The key is to limit sugar. An anti-cancer diet includes mostly veggies, some fruits, and little to no added sugar. [4-5].

Consume less vegetable oil

OK, so do take in more veggies – but reduce the vegetable oil intake? Huh? Focus on how food is prepared, using olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil. Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have been linked to cancer [6]. To reduce cancer risk from PUFAs, avoid margarine, canola oil, corn oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, soybean oil, and vegetable oil.

Another aspect to consider is intermittent fasting. Try eating an early dinner and then skip breakfast the following morning. (And there is research that shows intermittent fasting may help prevent and treat cancer.) [7]

Bottom line: Find the right mix, mix and match – food is to be enjoyed. Frankly, it is about finding what works for you. Bon appetit!



[1] Vegetables, fruit, and cancer. I. Epidemiology.

[2] Dietary antioxidants and human cancer.

[3] Prevention of cancer: restriction of nutritional energy intake (joules).

[4] Sugar, meat, and fat intake, and non-dietary risk factors for colon cancer incidence in Iowa women (United States).

[5] Dietary sugar and colon cancer.

[6] Current evidence linking polyunsaturated Fatty acids with cancer risk and progression.

[7] Autophagy and intermittent fasting: the connection for cancer therapy?

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