Eating Well at a glance

Eating Well is one of our top-rated practices for improving cancer outcomes. Both conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and integrativein cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care, and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan oncology professionals recommend Eating Well as part of cancer control.

Eating Well by itself will not likely prevent, cure, or control cancer. Like every other therapy or approach included on this website, Eating Well is one component of an individualized integrative plan rather than a stand-alone therapy.

Benefits

Eating Well may improve your response to cancer treatment and survival. Some large studies show 40% or more lower mortality among those following professional guidelines regarding diet. What you eat can reduce inflammation—making your body (your terrain) less supportive of cancer growth—and reduce your risk of recurrence.

A full description of evidence is in How can Eating Well help you? What the research says ›

Your diet may also affect your quality of life and some side effects, such as these:

Dehydration
Depression
Fatigue
Hot flashes

Gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and vomiting
Sleep disturbance

General diet guidelines

Some common elements in many or most evidence-based, prescribed diets:

  • Plant-based, whole-foods diets:
    • An emphasis on eating mostly food from plants, either with or without small portions of quality animal protein, especially from fish
    • Limiting processed and refined foods in favor of whole foods such as vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds and fruits
  • Limiting red meat and favoring grass-fed animal sources

In general, these are good foods and beverages to include in your diet regularly, but check with your doctor, registered dietician or nutritionist for restrictions: 

  • Vegetables, and especially broccoli and related (cruciferous) vegetables, plus carrots, squash, sweet potatoes and tomatoes—which contain carotenoids—and also chili peppers
  • Blueberries and other berries, pomegranate, and other deeply colored fruits, such as mango and cantaloupe 
  • Alliums—garlic, onions, shallots, scallions and leeks
  • Plant proteins from beans, nuts, seeds and grains
  • Whole grains
  • Healthy monounsaturated fats, such as omega-3s fatty acids found in walnuts and wild-caught salmon and sardines
  • Edible mushrooms
  • Naturally fermented and cultured foods, such as kefir, tempeh, kombucha, sauerkraut, plain yogurt, and kimchi
  • Green tea

Avoid red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened foods and drinks, highly refined grains, and alcohol.

Reviews of diets

On Diets and Metabolic Therapies: Introduction ›, we link to full reviews or summary information on cancer-focused diets including these:

Mediterranean diet
Ketogenic Diet 
Gonzalez Protocol 
Gerson Regimen

Alkaline diet
Macrobiotic diet
Paleolithic (Paleo) diet
Vegan diet

Words of guidance

Read some words of inspiration and guidance from Michael Lerner, CancerChoices co-founder and author of Choices in Healing.

Keep reading

Authors

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher
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Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher and writer for CancerChoices and also served as the first program manager. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher

Reviewers

Rebecca Katz

Expert on the role of food in supporting health for the chronically ill and CancerChoices advisor
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Rebecca Katz, MS, is a nationally recognized expert on the role of food in supporting health for the chronically ill. With a master of science in health and nutrition education, Ms. Katz is founder of the Healing Kitchens Institute and has been a visiting chef and nutrition educator at the Commonweal Cancer Help Program for more than a decade.

Rebecca Katz Expert on the role of food in supporting health for the chronically ill and CancerChoices advisor

Whitney You, MD, MPH

Maternal-Fetal Medicine Physician
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Dr. You is a physician specializing in maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) with a specific interest in cancer in the context of pregnancy. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in health services research with a focus in health literacy and received a Master of Public Health.

Whitney You, MD, MPH Maternal-Fetal Medicine Physician

Miki Scheidel

Co-Founder and Creative Director
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Miki Scheidel is Co-founder and creative director of CancerChoices. She led the effort to transform Beyond Conventional Cancer Therapies, the prior version of CancerChoices, to its current form. Miki and her family were deeply affected by her father’s transformative experience with integrative approaches to metastatic kidney cancer. That experience inspires her work as president of the Scheidel Foundation and as volunteer staff at CancerChoices. She previously worked with the US Agency for International Development and Family Health International among other roles. She received her graduate degree in international development from Georgetown University, a graduate certificate in nonprofit management from George Mason University, and a Bachelor of Arts from Gettysburg College.

Miki Scheidel Co-Founder and Creative Director

Last update: April 5, 2024

Last full literature review: June 2021

CancerChoices provides information about integrative in cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture therapies and self-care lifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

Our staff have no financial conflicts of interest to declare. We receive no funds from any manufacturers or retailers gaining financial profit by promoting or discouraging therapies mentioned on this site.