Expert Recommendations for Eating Related to Cancer - CancerChoices

Expert recommendations

The diets recommended by 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 experts for general anticancer effects all emphasize eating more plant-based foods. This is not the same as a vegetarian diet, but it places vegetables at the center of your meal, with whole grains, fruits, and animal products in supporting roles. A whole-foods, plant-based diet may help build your resilience, improve your physical function and even inhibit cancer growth and spread.

Both medical groups and integrative experts provide recommendations for Eating Well. Learn more about the approaches and meanings of recommendations in Integrative Oncology Programs and Expert Guidelines ›

Recommendations from medical groups

General guidelines across expert groups

Leading oncology medical groups are clear on the role that diet plays in cancer prevention and survival, providing guidelines to follow a healthy eating pattern at all ages. Guidelines from these groups are recommended both to prevent cancer and after a cancer diagnosis:

A healthy eating pattern includes:1American Cancer Society. ACS Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention. June 9, 2020. Viewed April 22, 2021; American Institute for Cancer Research. Cancer Prevention Recommendations. From World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research. Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: A global Perspective.Continuous Update Project Expert Report 2018. Viewed January 20, 2022; Denlinger CS, Sanft T et al. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®). Survivorship. Version 1.2021 — February 24, 2021; NCCN Guidelines for Patients®: Survivorship Care for Cancer-Related Late and Long-Term Effects, 2020. National Comprehensive Cancer Network. Viewed June 3, 2021; NCCN Guidelines for Patients®: Survivorship Care for Healthy Living, 2020. National Comprehensive Cancer Network. Viewed June 3, 2021.

  • Foods that are high in nutrients in amounts that help you get to and stay at a healthy body weight
  • A variety of vegetables—dark green, red, and orange, fiber-rich legumes (beans and peas), and others
  • Fruits, especially whole fruits in a variety of colors
  • Whole grains—brown rice, quinoa, oats

A healthy eating pattern limits or does not include:

  • Red and processed meats
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Highly processed foods and refined grain products 

It is best not to drink alcohol.

Most recommendations also advise that taking nutritional supplements will not make up for an unhealthy diet.

Guidelines for specific nutritional needs

2013 clinical practice guidelines make these statements regarding people with lung cancer:

  • People undergoing treatment of lung cancer who have experienced weight loss may add high-calorie and protein supplements (1.5 kcal/mL) to stabilize their weight.
  • Lung cancer guidelines suggest using supplemental omega-3 fatty acids to improve the nutritional status of people with lung cancer who have lost muscle mass (sarcopenia).

The 2009 guidelines state that people, and especially elders, at risk of inadequate nutrition should get professional guidance on nutritional supplementation to promote optimum nutritional status, manage symptoms from either the cancer or from treatments, meet increased nutritional needs, and correct any deficits in nutrition during treatment.

Guidelines related to symptoms and side effects

Inconclusive evidence to make recommendations for or against nutritional interventions to improve anxiety or depression symptoms in people with cancer regardless of when in the course of care

Integrative programs, protocols, and approaches

These program from integrative medicine expert recommend making Eating Well an anticancer lifestyle practice.

Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO, and Karolyn Gazella

Approaches are described for certain cancer types, or along with certain conventional therapy treatments, or for particular conditions such as insulin resistance.

Keith Block, MD

Block KI. Life over Cancer: The Block Center Program for Integrative Cancer Care. New York: Bantam Dell. 2009.

The integrative Block Program has recommendations to people who are at different places along the cancer continuum:

  • Those who’ve been recently diagnosed
  • Those in treatment
  • Those who’ve concluded treatment and need to remain vigilant to prevent recurrence

Lorenzo Cohen, PhD, and Alison Jefferies, MEd

Cohen L, Jefferies A. Anticancer Living: Transform Your Life and Health with the Mix of Six. New York: Viking. 2018.

This book introduces the concept of the Mix of Six, which is identical to six of our 7 Healing Practices ›

Dr. Cohen and Ms. Jefferies explain that while each plays an inde­pendent role, the synergy created by all six factors can radically transform health, delay or prevent many cancers, support conventional treatments, and significantly improve quality of life.

Jeremy Geffen, MD

Geffen J. The Seven Levels of Healing. Audio CD – 2002

Geffen J. The Journey Through Cancer: An Oncologist’s Seven-Level Program for Healing and Transforming the Whole Person. New York, New York: Three Rivers Press. 2006.

Dr. Geffen developed a healing program based on what he calls The Seven Levels of Healing. It is a program of body, mind, heart, and spirit for healing and transforming the whole person.

Dr. Geffen presented at Cancer as a Turning Point Conference in Seattle, Washington, in 2006.

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Gerald Lemole, MD; Pallav Mehta, MD; and Dwight McKee, MD

Lemole G, Mehta P, McKee D. After Cancer Care: The Definitive Self-Care Guide to Getting and Staying Well for Patients with Cancer. New York, New York: Rodale, Inc. 2015.

These doctors present easy-to-incorporate lifestyle changes to help you “turn on” hundreds of genes that fight cancer, and “turn off” the ones that encourage cancer, while recommending lifestyle approaches to address each type.

Barbara MacDonald, ND, LAc

MacDonald B. The Breast Cancer Companion—A Complementary Care Manual: Third Edition. Self-published. 2016.

Naturopathic physician Barbara MacDonald provides information about breast cancer, its conventional treatment, and natural approaches to enhancing treatment, managing side effects, reducing risk of recurrence, and healthy living after cancer treatment is completed.

Ornish Diet and Lifestyle Modification Program (for prostate cancer)

Ornish Lifestyle Medicine ›

Cardiologist Dean Ornish, MD, has adapted his Ornish Heart Disease Reversal Program for use by men with prostate cancer. The program includes nutrition, fitness, stress management, and love and support.

Gurdev Parmar, ND, FABNO, and Tina Kaczor, ND, FABNO

Parmar G, Kaczor T. Textbook of Naturopathic Oncology: A Desktop Guide of Integrative Cancer Care. 1st edition. Medicatrix Holdings Ltd. 2020.

This book provides information on the treatment of 24 cancers, plus the most effective treatments of the most common symptoms affecting cancer patients while they undergo chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or surgery.

David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD

Servan-Schreiber D. Anticancer: A New Way of Life. New York: Penguin Books. 2009.

This book provides tips on how people living with cancer can fight it and how healthy people can prevent it.

Traditional medicine systems

Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medical systems see each individual as composed of the primary elements of nature, in varying degrees. After carefully determining your basic composition and your current state of balance (or imbalance), a traditional medicine professional may prescribe foods and herbs to bring your elemental energies into alignment.

See Finding Integrative Oncologists and Other Professionals ›

Other expert assessments

Current Oncology Reports

An expert review of evidence suggests that nutrition might have a potential role in alleviating cancer-related fatigue.2David A, Hausner D, Frenkel M. Cancer-related fatigue-is there a role for complementary and integrative medicine? Current Oncology Reports. 2021 Nov 7;23(12):145.

  • Maintain an optimal nutritional status to avoid deficiencies
  • Base meals on a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes
  • Consume foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids
  • Reduce consumption of animal-based products
  • Avoid sugary drinks
  • Limit consumption of processed foods

Survey of naturopathic oncologists

A 2018 survey identified a low glycemic index diet as one of the most frequently identified interventions used by members of the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians.3Seely D, Ennis JK, McDonell E, Zhao L. Naturopathic oncology care for thoracic cancers: a practice survey. Integrative Cancer Therapies. 2018 Sep;17(3):793-805.


Dysbiosis and chronic systemic inflammation may contribute to the development of neuropathies associated with prediabetes, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. An anti-inflammatory elimination diet―foods to support an anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective milieu, utilizing whole foods with a high phytonutrient density, low glycemic load, protective antioxidants, and high-quality dietary fats along―and void of common inflammatory foods (gluten, diary, sugar, corn, and soy) is used by some to manage neuropathy not related to cancer.4Rowin J. Integrative neuromuscular medicine: neuropathy and neuropathic pain: consider the alternatives. Muscle & Nerve. 2019 Aug;60(2):124-136.

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Laura Pole, MSN, RN, 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, MSN, RN, 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


Rebecca Katz

CancerChoices advisor and expert on the role of food in supporting health for the chronically ill
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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 CancerChoices advisor and expert on the role of food in supporting health for the chronically ill

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 14, 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.