A Mediterranean diet is high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and olive oil and low in meat, sweets, and saturated fat. It is linked to lower risks of cancer and relief of some symptoms and imbalances common among people with cancer.

Mediterranean diet at a glance

The Mediterranean diet has become recognized as a beneficial diet for people around the world to follow for its health benefits, ease of implementation, and eating pleasure. It focuses on these foods:

In abundance:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Olive oil
  • Herbs and seasonings

In moderate amounts:

Only sparingly:

  • Meat and meat products
  • Sweets
  • Butter or margarine

Most of the benefits from eating a Mediterranean diet are seen in lower risk of cancer, both as a whole and for many specific cancer types. Some evidence also links a Mediterranean diet to lower risks of depression, anxiety, and cognitive symptoms.

The Mediterranean diet was initially based on the dietary habits of people living in Mediterranean regions, especially traditional Greek diets. The foods and ingredients used in the Mediterranean diet are commonly available in grocery stores throughout the USA and Canada. Many substitutions of foods with a similar nutritional value are possible. Some examples:

  • Oats, rye, or brown rice for whole wheat
  • Cilantro, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, and other seasonings for rosemary and basil
  • Berries or melons for stone fruits

With substitutions, a “Mediterranean” diet can conform to many tastes and cultural preferences from around the world.

CancerChoices ratings for Mediterranean diet

We rate the Mediterranean diet on seven attributes, with 0 the lowest rating and 5 the highest. We rate the strength of the evidence supporting the use of the Mediterranean diet for a medical benefit, such as improving treatment outcomes or managing side effects.

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Improving treatment outcomes

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Optimizing your body terrain

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Managing side effects and promoting wellness

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Reducing cancer risk

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Use by integrative oncology experts

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Affordability and access

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The Mediterranean diet is part of a lifestyle that also includes generous amounts of physical activity,1Mayo Clinic staff. Nutrition and healthy eating: Mediterranean diet: a heart-healthy eating plan. Mayo Clinic. July 23, 2021. Viewed May 10, 2022. and so it relates closely to two of our 7 Healing Practices: Eating Well and Moving More. However, virtually none of the studies we evaluated in this review measured or even mentioned physical activity, reporting only on diet. We cannot assume that people asked to follow a Mediterranean diet increased their physical activity in these studies. We review and assess studies that combine changes in diet with changes in physical activity in a separate section on both our Eating Well and Moving More pages at the bottom of the pages describing the evidence.

Keep reading about a Mediterranean diet


Andrew Jackson, ND

Research Associate
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Andrew Jackson, ND, serves as a CancerChoices research associate. As a naturopathic physician practicing in Kirkland, Washington, he teaches critical evaluation of the medical literture at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington. His great appreciation of scientific inquiry and the scientific process has led him to view research with a critical eye.

Andrew Jackson, ND Research Associate

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

Curator and reviewer

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

Last update: December 12, 2023

Last full literature review: November 2021

CancerChoices provides information about integrativein 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.

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