Nutrition Before During and After Cancer

Information on nutritional needs for cancer patients

Foods That Fight Cancer

Dark Green Leafy Vegetables

Spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, leaf lettuce, mustard greens, collard greens, chicory and Swiss chard are excellent sources of fiber, folate and a wide range of carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin, along with saponins and flavonoids.


According to AICR’s (American Institute of Cancer Research) second expert report, foods containing carotenoids probably protect against cancers of the mouth, pharynx and larynx. Foods containing folate decrease risk of pancreatic cancer and that foods containing dietary fiber probably reduce one’s chances of developing colorectal cancer.

Researchers believe that carotenoids seem to prevent cancer by acting as antioxidants removing potentially dangerous “free radicals” from the body before they can do harm. Some laboratory research has found that the carotenoids in dark green leafy vegetables can inhibit the growth of certain types of breast cancer cells, skin cancer cells, lung cancer and stomach cancer.


Garlic belongs to the family of vegetables called Allium, which also includes onions, scallions, leeks and chives. According to AICR’s report, foods belonging to the allium family of vegetables probably protect against stomach cancer. Moreover, the evidence in the report shows that garlic, in particular, probably decreases one’s chances of developing colorectal cancer. The protective effect of garlic was shown to have a dose response relationship. In other words, highest exposure to the food showed the greatest decrease in risk.


These allium vegetables contain many substances now being studied for their anti-cancer effects, such as quercetin, allixin and a large group of organosulfur compounds that includes allicin, alliin and allyl sulfides.

In laboratory studies, components of garlic have shown the ability to slow or stop the growth of tumors in prostate, bladder, colon and stomach tissue. one garlic component, called diallyl disulfide, exerts potent preventive effects against cancers of the skin, colon and lung. Recently, this compound proved able to kill leukemia cells in the laboratory. A compound derived from garlic called ajoene has displayed similar activity. Components in Allium vegetables have slowed the development of cancer in several stages and at various body sites: stomach, breast, esophagus, colon and lung.


The tomato’s red hue comes chiefly from a phytochemical called lycopene. Tomatoes have attracted particular attention from prostate cancer researchers because lycopene and its related compounds tend to concentrate in tissues of the prostate.


AICR’s second expert report, found substantial and convincing evidence that foods containing lycopene probably protect against prostate cancer.

In animal models, consumption of tomato compounds has been linked to large decreases in prostate cancer risk. Moreover, there is evidence that this cancer-fighting potential is increased if tomatoes are consumed in a processed form that allows these natural compounds to be released and more easily absorbed, such as tomato sauce, tomato paste or tomato juice.

Tomato Juice

Lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, together with a group of related compounds collectively called the “red family,” has displayed anti-cancer potential. In the laboratory, tomato components have stopped the proliferation of several other cancer cells types, including breast, lung, and endometrial.

Although the evidence suggests it is likely that foods containing lycopene, including tomatoes, offer cancer protection, AICR stresses the importance of eating a variety of plant foods to ensure the most protection against cancer development. No food in isolation can effectively lower cancer risk.


The Chocolate

The health benefits of chocolate depend upon the type of chocolates you choose – and how many.

The Healthy Insides

Dark Chocolate

Most of the health benefits with dark chocolate relate to cardiovascular disease. Dark chocolate is packed with flavonoids, a group of phytochemicals that act as antioxidants. Research shows that consuming chocolate increases the antioxidants in our blood. Cocoa powder ranks as having the highest antioxidants of the chocolate products, followed by dark chocolate and milk chocolate. Studies link eating chocolate in moderation with heart health, including improving blood vessel function and lowering blood pressure. The flavonoids can slow the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (the “bad” type). When LDL cholesterol becomes oxidized it can clog blood vessels.

Cocoa Powder

Given chocolate’s rich supply of flavonoids, researchers have also investigated whether it may play a role in cancer prevention. The studies in cancer prevention are still emerging. A recent review of studies on the cancer protective properties of cocoa concluded that the evidence is limited but suggestive.

Cacao Beans

From Cacao to Cocoa

Whatever the chocolate, it all begins with the cacao bean. First, the cacao bean is roasted and ground into thick chocolate liquor (non-alcoholic). This liquor, hardened, is unsweetened chocolate. When pressure is added to the liquor, it pushes out the bean’s fat, called cocoa butter. Cocoa powder is made by drying and sifting the remaining material from the liquor. Mix up some chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, sugar and milk, and the commercial chocolate treat emerges. In general, higher the percentage of cacao, the darker the chocolate, more intense the flavor and less room for sugar.

White chocolate contains cocoa butter but not any chocolate liquor; technically it is not chocolate. (It gets its name because it contains cocoa butter.)

Pick Your Pleasure

There are plenty of ways to get the same healthful plant compounds contained in chocolate, such as by eating fruits and vegetables. For chocolate lovers, you can enjoy it all. Whether it’s dark or milk, aim for the plain chocolates without sugar.

The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is one of the oldest diets around and not quite as trendy or weight-loss-focused as some others. But it’s a favorite of doctors and dietitians; there are numerous studies that suggest it can lower the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean Diet is more than a diet. It is a lifelong living style. You have to adopt it, as a religion. Decades ago, it was the natural way of life of many people around the Mediterranean Basin.

The Mediterranean Diet is the best way to live many years with a high quality of life. It is also the best way to keep your body in shape, your skin clean and beautiful and your internal organs working properly. It is the best diet to lead you to a proportional weight and won’t endanger your health with urgent and unbalanced malnutrition. Fad diets may allow you to lose a few pounds, for a time, a weight that you will regain later after having lost part of your health. You may not know immediately, but the aftermath will come later.

mediterranean diet pyramid

There is something that you should take into account. The Mediterranean Diet is free, without any supplements or packs. Consequently, there is no economic interest behind it. The only money you are going to spend is your own investment in adequate and fresh food, fruits and vegetables.

Mediterranean diet 1

The key components of the diet are:

  • Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
  • Replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil
  • Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
  • Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
  • Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
  • Drinking red wine in moderation (optional)

The diet also recognizes the importance of being physically active and enjoying meals with family and friends.

The Hunger Games

Like cleanses, periodic fasting is focused on sacrifice. Based on “The Fast Diet,” by British physician Michael Mosley and journalist Mimi Spencer, this diet calls for intermittent restriction: You eat what you want five days a week, but twice a week you semi-fast, keeping yourself to 500 calories a day for women or 600 for men. It’s claimed that the occasional deprivation won’t just melt away pounds but can also protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer.

No Fasting

Fasting is not advised for people with an underlying health problem. There has been some research on very-low-calorie diets and longevity, but the studies weren’t large enough or long enough to draw any realistic conclusions for the average person. The research did not look at “eat whatever to want for 5 days and deprive yourselves for 2 days” regimen.

If you’re fasting to lose weight, you may want to reconsider. The weight loss may not last after you finish fasting. If your goal is to detox your body, you should know that there’s no proof that it works. Your body naturally detoxes itself.

Your body needs vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients from food to stay healthy. If you don’t get enough, you can have symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, constipation, dehydration, and not being able to tolerate cold temperatures. Fasting too long can be life-threatening. Don’t fast, even for a short time, if you have diabetes, because it can lead to dangerous dips and spikes in blood sugar.

nutrient rich diet

Before you go on a new diet, particularly one that involves fasting, ask your doctor if it’s a good choice for you. Get a referral to a registered dietitian, who can show you how to design a healthy eating plan.

Cutting Gluten

In the bestselling book “Wheat Belly,” cardiologist William Davis writes that modern, genetically modified strains of wheat are the cause of most Americans’ health problems and blames gluten, a protein found in wheat and related grains, such as barley and rye, that can cause an autoimmune response in people with celiac disease.

According to Davis, all people fare poorly on gluten, whether they have celiac disease or not, and swapping gluten-loaded breads and pastas for vegetables, meats and other wheat-free foods will lead to weight loss and better overall health.

There is little evidence to support it. There is a small group of people who have a pathological response to gluten, for such people it’s absolutely essential to eat a gluten-free diet. Others may be limiting their choices unnecessarily.

Limiting those choices may not always be a bad thing if it helps you cut out crackers and cookies and cakes, which may result in a lot fewer calories and you, may lose weight, but it has nothing to do with the gluten.

Please approach the popular anti-wheat polemic with caution, and not trade one set of unhealthful habits for another. It is possible to eat gluten-free junk food.

Now that gluten-free craze has caught on, there are many highly processed gluten-free foods available. Which means you can cut gluten and still get fatter and sicker.


Inflammation Diet

This is the third diet in the series; we are not discussing diets for weight loss. These diets are supposed to accomplish more than just weight loss, therefore, the need for some clarification and guidance.

Inflammation is one of your body’s powerful healing processes. Under normal conditions, it’s an acute (short-lived), a controlled response to an injury, such as a cut or a sprain, or a routine illness. Acute inflammation defends the body then goes away once healing is under way.

Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is the result of subtler insults to the body. Culprits include an unhealthful diet, lack of physical activity, stress and exposure to cigarette smoke or environmental toxins. Chronic inflammation lingers, creating a state of chaos, and research suggests that this may be the root of many complex diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer.

Growing evidence shows that diet and lifestyle can either create a pro-inflammatory environment or an anti-inflammatory one. Here are some everyday steps you can take to cool the heat of inflammation with good nutrition.

Fruits and veggies: Eating an abundance of fruits and vegetables from all parts of the color spectrum will provide you with a variety of antioxidants and health-promoting plant phytochemicals. Vegetables from the cruciferous family — broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale and cauliflower — are especially rich in these inflammation-fighting compounds. Deeply pigmented fruits and veggies are generally phytochemical powerhouses — think red, blue, purple, dark green, yellow and orange — but so are garlic, onions, cauliflower and mushrooms.


Fiber: This is easy when you base your meals on healthy carbohydrate choices like vegetables, fruits, legumes (beans and lentils) and whole grains. Eat fewer foods made with flour and sugar, especially packaged snack foods, as these refined carbohydrates promote inflammation. If you enjoy pasta, eat it in moderation and cook it al dente (firm to the bite).


Healthful fats: Extra-virgin olive oil, expeller-pressed organic canola oil are options if you want neutral-tasting oil. Include moderate amounts of avocados, nuts and seeds in your meals or snacks. Another reason to avoid heavily processed foods is that they often contain low-quality, damaged fats, which promote inflammation.

Pile of assorted nuts close upavocado

Beyond meat: Fish, with its healthful omega-3 fats, and plant-based proteins like legumes and less-processed forms of soy (tofu, tempeh, edamame, soy milk) can help reduce inflammation. Meat, and to a lesser extent poultry, milk and dairy, can be pro-inflammatory.

salmon Soy Milk

Spice it up. Spices are more than just flavoring agents — they are also packed with phytochemicals. Ginger and turmeric are particularly noted for their anti-inflammatory properties.

Garlic ginger

Tea breaks: All types of tea — green, oolong and black — contain inflammation-fighting phytochemicals, but green tea is the top choice. Herbal teas don’t have the same benefit, as they don’t come from the Camellia sinensis bush. Coffee does contain phytochemicals, but in excess it can contribute to inflammation.


Practice moderation: Eating more calories than your body needs can promote inflammation. If your weight stays fairly steady, you are probably eating the right amount of calories for your level of activity.


Alcohol is inflammatory, especially in excess. If you drink, moderation is advised. To satisfy a sweet tooth, fresh fruit or small amounts of plain dark chocolate are your best bets.

Wondering About FODMAPs?

FODMAPS is a therapeutic eating plan that has been gaining ground as an effective protocol to help individuals who are suffering with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

The quirky name FODMAPs stands for F= Fermentable, O=Oligo, D=Di, M=Monosaccharides, And Polyols. These are a family of carbohydrates and short-chain sugars that are more easily fermented in the digestive tract and most likely to contribute to gas, bloating, pain and other frustrating gut symptoms.

Research behind FODMAPs

It has been known for many decades that some foods may be more problematic than others with IBS. But more recently, scientists from Australia and the US have been working to track down FODMAPs as instigators of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Research is also being conducted on the benefits of FODMAPs in Crohn’s disease.

Total elimination of FODMAPs may not be necessary or realistic, but lessening the FODMAPs load may spell IBS relief. Begin by experimenting with a lighter load of the highest FODMAPs foods if you suffer from IBS. Keep a food journal to figure out if this is indeed comfort food for your digestive tract.

High FODMAPs Foods

Fruit: Apple, apricot, blackberries, cherries, coconut, nectarine, mango, pear, peach, plum, prune and watermelon; dried fruits and fruit juices


Vegetables: Artichokes, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, beetroot, button mushrooms, cabbage, cauliflower, chicory, garlic, leeks, lettuce, okra, onions, radicchio, shallots and snow peas

Snow Peas Artichokes Fresh green vegetable, isolated over white

Beans/Legumes: Chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, soybeans and edamame (tofu is OK)

Lentils Chickpeas

Grains: Wheat (whole wheat and refined wheat products), rye, triticale


Dairy: Milk (cow, goat, sheep) and milk products, yogurt, sour cream, ice cream, cheese (especially cottage and ricotta)

Ice Cream Flavors Yogurt isolated pitcher

Nut & Seeds: Not yet specifically analyzed by researchers, but recent suggestion is that peanuts are low in FODMAPs and it is OK to include 1 handful/day of nuts and seeds unless there is a known adverse reaction or an allergy to nuts.

Sweeteners: Agave nectar, honey, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and HFCS based products (condiments, snacks, sodas, etc.); polyols/sugar alcohols including mannitol, maltitol, sorbitol, xylitol, isomalt found in sugar-free products such as gums, mints, cough drops and other medicines

Honey Honey cough-dropsChewing Gum

Alcohol: Sherry, port wine (Other alcoholic beverages are OK. However, total elimination is highly recommended during a therapeutic trial.)

sherry Port wine

Other: Food or supplements containing inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) such as coffee substitutes, energy bars, prebiotics, probiotics.

It’s a lot to handle, few foods left to eat, but if you have decided to go all the way please have some professional guidance, talk to a dietitian/nutritionist.

If you plan to follow this diet, here is a 1 day menu to give you some more insight.


1Cup Lactose free milk

Gluten-free cereal (cannot contain honey, apple juice, pear juice, agave, or high-fructose corn syrup)



Lactose-free yogurt

Cantaloupe and honeydew

Gluten-free rice cakes



Pork loin or center-cut pork chop (cooked)

Less than ½ C sweet potato

Lettuce, cucumber, and tomato salad with oil and vinegar dressing


Strawberry sorbet