Anti Cancer Foods

Anti-Cancer Diet

It is considered one of the 7 healing practices that enhance one’s well-being. Eating well means nourishing oneself with food that is not only healthy but tasty. Eating well is tried as either a complementary or alternative therapy for cancer. It is one of the therapies that may help enhance cancer treatments, restore health, and reduce the risk of cancer recurrence. But, adopting an anti-cancer diet alone will not likely prevent, cure or control cancer; instead, it is one component of an individualized integrative plan instead of stand-alone therapy.

Eating a diet based on plant foods like vegetables, whole grains, beans and fruit and following some basic guidelines have effectively reduced cancer risk. The anti-cancer diet includes a plant-dependent diet that provides the body with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other antioxidants. Dietary interventions have resulted in improved outcomes in cancer treatment. Also, diet interventions have shown efficacy in overcoming the side effects caused by cancer treatment. The anti-cancer diet consists of high content food of phytochemicals with potent anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. The food is an anti-cancer diet with the properties capable of blocking precancerous cells from developing into malignant cells by interfering directly with tumor cells and by preventing the generation of an inflammatory microenvironment that would sustain the progression of the tumors. 

Anti-cancer diets provide health benefits beyond essential nutrition, and the foods of anti-cancer diets are similar to conventional foods. They are consumed in the form of a regular diet. The food components of an anti-cancer diet provide the body with the required amount of vitamins, fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. The diet includes ingredients or natural constituents in conventional, fortified, enriched, and enhanced foods. Several naturally occurring compounds are found in food, mainly the antioxidative compounds in plants or their extracts and essential oils, representing potential chemopreventive factors (Sporn & Suh, 2002). Common anti-cancer foods and nutrients involve flaxseeds, soy, garlic, berries, tomatoes, cruciferous vegetables, green tea, whole grains, turmeric, leafy green vegetables, grapes, beans, etc.

Foods and nutrients with anticancer properties

Common anti-cancer foods and nutrients involve flaxseeds, soy, garlic, berries, tomatoes, cruciferous vegetables, green tea, whole grains, turmeric, leafy green vegetables, grapes, beans, etc. These common anti-cancer foods and nutrients are discussed below:

  • Flaxseeds: It is a sesame-like seed that contains soluble fiber, alpha-linolenic acid (a form of healthy omega-3 fatty acid), and is the richest source of lignans involving phytoestrogens that function as antioxidants. The use of flaxseed has reduced the number and growth of breast tumors.
  • Soy: Exposure to soy in the adolescent phase of life helps women to protect themselves from the risk of developing breast cancer. It is effective in lowering cholesterol.
  • Garlic: It is considered a cancer-fighting food. Several studies have confirmed that intake of more garlic results in reducing the risk of cancer development such as the esophagus, stomach, and colon cancer. 
  • Berries: It consists of powerful antioxidants that hinder the naturally occurring process in the body generating free radicals responsible for cell damage. Therefore, berries are considered the healing food for cancer. 
  • Tomatoes: It is effective in protecting against prostate cancer in men. It covers the DNA in cells from any damage that leads to cancer risk. It consists of a high concentration of an effective antioxidant called lycopene absorbed by the body, evolving into a cancer-fighting food. 
  • Cruciferous vegetables: It consists of broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, considered cancer-fighting foods. The components in the veggies help protect from the free radicals that damage the DNA of the cells. It also protects from cancer-causing chemicals, helping reduce tumor growth and enhance cell death. 
  • Green tea:the leaves of the tea plant Camellia sinensis consist of antioxidants known as catechins which show efficacy in preventing cancer in several ways involving the protection of free radicals from cell damage. The presence of catechins in tea effectively reduces the tumor size and growth of tumor cells. Hence, drinking green tea has lowered the risk of cancer development.
  • It contains many components that lower cancer risk, mainly fiber and antioxidants. Intake of more whole grains lowers the risk of colorectal cancer, making them a top item in the category of foods to fight cancer. Oatmeal, barley, brown rice, whole-wheat bread and pasta are all the components of food used as whole grains.
  • Turmeric consists of an ingredient called curcumin that helps reduce cancer risk. Curcumin can inhibit several cancer types and helps slow the spread of cancer (metastasis).
  • Leafy green vegetables involve spinach and lettuce, considered good sources of the antioxidants beta-carotene and lutein. Collard greens, mustard greens, and kale are other food components of leafy green vegetables that contain chemicals that limit the growth of some types of cancer cells. 
  • Grapes: It is considered a rich source of an antioxidant called resveratrol that inhibits the growth of cancer cells from growing and spreading. 
  • Beans: It contains fiber that helps reduce the risk of cancer. It also consists of antioxidant properties.

Anticancer dietary guidelines

Dieticians or specialists recommend Anti-cancer dietary guidelines to prevent cancer and reduce the risk of cancer. Some of the smart-eating policies as having been discussed below:

  • Limiting alcohol consumption and intake of foods with folic acid is recommended.
  • Exercise regularly and reduce the intake of fat and sugar in food.
  • Varieties of fruits and vegetables with about 1/2 cup every nine times a day are recommended. One cup of dark green vegetables and one cup of orange fruit and vegetables are recommended.
  • Intake of fish and fish products is recommended twice to three times a week while replacing with meats containing high saturated fats.
  • Intake of beans involving soybean products is essential, which is recommended three times a week to take the place of red meat and as a source of folic acid, fibre, and various phytochemicals.
  • Several servings of whole-grain foods each day are recommended.
  • Substitutes for foods with low calories, fat, and higher nutrients involving fibres should be recommended.
  •  Lean meats, low-fat dairy products, and substitute canola and olive oil for butter, lard, and margarine high in trans fats are chosen.

Supplements used as anti-cancer diet with their benefits:

Medical Cannabis: It is produced from the extract of the Sativa plant. It is used for chemotherapy-induced pain control. It shows efficacy in managing nausea and vomiting associated with cancer-associated treatments. Medical Cannabis extract also acts as an antitumor agent preventing the spread of cancer. It is also helpful in reducing anxiety and enhancing sleep. This natural extract fights cancer, manages pain, induces sleep & improves appetite. It is a highly concentrated, non-diluted extract with CBD: THC ratio of 1:1 and is a concentrated paste in the syringe, which allows for easy and precise. Its benefits are:

  • Chemopreventive protection
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Natural pain killer
  • Appetite stimulation
  • Sleep regulation
  • Manages chemotherapy side-effects
  • Grape seed Extract: It is a natural antioxidant. It eliminates free radicals, which are responsible for cancer creation. It is thus helpful in treating cancer, diabetes and heart diseases. It also protects from bacterial infections and helps heal wounds. It is combined with proanthocyanidins for better drug interaction and is available as capsules for easy consumption. Its benefits are:
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Immunity booster
  • Cell repair
  • Improves Vitamin C & E levels
  • Maintains blood pressure
  • Manages heart diseases 
  • Reishi Mushroom: It is a natural remedy for chronic stress and fatigue. It is universally used for cancer treatment, side effect management of chemotherapy and radiation, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and cold sores. It is a natural dietary product to boost immunity and reduce stress & fatigue. Its benefits are:
  • Chemopreventive protection
  • Improve sleeping schedule
  • Anti-viral
  • Anti-fatigue
  • Anti-anxiety and depression
  • Natural pain killer
  • Curcumin: It is a natural compound found in the Turmeric plant. It has been proven to reduce inflammation, increase antioxidants, reduce pain & regenerate cells. It also helps in blood circulation and improves immunity. Its benefits are:
  • Anti-Inflammation
  • Antioxidants
  • Immunity booster
  • Natural pain killer
  • Anti-anxiety and depression
  • Metabolism regulation
  • Reduces LDL-cholesterol level, glucose and blood pressure
  • Green Tea Extract: It has been proven to have anti-free radicals and antioxidant properties. It works on enhancing the immune system function and boosting metabolism. It has been known to display free radical scavenging activity and protect cells from DNA damage. It also helps reduce cholesterol and makes the heart healthy. Its benefits are:
  • Manages heart diseases
  • Manages liver disease
  • Immunity booster
  • Cholesterol reduction
  • Blood pressure control
  • Metabolism regulation
  • Milk Thistle: It is a natural nutraceutical to boost the immune system, increase antioxidants, protect the liver, and regenerate cells. Its flowering herb has proven anti-cancer properties.  It helps the body get rid of toxins and promotes healthy cell repair. Its benefits are:
  • Anti-oxidants
  • Cell repair
  • Improves brain function
  • Promotes digestive health
  • Weight loss management
  • Detoxification
  • Melatonin: It is the hormone produced by the pineal gland within the brain. It helps in regulating sleep and wake cycles. Melatonin is found in fruits, nuts, olive oil and wine. It is also available as a supplement used as a sleep aid. The cancer is aggressive among patients who have nighttime production of Melatonin. Benefits include:
  • The supplementation of Melatonin in cancer patients shows anti-cancer effects. 
  • Melatonin is used as an adjuvant to establish improved outcomes and responses to conventional treatments in cancer.
  • It has improved the quality of life.

Vitamin D3: It is a fat-soluble vitamin produced by the body when the skin is exposed to ultraviolet rays in sunlight. It is found naturally in some food items such as egg yolks, cod liver oil, fish oil, wild fish such as salmon, sardines, herring and cod, blood sausage, organ meats such as liver, butter, and mushrooms that have been exposed to sunlight. Also, vitamin D is found in some dairy products, orange juice, soy milk and cereals and is primarily available as a dietary supplement. Its benefits are:

  • Improves survival
  • Enhances anticancer action
  • Possesses cell-killing (cytotoxic) effects
  • Improves metabolic status
  • Reduces progression of cancer cells

Essential Oils: These are complex mixtures of low molecular weight compounds extracted from plants. The main constituents of essential oils include terpenes and phenylpropanoids, which possess biological and pharmaceutical properties. Benefits include:

  • Insecticidal properties
  • Parasiticidal properties
  • Antimicrobial properties
  • Antioxidant effects
  • Anti-inflammatory effects
  • Analgesic effects
  • Antinociceptive effects
  • Anticarcinogenic effects
  • Antitumor properties

Astragalus:It is one of the most common herbs derived from traditional Chinese medicine. It effectively treats different cancer types such as breast, colorectal, esophageal, lung and stomach cancers. Its benefits include:

  • Reduces side effects of cancer treatment
  • Improves quality of life in cancer patients
  • Possesses anti-inflammatory effects
  • Enhances the immune function

European Mistletoe: It shows efficacy when injected or infused in cancer patients and used as supplements. Its benefits include:

  • Stimulates immune system
  • Shows anti-cancer activities
  • Increases  number and activities of white blood cells
  • Improves survival rate of cancer patients

Turkey Tail Mushroom: It is traditional Chinese medicine, with the formulation of PSK or Krestin™ being majorly used in Japan. The major constituents of turkey tail mushrooms are related to their medicinal properties involving β-glucans, PSK (protein-bound polysaccharide, β (1-4)D-glucan protein): Krestin (Japanese formulation), PPSP (polysaccharopeptide), and Ergosterol (provitamin D2 derivatives). Its benefits include:

  • Enhances immune-modulating effects
  • Provides prolonged survival rate in cancer patients

Clinical practice guidelines: Various studies have represented an association between diet and cancer incidence. Besides smoking, a healthy diet is known to be the most critical lifestyle change that helps reduce the risk of cancer (Deng et al., 2009). The clinical practice guidelines are discussed below:

Lung Cancer: A diet with non-starchy vegetables and fruits reduces lung cancer risk (Deng et al., 2013). Limiting the consumption of red meat and processed meat is recommended to reduce the risk of lung cancer. Consumption of high-calorie and protein supplements (1.5 kcal/mL) is recommended for weight stabilization in patients undergoing treatment for lung cancer who have been suffering from weight loss. Oral supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids is recommended for improving nutritional status among patients with lung cancer suffering from sarcopenia.

Cancer (in general): The dietary supplements are ineffective in preventing cancer or cancer recurrence. So the patients are recommended to take critical nutritional components in whole foods. Older cancer patients at risk of dietary inadequacies are advised to visit trained professionals for guidance on nutritional supplementation to promote the optimum nutritional status, manage tumor and treatment-related symptoms, meet increased dietary needs and correct any dietary deficits during treatment (Deng et al., 2009).

Eating a healthy diet should put more emphasis on plant foods. Choosing foods and drinks in amounts helps in maintaining a healthy weight. It is further promoted by eating at least 2½ cups of vegetables and fruits each day and choosing whole grains instead of refined grain products.

Advanced disease: People suffering from progressive illness are recommended to increase their diet’s caloric and nutritional density. Increasing the intake of oils rich in omega-3s, medium-chain triglyceride oil, and, to a lesser extent, omega-6-rich fats is recommended. For wasting (cachexia), anti-inflammatory supplements such as curcumin, fish oil, Boswellia or Scutellaria are recommended.

General dietary guidelines need to be followed. Eating a dense , vegetable-rich diet, maintaining a low dietary fat intake, reducing the dietary glycemic load, especially in the morning, optimizing the potassium–sodium intake and ratio, avoiding depressants and stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine and nicotine and intake supplements with essential vitamins and minerals for stress reduction are recommended. 

Improved survival in cancer: Eating five servings of fruits and vegetables per day decreased the risk of death from all causes, including cancer and also from cardiovascular disease or respiratory disease (Wang et al., 2021).

Breast Cancer: Fat reduction to 20% of energy and increasing intake of vegetables, fruits, and grains in the diet increases the survival after breast cancer diagnosis (Chlebowski et al., 2020). Another study recommends the intake of an anti-inflammatory diet that decreases the overall mortality after a diagnosis of breast cancer by reducing the risk of death from cardiovascular disease (Lemanne & Maizes, 2018). A large study (Women’s Healthy Eating and Living study) included pre-and post-menopausal women and combined low fat intake with higher levels of fruits, vegetables, and fibre. Over seven years, no difference was seen in breast cancer mortality between those following the modified diet and the control group (Pierce et al., 2007). Breast cancer patients who adopted a healthier diet and regular exercise lowered their risk of relapse by nearly half, an effect seen in obese and nonobese women (Pierce et al., 2007).

Colorectal Cancer: Adopting Western dietary patterns such as eating large amounts of processed meats, refined grains, and low quantities of vegetables and fruits are correlated with a higher risk of tumor recurrence and mortality in colorectal cancer (Zhu et al., 2013). More colorectal cancer cases in the US region in the year 2015 were associated with a suboptimal diet among US adults (Zhang et al., 2019).

Head and Neck cancer: Consumption of a whole-food diet before treatment for head and neck cancer is associated with less mortality rate in the patients (Arthur, 2013). Intake of carotenoids is adequate for protection against head and neck cancer (Leoncini et al., 2015).

Managing the cancer symptoms and enhancing wellness: Little anxiety and depression, improved quality of life, changes in diet and a weak trend toward less fatigue among cancer patients with an online physical activity or diet intervention in a meta-analysis of RCTs have been studied, showing successful outcome in improving cancer symptoms (Furness et al., 2020).


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Furness, K., Sarkies, M. N., Huggins, C. E., Croagh, D., & Haines, T. P. (2020). Impact of the method of delivering electronic health behavior change interventions in survivors of cancer on engagement, health behaviors, and health outcomes: systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of medical Internet research, 22(6), e16112.