Jun 27, 2017 10:00 AM

Author: Allison Elmer, CPH, Cancer Information Specialist


Updated October 2018

The way you eat plays a big part in your health. Good nutrition can prevent cancer, keep patients strong during treatment, and help patients stay healthy after treatment is over.

Nutrition to Prevent Cancer

To help lower your cancer risk, follow these tips:

  • Eat mostly plant-based foods, with a large variety of fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat foods low in fat.
  • Eat foods low in salt (sodium).
  • Limit how much red meat you eat. This includes beef, lamb, and pork.
  • Limit how much processed meat you eat. Processed meat includes deli meats, bacon, ham, and hot dogs.
  • Limit how much alcohol you drink.

Cancer-Fighting Foods

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, “No single food…can protect you against cancer by itself. But strong evidence does show that a diet filled with a variety of plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans helps lower risk for many cancers.” Some foods have vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (natural plant chemicals) that have been shown to help prevent cancer:

  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cherries
  • Coffee
  • Cranberries
  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Dry beans, peas, and lentils
  • Garlic
  • Grapefruit
  • Grapes
  • Tomatoes
  • Walnuts
  • Winter squash
  • Whole grains

Soy has raised many questions about cancer risk, because it contains a substance similar to estrogen. Evidence shows soy does not increase your risk for cancer. In fact, some studies show that women who eat soy foods may have a decreased risk of developing breast cancer. (Taking soy supplements has not shown this benefit.) However, eating soy foods does not keep breast cancer from coming back in women who have already been diagnosed. HCI dietitian Celestial Reimers notes, “Although soy has not been shown to prevent breast cancer recurrence, rest assured that eating soy is safe for breast cancer survivors.”

Nutrition for Cancer Patients

Cancer treatment and its side effects can make it difficult to eat or to find foods that taste good. Common symptoms interfere with nutrition during cancer treatment:

  • Difficulty chewing and swallowing
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in your sensitivity to taste, texture, or smell
  • Nausea
  • Inflammation or sores in your mouth or throat
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Not feeling hungry, or feeling full quickly

HCI’s registered dietitians can help you deal with these symptoms. They provide nutrition counseling for people diagnosed with all types of cancer. To make an appointment, call the Wellness and Integrative Health Center at 801-587-4585. 

Whether you are a cancer patient, cancer survivor, or a member of the public, nutrition plays a part in your everyday health. Before making big changes to your diet, talk with your doctor to find out what is safe and healthy for you.


Allison Elmer, CPH, Cancer Information Specialist

The G. Mitchell Morris Cancer Learning Center
cancerinfo@hci.utah.edu

cancer learning center nutrition cancer prevention

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