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Home  /  Integrative Cancer Care  /  Body  /  Cancer Diet  /  Cancer Fighting Foods

Cancer Fighting Foods

By Jeannine Walston

“Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Food is medicine against cancer when you know what to eat and what not to eat. An optimal diet with cancer fighting foods promotes cancer cell death and supports wellness. Learn about a cancer diet to support quality of life, cancer survival, and cancer prevention. Healthy foods are a key component of integrative cancer care.

Nutrition and cancer recommendations about cancer fighting foods to eat have been compiled based on research studies and cancer resources from Anticancer by David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD and Harnessing the Power of Your Diet Against Cancer: Report of Translational Research by Jeanne Wallace, PhD, CNC of Nutritional Solutions. Learn about cancer food in a cancer diet.

Cruciferous Vegetables: Brussels sprouts, collard greens, kale, chard, watercress, turnip, cabbage, broccoli, broccoli sprouts, cauliflower, bok choy, kohlrabi, arugula, radishes, and others

  • Contains very powerful anticancer compounds through glucosinolates, including sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinols
    • Sulfurophane provides a potent anti-cancer phytochemical
    • Indoles enhances liver detoxification of carcinogens and other toxins
  • Promotes cancer cell death
  • Blocks the growth of new blood vessels needed for cancer growth
  • Detoxifies certain cancer causing substances
  • Prevents precancerous cells from developing into malignant tumors

Carotenoids: Fruits and vegetables bright-colored yellow, orange, red, or green

  • Stimulates the growth of immune cells and increases their capacity to attack tumor cells through lutein, lycopene, phytoene, and canthaxanthin
  • With over 600 carotenoids available in the diet, Vitamin A, beta carotene, and lycopene all have demonstrated growth against cancer cells.
  • For Lycopene-Rich Foods, eat tomato products such as tomato sauce, paste, soup, and salsa; tomato products gives potent antioxidant activity greater than all other carotenoids and inhibitors of many types of cancer cell proliferation. Goji berries, watermelon, guava, and pink grapefruit also provide lycopene.

Leafy Greens

  • Acts as an antioxidant
  • Supports immune functions

Sprouts: Broccoli sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, kale sprouts, sunflower seed greens, wheatgrass juice, barley grass juice, oat grass juice, cabbage sprouts, cauliflower sprouts, and others

  • Contains high levels of chlorophyll supporting many healthy functions in the body
  • Acts as an antioxidant
  • Provides cells with high levels of enzymes supporting detoxification and other benefits

Berries: Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, pomegranates, grapes, goji berries, blackberries, and others

  • Contains ellagic acid that supports anticancer activity
  • Stimulates mechanisms of elimination of cancer causing substances in the body
  • Inhibits the growth of blood vessels that support cancer
  • Enhances the efficacy of chemotherapy

Garlic, Onions, Leeks, Shallots, and Chives

  • Helps remove toxic substances such as nitrosamines and N-nitroso compounds that are created in overgrilled meat and during tobacco consumption
  • Promotes the death of cancer cells
  • Regulates blood sugar levels that reduces insulin secretion and IGF and thereby the growth of cancer cells
  • Enhances immune function
  • Reduces blood clotting and lowers blood pressure
  • Provides sulfur compounds that may help remove excess copper from the body and promote the detoxification of carcinogen and cancer-promoting compounds

Herbs and Spices

     Turmeric and Curry

  • Acts as the most powerful anti-inflammatory
  • Helps stimulate the death of cancer cells
  • Inhibits the growth of new blood vessels needed for cancer growth
  • Enhances the effectiveness of chemotherapy and reduces tumor growth in the laboratory


  • Acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant
  • Acts against certain cancer cells
  • Helps reduce the creation of new blood vessels needed for cancer growth
  • Alleviates nausea from chemotherapy or radiotherapy

     Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, Basil, and Mint

  • Promotes the death of cancer cells and reduces their spread by blocking the enzymes they need to invade neighboring tissues
  • Acts as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant
  • Rosemary has strong effects to inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells, reduce invasion of cancer cells by blocking MMP enzymes, and enhance the differentiation-inducing effects of Vitamins A and D. Another study indicates that rosemary enhances the efficacy of chemotherapy.
    • Reduces the growth of new blood vessels needed for cancer growth and metastases through high levels of polyphenols, including catechins
    • Acts as a powerful antioxidant and detoxifier activating enzymes in the liver that eliminate toxins from the body
    • Facilitates the death of cancer cells
    • Enhances the effects of radiotherapy on cancer cells in the laboratory

Green Tea

  • With nearly 200 studies against various types of cancer over the past 10 years, the catechins in green tea are proving to be especially beneficial for cancer patients. The best amount of green tea includes 3 cups daily. You can consume it iced, as well as refrigerated then used in other types of food such as soups and rice.

Citrus Peel: Orange, Tangerine, and Lemon Peels

  • All contain limonene which stimulates liver detoxification of carcinogens, anti-tumor activity, and induces differentiation (maturation of cancer cells into healthy cell types)
  • Tangerine peel supplies tangeritin and nobiletin, which have shown the ability to inhibit the MMP enzymes that promote the invasive properties of cancer cells.

Mushrooms: Maitake, shiitake, enoki, crimini, portobello, and white button mushrooms

  • Stimulates the reproduction and activity of immune cells such as natural killer cells
  • Enhances the efficacy of chemotherapy while reducing side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite
  • Helps to suppress cancer metastasis

Super-Green Foods: Chlorella, Spirulina, Wheat Grass, Blue-Green Algae, and Barley Greens

  • Chlorella studies indicate boosting energy and possibly prolonging survival
  • Super greens chelate and remove excess copper from the body, which may help inhibit angiogenesis
  • Micro-greens help nourish the blood through anemia

Legumes: Dried peas, lentils, and beans, including pintos, adukis, black beans, kidney, and mung beans

  • Provides genistein from isoflavones with anti-angiogenesis activity that prevents tumors from growing by inhibiting their ability to create new blood vessels and working as inhibitors of protein kinase C, an enzyme that fosters tumor growth.

Seaweed: Nori, kombu, wakame, arame, and dulse

  • Inhibits tumor growth
  • Helps reduce the formation of new blood cells needed for cancer growth
  • Stimulates immune cells such as T-cells and natural killer cells
  • Acts as an anti-inflammatory

Whole Grains: Brown rice, buckwheat, whole-grain bread, wild rice, rye, quinoa, barley, and others

Note: People with gluten allergies need to avoid glutens.

  • Dilutes, binds, inactivates, and removes carcinogens, cholesterol, bile acids, and various toxic substances
  • Prevents the fueling of some types of cancers by balancing levels of glucose and insulin

Recommendations state to consume very little carbohydrates that are not optimal for cancer patients.


Caution: Many fish contain high levels of toxins such as mercury. Generally, the bigger the fish, the more toxins, and the smaller the fish, the less toxins. Deepwater, northern ocean fish are best, including salmon, cod, haddock, mackerel, and sardines.

  • Supplies omega-3 fatty acids
  • Acts as an anti-inflammatory
  • Strengthens healthy cellular structure, function, and communication
  • Stimulates immune cells and function
  • Supports cancer prevention and may promote anti-cancer activity
  • Promotes brain and nervous system health

“Omega-3s can reverse tumor metastasis as well as a tumor’s resistance to radiation or chemotherapy, and may also enhance the effectiveness and minimize the toxic side effects of some chemotherapy drugs.”
-Keith Block, MD, Life Over Cancer

Oils, Nuts, and Seeds

Note: Healthy oils include olive, hemp, walnut, coconut, and flaxseed oils that are not rancid. Coconut oil is the most stable for cooking at high temperatures, but must be consumed in moderation. Avoid corn, soy, vegetable, peanut, sunflower, and safflower oils.

  • Supplies omega-3 fats and especially through flaxseeds and walnuts
  • Acts as an anti-inflammatory
  • Supports healthy cellular, structure, function, and communication
  • Stimulates immune cells and function
  • Promotes brain and nervous system health

What else is really important to know about diet? What is nuclear factor kappa beta?

Many explanations about cancer fighting foods highlight that healthy foods often support anti-inflammation. If you do not know about that topic, the article Inflammation and Cancer clearly teaches how inflammation in the body supports cancer, and how to maintain low inflammation levels that support quality of life and survival against cancer.

A major mechanism through which inflammation fuels cancer involves the production and activity of a protein called nuclear factor kappa beta (NF-kB). Nuclear factor kappa beta is considered a master switch in cancer accounting for approximately 95% of all cancers. Inflammation and Cancer explains more about NF-kB.

To inhibit nuclear factor kappa beta central to fueling inflammation and cancer, Jeanne Wallace, PhD, CNC references some of the following natural agents.


Almonds, anise, ashwagandha, basil, bee propolis, black pepper, boswellia, caraway, cardamom, chili pepper, cinnamon, clove, coriander, cumin, curcumin, fennel, fenugreek, figs, flaxseed, garlic, ginger, gooseberry, gruggul, Holy basil, lemongrass, licorice, mace, mango, mint, mustard seed, nutmeg, onion, oregano, parsley, pecans, pomegranate, prunes, resveratrol, rosemary, saffron, sesame seeds, tamarind, turmeric, walnuts

What are some basic yet important tips for cancer patients about cancer fighting foods?

  • Since most people eat multiple times daily, cancer diet choices have a strong and constant impact on the body.
  • Learn what nutrition and cancer through foods that create harmony versus havoc to your body, mind, and spirit. The foods that you eat support your wellness, vitality, quality of life, and length of life.
  • For cancer patients receiving therapies such as radiation and chemotherapy, proper nutrition can increase the efficacy and diminish the toxicity of conventional cancer treatments.
  • Cancer information provides high quality anticancer dietary recommendations. Since each person is unique, variability exists between optimal cancer fighting foods for each person.
  • Consult with an integrative cancer care expert in nutrition and cancer, read quality cancer information books about food choices, and listen to your body to create your optimal cancer diet.
  • Proper nutrition with cancer food is a primary area of focus for cancer prevention. The largest epidemiological study conducted on the global relationship of environmental factors and cancer prevention indicates that 50 percent of cancers have a nutritional component1.

What are some other recommendations about foods to support health, especially through detoxification?

“Nutrition must be optimized for efficient detoxification. The diet must be based upon whole foods (plenty of vegetables, fruits, and fiber) and should emphasize foods with a net alkalinizing impact with lower amounts of acid-forming foods. Generous portions of cruciferous vegetables should be eaten daily, along with modest amounts of olive oil, as well as onions, garlic, and modest amounts of lean, unprocessed proteins. Supplements can include alkalinizing minerals (Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, and Zinc), along with multivitamin/trace elements, essential fatty acids (DHA/EPA), N-acetylcysteine, lipoic acid, and antioxidant support (vitamins C and E, grape seed extract, green tea extract)2.”

For More Information

  • Anticancer: A New Way of Life by David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD
  • Crazy Sexy Kitchen by Kris Carr with Chef Chad Sarno
  • Foods That Fight Cancer: Preventing Cancer Through Diet by Richard Beliveau, PhD & Denis Gingras, PhD
  • Healing Spices: How to Use 50 Everyday and Exotic Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease by Bharat B. Aggarwal, PhD
  • Integrative Oncology by Donald Abrams, MD and Andy Weil, MD
  • Life Over Cancer: The Block Center for Integrative Cancer Treatment by Keith Block, MD
  • The Whole-Food Guide for Breast Cancer Survivors: A Nutritional Approach to Preventing Recurrence by Edward Bauman, MEd, PhD & Helayne Waldman, MD, EDD

Recipe Books for Cancer Patients in Treatment

  • The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery by Rebecca Katz & Mat Edelson
  • One Bit at a Time: Nourishing Recipes for Cancer by Rebecca Katz & Mat Edelson
  • Eating Well Through Cancer by Holly Clegg and Gerald Miletello, MD
  • What to Eat Now: The Cancer Lifeline Cookbook by Rachel Keim & Ginny Smith
1. Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a global perspective. World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research, 2009
2. Textbook of Functional Medicine