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 Special diet for cancer

Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in one or more tissues of the body, leading to their destruction. The role of diet in the development of cancer is complex. It is now known that some anti-cancer foods can protect the body from cancer, while others can promote the development of precancerous cells. The special anti-cancer diet aims to include all the nutrients that can help the body limit the growth of cancer cells.

The main points of the special anti-cancer diet :

  • Limit foods high in sugar and saturated fats.
  • Eat more fiber.
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid consumption of too much red meat and sausage.
  • Reduce the consumption of alcohol.

The benefits of a high-carbohydrate diet against cancer

The special diet against cancer has many benefits:

  • Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Preventing cancer development and recurrence.
  • Allowing the body to better defend itself against cancer.
  • To better manage treatments (chemotherapy, radiation therapy, etc.).
  • To compensate the body for costs incurred in fighting the disease.

The following recommendations are not a substitute for cancer treatment. Diet is an additional weapon against cancer, not the only one.

The role of diet in cancer development is complex. Some foods are rich in cancer-fighting molecules and, when consumed daily, limit the growth of early cancer cells. No single food or dietary supplement can protect against cancer. Instead, it is necessary to use and consume several cancer-fighting molecules in large quantities regularly. Foods that are carcinogenic or create an environment conducive to cancer should also be limited. It is, therefore, possible to prevent cancer to some extent. In 2007, the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) released a report with ten recommendations for cancer prevention. The report was the result of the largest study ever conducted on the relationship between lifestyle and cancer. Over five years, 500,000 studies and risk factors for 17 types of cancer were evaluated. The recommendations were developed by 21 leading experts in collaboration with 234 oncologists.

Importance of healthy weight for cancer prevention

The first recommendation is to achieve a healthy weight to prevent cancer. But in a society overloaded with food, being thin is a challenge. There is ample evidence that excess fat increases the risk of the following cancers: esophageal cancer, pancreatic cancer, kidney cancer, uterine cancer, breast cancer (in postmenopausal women), and colon cancer. Women who wish to have children should maintain a healthy weight before pregnancy and should not gain or lose too much weight during pregnancy.

How does excess fat increase the risk of cancer?

Fat cells (adipocytes), especially around the waist, contribute to the production of growth hormones that, in large amounts, increase the risk of cancer. Fat cells can also release hormones such as estrogen, which increase the risk of some cancers, including breast cancer. A healthy body weight, especially a healthy waistline, can reduce cancer risk. Calculate your BMI (Body Mass Index) and measure your waist circumference.

For weight-loss strategies, see Weight Problems-Obesity and Overweight: Creating New Habits and Diet Tips and Menus for Weight Loss.

Tumors, breast cancer, and diet: dietary recommendations.

Recommendations for cancer prevention include exercise and breastfeeding. There are also many specific dietary recommendations. The following dietary recommendations are important for people who want to prevent cancer and for people who already have cancer or want to prevent it from coming back. Learn how to apply them in your daily life.

Anti-cancer agents

Anti-cancer agents are foods that have a positive effect on the development of cancer cells. In general, this positive effect is related to the interesting content of molecules that are protective of the body. Therefore, fruits and vegetables, whole grain products, and legumes should be consumed in large quantities. Other foods such as turmeric, tea, and cocoa are also important in fighting and preventing cancer.

Fruits and vegetables

It is recommended to eat at least 5 servings (at least 150 g) of different fruits and vegetables per day. Fruits and vegetables contain a large number of phytochemicals, including several antioxidants. The link between fruit and vegetable consumption and cancer prevention is proven: it reduces the risk of lung, mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, breast, colon, and rectal cancer. Therefore, it is important to promote fruit and vegetables for cancer prevention. Starchy vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, bananas) should not be included in the five servings of fruits and vegetables, but neither should they be avoided.

One serving of fruit and vegetables is equivalent to:

  • 1 plate of salad
  • 1 tomato
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1 bunch of apples
  • 1 glass of 100% pure house juice
  • 1 apple, orange, or pear
  • 10 cherries
  • 2 clementines, 2 kiwis, etc.

Of all the fruits and vegetables on the market, some have better anti-cancer properties than others and deserve a special place in our daily diet. These include berries, citrus fruits, cruciferous vegetables, floods, and tomatoes.

Legumes and whole grains

Whole grains and legumes contain fiber and are low in energy. They are therefore more satiating and help maintain a healthy weight. The World Cancer Research Fund recommends 25 grams of dietary fiber per day for cancer prevention. By consuming whole grains or legumes at every meal, as well as 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, it is relatively easy to achieve 25 grams of fiber per day. Refined starchy foods, such as white bread, do not contain fiber and should be limited.

Feel free to include legumes in the menu. They are very high in fiber and protein and have a low glycemic index, making legumes a good substitute for meat and very economical. A quantity of 200 g of cooked legumes is equivalent to one serving of meat (100 g).

Turmeric and pepper

Turmeric, which is not to be confused with curry, of which it is only a part, is made by grinding the dried rhizome of the plant Curcuma longa, which belongs to the ginger family. Turmeric is part of traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine. Researchers believe it may play a significant role in the dramatic difference in cancer rates in India compared to Western countries. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has numerous properties, including antithrombotic, cholesterol-lowering, and antioxidant properties, as well as potent anti-cancer properties. The bioavailability of curcumin is low, but it is significantly increased by pepper.

Tea and cocoa

Green tea is much more than a hot drink: it is real medicine. Many scientists now recognize its anti-cancer properties.

Black tea and green tea come from the Camellia sinensis plant, but it is simply the way they are processed after harvest that makes the product different. Black tea is fermented, which oxidizes the anticancer molecules in the plant and largely cancels their protective effect. For this reason, green tea has greater advantages over black tea.

Tea contains catechins, chemical compounds in the polyphenol family that are antioxidants. Specifically, catechins are believed to inhibit angiogenesis, which is the formation of new blood vessels around the cancerous tumor. Since these new blood vessels provide oxygen and nourishment to the tumor growth, disrupting their formation is equivalent to preventing tumor growth. Drinking green tea is therefore a way to protect against cancer growth. The catechin content of tea varies depending on where it is grown, the variety, the harvest season, and how it is processed. In other words, not all green teas contain the same amount of catechins. However, it is known that Japanese green tea generally contains more catechins than Chinese green tea. It is always best to buy tea in bulk to check the quality of the product (whether or not it has stems or stalks).

As for cocoa, recent research shows that thanks to the flavonoids it contains, it is one of the foods with the greatest antioxidant properties, more so than tea and wine. To take advantage of this, choose dark chocolate with 70 percent cocoa. Not only is it less sweet than milk chocolate, but it also contains three times more flavonoids. Despite its anti-cancer properties, chocolate should not be consumed in large quantities because it is still very caloric: a 100-gram bar contains 600 calories!

Semi-vegetarian diet

Since all cancer-fighting nutrients are found in plants, a semi-vegetarian diet allows for consuming cancer-protective foods. In addition, by avoiding or limiting meat consumption, you can reduce your intake of bad fats, such as saturated fats. The semi-vegetarian diet is similar to the Mediterranean diet. Meat and processed meats are avoided or kept to a minimum, and fish, seafood, poultry, legumes, pulses, tofu, nuts, and seeds are consumed instead. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are important in this diet. High-quality vegetable oils, especially olive oil and canola oil, are recommended as fats.

Other recommended foods

  • Lean proteins
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Homemade and seasonal foods
  • Good hydration
  • Physical activity

Foods not recommended for cancer

Unlike foods that prevent cancer, some foods can promote the formation of precancerous cells and are therefore risk factors to consider. For example, sugar, bad fats, salt, alcohol, and sausages. For prevention, during treatment or to avoid recurrence, it is, therefore, advisable to limit their consumption as much as possible.

Sweet and fatty products

Studies show that sugary drinks can lead to weight gain because they are not satiating and people tend to drink too many of them. As mentioned above, weight gain is an important risk factor for cancer. Sugary drinks include sodas, sweetened fruit juices, and lemonades. For hydration, it is best to drink water or unsweetened coffee or tea (less than 4 cups per day for coffee and tea). In the case of natural fruit juices, it is best not to drink more than one glass per day.

Similarly, excess fat increases the risk of lung, colon, rectal, prostate, and endometrial cancer. Excess fat alters the balance of intestinal flora, which can convert bile acids into cancer-causing chemicals. Excess fat also affects hormone synthesis. Saturated fats, trans fats, and an excess of omega-6 fatty acids increase cancer risk the most. Fat should make up no more than 30 percent of total calories. For more tips on how to reduce fat, see our fact sheet on high cholesterol.

Foods with high energy density

Energy density is the number of calories per gram of food (cal/g). Low energy density means more food for the same number of calories. Factors affecting energy density are the water, fiber, and fat content of the food. The presence of water and fiber reduces energy density, while the amount of fat and sugar increases it. However, it is the amount of water content in a food that is the most important factor in its energy density. Preferring foods with low energy density can help slow weight gain or even lose weight and reduce the risk of cancers associated with obesity (particularly breast cancer in postmenopausal women and colorectal cancer).

Note that oil, salad dressings, unheated margarine, and nuts are high in energy, but they are sources of good fats. They should not be excluded but used in moderation.

Red meat and sausages

The World Cancer Research Fund recommends consuming no more than 500 g of red meat per week and avoiding sausages. Red meat includes beef, pork, lamb, and goat. Deli meats include smoked, dried, cured, or preserved meats, such as white ham, ham, bacon, bacon bits, dried sausage, salami, Bündnerfleisch, hot dogs, and some sausages.

Red meat and processed meat are associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Further evidence exists for a link between sausages and colorectal cancer. Sausages increase the amount of ammonia and other carcinogens in the colon, which can lead to colon cancer. In addition, the body alters nitrites, used as salt and preservatives in processed meats and meat products. They turn into nitrosamines, cancer-causing chemical compounds.

Choose chicken, turkey, fish, seafood, tofu, and legumes as sources of protein.

Cooking at high temperatures

Cooking at high temperatures produces toxic products: hydrocarbons, benzopyrenes, and heterocyclic amines. Hydrocarbons are found on the charred, crispy surface of the meat. Benzopyrenes are formed when meat fat falls on the heat source and the resulting smoke hits and contaminates the meat. Heterocyclic amines are formed when meat is browned.


It is not yet clear at what threshold alcohol may be linked to cancer risk. Therefore, it is recommended not to exceed the following doses of alcohol:

  • for women: 1 glass per day.
  • For men: 1-2 glasses per day.

Excessive alcohol consumption is believed to contribute to cancer of the larynx, mouth, esophagus, and pharynx.

One dose of alcohol is equivalent to :

  • 12.5 cl wine
  • 250 ml beer
  • 2.5 cl alcohol


Salty foods are probably one of the causes of stomach cancer. Too much salt can damage the stomach and cause healthy cells to turn into cancerous cells.
Preserving foods in salt (such as smoked salmon) can lead to the formation of carcinogens. Wood burning produces polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are suspected of contributing to the development of stomach cancer. Most of the sodium we consume comes not from the salt we add to our dishes and recipes, but from pre-packaged foods. Foods served in restaurants, especially those in fast-food restaurants, often contain large amounts of sodium. In addition, because it is used as a preservative and to enhance the flavor of foods, salt is widely used in the food industry. Sandwiches, burgers, soups, pizzas, prepared and frozen meats, cheeses, sauces, sausages, and crackers contain high amounts of sodium.
See the table of foods to choose from and limit sodium intake in the hypertension fact sheet.

Dietary supplements.

Dietary supplements are not recommended for cancer prevention. Studies show that they can be protective or carcinogenic if taken in excess.

If you take a 1000 mg vitamin C tablet, you are getting 14 times the recommended dose of vitamin C, not to mention that this vitamin C (in tablet form) has been isolated from its natural plant environment. Not so when you eat an orange because, in addition to vitamin C, the orange contains more than 200 antioxidants that work in close synergy with this vitamin. After performing its antioxidant function, vitamin C becomes a pro-oxidant and can damage DNA. When vitamin C is accompanied by other antioxidants (as in oranges), these should subsequently recycle and defuse its oxidized by-products. Therefore, vitamin C, when taken individually and in high doses, may contribute to the development of cancer rather than prevent it. However, this has not yet been demonstrated by human studies.
Vitamin D supplements are an exception.
Low blood levels of vitamin D have recently been shown to be associated with an increased risk of colorectal, prostate, and breast cancer (three of the four most common cancers in Canada). Not surprisingly, this association has quickly attracted the interest of researchers in this health field. It is therefore recommended that adults take a vitamin D supplement of 1,000 IU daily during the fall and winter. It is very difficult to obtain 1,000 IU of vitamin D every day from foods. In any case, before taking a vitamin D supplement, seek advice from your doctor.

Other foods are not recommended:

  • Excessive amounts of cheese
  • Cascade dairy products
  • Processed and prepared foods
  • Fast food
  • Fried foods, breaded foods
  • Tobacco
  • Stress and overwork
  • Sedentary lifestyle

Nutrition and breast cancer: practical tips for everyday life.

Become familiar with Indian cuisine and use turmeric more often.
  • Replace coffee with green tea
  • Have yogurt with red fruits for dessert.
  • Consume at least 2 meals with legumes per week.
  • Choose whole-grain products as often as possible.
  • Make sure you eat at least one serving of vegetables and fruit at every meal and snack.
  • Cook with as many natural ingredients as possible to avoid excess sodium.
  • Eat raw kale with hummus or cottage cheese-based sauces.
  • Add broccoli sprouts to salads and sandwiches.
  • Drink vegetable juices that contain cruciferous vegetables.
  • Buy berries in season and freeze them to enjoy throughout the year.
  • Add berries to cakes, yogurt, or smoothie recipes.
For more information, you can see:
Referred by Stanford Health Care(Nutrition: myths, beliefs, the best diet for cancer prevention)


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