Skip to content

Cancer Health Center

Cancer and Nutrition: Can Food Save Your Life?

Font Size
A
A
A
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

It may seem like you're always reading about foods that can help protect you from cancer. But what if you already have cancer? Can any foods help you then?

Get Your Fruits and Vegetables

Everyone likely benefits from eating plant-based foods. To add more fruits and vegetables to your diet:

  • Choose meatless meals, such as vegetarian lasagna or a vegetable stir-fry, a few times a week.
  • Snack on carrot sticks, sweet pepper slices, and fresh or dried fruits.
  • Have a leafy green salad with dinner.
  • Drink a 100% fruit or vegetable juice as a snack.

Food and Cancer Treatment

So far, experts don't recommend foods as a way to kill cancer cells. One piece of promising news is garlic may neutralize carcinogens, possibly causing cancer cells to self-destruct.

“Unfortunately, there is no single food that will cure cancer. Still, what you eat is very important,” says Veronica McLymont, PhD, RD, director of food and nutrition services at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

While you’re treated for cancer, eat a variety of healthy foods to give your body all the nutrients it needs. Evidence isn’t conclusive, but experts believe that a healthy diet may improve your chance of recovery. 

If you drink alcohol and are starting cancer treatment, talk with your doctor about it. Alcohol can interact with some cancer therapies.

Dietary Supplements and Cancer

“When you've been diagnosed with cancer, it's tempting to believe claims that certain dietary supplements will help fight the disease,” says Kim Jordan, RD, nutrition director at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. There’s very little evidence for such claims.

There is good evidence, though, that some dietary supplements can interfere with some cancer treatments. One of them is St. John's wort. Even antioxidant vitamins like vitamin C or E in excessive doses may be risky. Talk to your doctor about any supplements you take or plan to take while undergoing cancer treatment. If you're worried that you may be falling short on essential nutrients, arrange to meet with a dietitian.

Reviewed on August 13, 2012

Today on WebMD

Colorectal cancer cells
A common one in both men and women.
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
 
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Ovarian cancer illustration
Do you know the symptoms?
 
Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
Blog
what is your cancer risk
HEALTH CHECK
 
colorectal cancer treatment advances
Video
breast cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
prostate cancer overview
SLIDESHOW
lung cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
Actor Michael Douglas
Article