Eat to beat cancer

By Lindsay Malone, RD

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

When you’re being treated for cancer, the last thing you want to think about is sticking to a diet.

I don’t ask people undergoing cancer treatment to do this — I would never overwhelm you with what you “should” be eating.

As a dietitian, my job is to set a foundation to keep you feeling as strong and healthy as possible while you’re getting treatment.

The foundation of eating with cancer treatment

The main nutritional goals during cancer therapy include getting enough:

  • Fluids to stay hydrated (mostly from caffeine-free fluids).
  • Energy (calories) and nutrients from healthy foods.
  • Protein to help maintain lean body mass/muscle

Every patient is different. What works for some may not work for others. If there’s a problem with swallowing or appetite, we adapt to what you find appealing and what is comfortable for you to eat.

Overall, though, our main goal is to provide calories through nutrient-rich foods.

Many patients can follow a normal, healthy diet

If you don’t have nutrition-related side effects from your cancer treatment that limit your ability to eat and/or digest food, you can follow a generally healthy diet that includes:

  • Fruits and vegetables.
  • Whole grains.
  • Beans.
  • Nutritious fats.
  • Lean protein.

Convenient foods that provide nutrients

If you suffer side effects from treatment like fatigue and digestive problems, it is helpful to include foods that take little or no preparation and are easy to eat — and easy on your stomach. I don’t mean junk food full of empty calories, but more convenient choices that still provide the nutrients you need.

Here are suggestions my patients tend to like:

Fresh fruit. The best choices are fruit that is refreshing, easy to eat and high in water content. Melons, berries, pineapple, bananas, pears and canned or jarred fruit in their own juices are all popular.

Yogurt. It’s easy to eat and promotes healthy digestion. Choose unsweetened varieties. You can add berries, cinnamon or slivered almonds to flavor.

Hot or cold cereal. Anything from oatmeal to steel-cut oats to oat bran are good hot choices. Prefer it cold? Your best choices include puffed brown rice, shredded wheat and granola made with ingredients you’d find in your own kitchen (no corn syrup or hydrogenated oil). Rice-based cereals are particularly good if you are having digestive difficulties.

Peanut butter or cheese. Choose whole grain crackers for fiber (if appropriate) and protein. Look for 100 percent peanut butter made without added oils.

Whole grains. Eat whole-grain breads and crackers — be sure it says “100 percent whole grain” on the package. Whole grain promotes regularity and digestive health; too much refinement can strip away fiber, protein and other nutrients.

Meats and poultry. Look for whole, unprocessed meats without nitrates. Rotisserie chicken is a convenient choice, as are chicken or tuna salad and meats/poultry softened in soups and stews. The slow cooker is a great way to prepare meat or poultry that is convenient.

Eggs (cooked). Eat only cooked eggs (scrambled, hard boiled, omelettes). Raw eggs are unsafe, even dropped into a smoothie.

Food safety tips

Finally, preparing and cooking food safely is an extremely important piece of the puzzle. Keep in mind these tips:

  • Cook meat, poultry, fish and eggs to proper temperatures (visit the USDA’s website for specific guidelines).
  • Wash fruits and vegetables.
  • Clean hands/sink/surfaces/cutting boards.
  • Be aware of food safety at restaurants.

What To Eat After You’ve Been Diagnosed With Cancer

When you are diagnosed with cancer, you need to develop a practical plan to deal with the disease, including paying close attention to what you eat.

Your body needs enough calories and the right mixture of nutrients to stay strong as you face cancer and its treatment. According to the American Cancer Society, good nutrition is important because cancer, and cancer treatments, can impact how your body uses nutrients and how it tolerates certain foods.

Here are a few things to remember, as you adjust to life after a cancer diagnosis.

Before treatment

Many nutritionists suggest that you stick with healthful foods, before you begin your treatment. Concentrating on vegetables, fruits, nuts, applesauce, yogurt, brown rice, quinoa and easy-to-prepare essentials is the way to go.

Call for an Appointment
(800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273)

It’s a good idea to make some batches of your favorite meals and freeze them, because you may not have the energy to prepare your meals during the first days or weeks of therapy. Don’t be afraid of asking your friends and family to drop off healthful meals for you during those days, either.

“Many patients ask for an ‘anticancer diet,’ and, unfortunately as of yet, we don’t know what that is,” says Irene Morae Kang, MD, medical oncologist at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center of Keck Medicine of USC and assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “We can use common sense and intuition to say eat whole and healthful foods.”

During Treatment

One of the side effects of cancer treatment is that you may have a loss of appetite. On the days when you feel hungry, make sure to load up on high-protein foods, such as lean meats (chicken, turkey and fish), eggs, beans, nuts, seeds, cheese, milk and yogurt. You need to fortify your body and help repair any damage from the treatment.

  • Nutritionists recommend eating at least 2 ½ cups of fruits and vegetables each day. Colorful veggies (dark greens, such as kale and spinach, along with zucchini, cauliflower, and red and yellow peppers) and citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons and grapefruits, all have plenty of cancer-fighting elements. Be sure to wash them thoroughly, to protect your immune system.
  • Liquids are your friend. Drink plenty of water and fresh-squeezed juice. You need to keep your body hydrated and fortified with vitamins.
  • It’s crucial to eat when you’re hungry. Make breakfast your biggest meal, if that’s when you have the most appetite. If you have no appetite later in the day, resort to liquid meal replacements. If you are finding it difficult to eat bigger meals, go for five or six small ones throughout the day.
  • Healthful snacks can help your body throughout the day. Keep yogurt, cheese and crackers, and organic soups close by. If you’re getting chemotherapy, a snack or small meal, before the treatment, may keep nausea at bay.
  • If you are experiencing side effects, such as fatigue and digestive issues, try food that takes very little or no preparation, to ease your stomach. That means toast, crackers and pretzels; yogurt; sherbet; cream of wheat or oatmeal; boiled potatoes, rice or noodles; skinned chicken that is baked or broiled; and canned peaches or other soft, mild fruits and veggies.

Dealing with side effects

Eating the right foods can help you manage these side effects:

Mouth or throat problems Soft food can help relieve throat sores, throat pain or swallowing issues. Avoid rough, spicy or acidic foods. Eat meals lukewarm, and use a straw for soups or drinks.

Nausea/vomiting It’s best to avoid high-fat, greasy or spicy foods, when you are nauseated. Eat dry foods, such as crackers or toast, every few hours. Sip clear liquids, such as broths, sports drinks and water.

Diarrhea and constipation Drink lots of liquids and cut back on high-fiber foods, such as whole grains and vegetables, to deal with diarrhea. If you’re constipated, slowly add more high-fiber foods to your diet. Staying hydrated can also help.

Taste bud changes Treatment may leave you with a funny taste in your mouth or affect your taste buds. Be open to new foods. Ginger, pomegranates, rosemary, mint and oregano are all helpful to your body’s general health.

Foods to avoid

Cancer patients need to be very careful of consuming food that may be tainted with bacteria. Among the items to avoid at all cost:

  • Unwashed fresh fruit and vegetables, especially leafy vegetables that can hide dirt and other contaminants
  • Raw sprouts, such as alfalfa sprouts
  • Raw or undercooked beef, especially ground beef, or other raw or undercooked meat and poultry
  • Cold hot dogs or deli lunch meat (cold cuts), including dry-cured, uncooked salami. Always cook or reheat these foods, until they are steaming hot.
  • Refrigerated pâté
  • Raw or undercooked shellfish, such as oysters
  • Smoked fish
  • Some types of fish, both raw and cooked, as they may contain high levels of mercury
  • Sushi and sashimi
  • Unpasteurized beverages, such as unpasteurized fruit juices, raw milk, raw yogurt and cider
  • Soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk, such as blue cheese, Brie, Camembert, feta cheese, goat cheese and queso fresco
  • Undercooked eggs, such as soft-boiled, over easy and poached; raw, unpasteurized eggs; and foods made with raw egg
  • Deli-prepared salads with egg, ham, chicken or seafood

Most nutritionists recommend sticking with a balanced diet of lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy, as well as avoiding sugar, caffeine, salt and alcohol. But every patient is different, and what works for some people may not be good for others.

“Because each patient’s needs are different, there is no one-size-fits-all,” says Kang. “Where protein might be important for one person, to keep their weight up, another person may need to stick to a diet of simple carbs, so as not to upset their stomach. If you are diabetic, it is very important to eat in a way that controls your disease.”

It’s best to consult your physician, for the best way to approach your post-diagnosis dietary needs.

“Ultimately, I encourage my patients to listen to their body and do what works for them,” says Kang. “Cancer is a journey with many unknowns, and we have to choose what feels best.”

by Ramin Zahed

As one of the eight original National Cancer Institute–designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States, USC Norris at Keck Medicine is one of the preeminent academic medical institutions in the country. If you are in the Los Angeles area, make an appointment, by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or visiting https://cancer.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment/.

See why it’s possible to help your body eat to defeat cancer. Get simple steps you can use to fight cancer every day.

By 2018 Food Revolution Summit speaker William Li, MD • Originally published by Eat to Beat Cancer

A major reason cancer is so frustratingly difficult to cure is that by the time it can be detected, it is often very advanced, and like all advanced diseases, much more difficult to treat.

In a person with advanced cancer, uncontrolled angiogenesis keeps cancer cells growing and allows them to spread.

However, without angiogenesis, cancers can’t grow and become dangerous. This is why the microscopic cancers that form in our bodies all the time are mostly harmless. These cancers aren’t even visible on a standard X-ray or body scan.

So, to effectively prevent cancer, angiogenesis needs to be brought under control before the tumor can get a foothold. This is where your everyday diet comes into play.

Start to Eat to Defeat Cancer Today

Eating to defeat cancer can be accomplished simply by adding a few cancer-fighting angio foods to your meals each day.

Like life itself, one’s diet is all about making choices. Since we all eat every day, why not choose foods that can reduce your risk of disease?

Listed below are some food facts, supported by scientific research, to help you get the most cancer-fighting benefits from your diet:

1. Be Picky.

  • Red Delicious and Granny Smith apples have twice as many cancer fighters as Fuji or Golden Delicious apples.
  • The San Marzano tomato contains more cancer fighters than any other variety.
  • Wine grapes grown in cooler climates have more cancer fighters than grapes grown in warmer climates.

Editor’s note: Apples, tomatoes, and grapes on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list of produce with the most pesticides, so you should buy organic if possible.

2. Eat Your Sprouts.

Broccoli sprouts can contain more cancer-fighting properties than regular broccoli.

3. Dunk Your Tea Bag.

Dunking a tea bag up and down releases more cancer-fighting molecules than letting the bag just sit in the cup.

4. Cook Tomatoes.

Raw tomatoes are good, but cooking them in olive oil is better.

Editor’s note: Cooking tomatoes in olive oil is not necessary to get the benefits. However, cooking tomatoes increases the lycopene content and boosts the cancer-fighting power. Also, lycopene is a fat-soluble antioxidant, which means it’s better absorbed by your body when consumed with some (ideally healthy) fat.

5. Chew Your Greens.

Chewing leafy greens helps to release enzymes that activate cancer-fighting molecules embedded deep in the leaves.

6. Go Soy.

Fermented soy, like the kind used in miso soup, contains four times more cancer fighters than regular soybeans.

Editor’s note: See why the evidence strongly suggests that not only does soy not promote cancer, but that it reduces cancer risk in this article by John Robbins. It’s important to choose organic soy products to avoid genetically-engineered soy. Other fermented soy products include tempeh and natto.

7. Choose One Cancer-Fighting Food for Each Meal.

At 3 meals each day, that adds up to more than a thousand of cancer-fighting food choices each year.

By consuming the right foods, cancer tumors are starved to death because they don’t have the blood supply they need to survive.

Tell us in the comments: How do you eat to defeat cancer?

Read Next:

  • Video: Can you eat to starve cancer?

Nutrition for Breast Cancer Patients and Survivors

Guidelines for Healthy Eating

There are no food or dietary supplements that will act as “magic bullets” to prevent breast cancer from returning. National Cancer Institute guidelines for cancer prevention can be used to decrease the chance of a breast cancer recurrence. These guidelines include:

  • Increase intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains
  • Decrease fat intake to less than 30 percent of calories
  • Minimize intake of cured, pickled and smoked foods
  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
  • Alcohol consumption should be done in moderation, if at all
MYTH: I should eat an organic diet to reduce my chances of a recurrence. Get the facts.

Fruits, Vegetables and Whole Grains

Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are known to contain phytochemicals with antioxidant, antiestrogen and chemopreventive properties that may prevent cancer. We recommend five or more servings of fruit and vegetables daily. Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage and brussel sprouts) are especially rich in phytochemicals. Extensive research has been conducted at Johns Hopkins Medicine regarding the nutritional value of broccoli sprouts.

Whole grains are unprocessed foods that are high in complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. High fiber intake may have a positive benefit by altering hormonal actions of breast cancer and other hormonal-dependent cancers. Daily fiber intake should be 25 to 30 grams of insoluble and soluble fiber.

Whole Foods by Plant Family

Grains
Wheat, rye, oats, rice, corn, bulgur, barley

Green leafy vegetables
Lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, endives, beet greens, romaine

Cruciferous vegetables
Broccoli, cabbage, turnip, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kohlrabi, bok choy, watercress, collards, kale, mustard greens, rutabaga

Umbelliferous vegetables
Celery, parsley, fennel, carrots, parsnip

Allium vegetables
Garlic, onion, shallots, chives, leek

Legumes
Soybeans, peas, chickpeas, lima beans, peanut, carob, dried beans (kidney, mung, pinto, black-eyed peas), lentils

Solanaceous vegetables
Nightshade family: eggplant, tomatoes

Cucurbitaceous vegetables
Gourd family: pumpkin, squash, cucumber, muskmelon, watermelon

Cancer-Fighting Phytochemicals by Food Source

Sulforaphane
Broccoli sprouts

Isothiocyanates
Mustard, horseradish, cruciferous vegetables

Phenolic compounds
Garlic, green tea, soybeans, cereal grains, cruciferous, umbelliferous, solanaceous, cucurbitaceous vegetables, licorice root, flax seed

Flavanoids
Most fruits and vegetables (cruciferous, garlic, citrus fruits, caraway seeds, umbelliferous, solanaceous, cucurbitaceous vegetables, sage, camphor, dill, basil, mint)

Organo-sulfides
Garlic, onion, leeks, shallots, cruciferous vegetables

Isoflavones
Soybeans, legumes, flax seed

Indoles
Cruciferous vegetables

Carotenoids
Dark yellow/orange/green vegetables and fruits

Fat Intake Recommendations

Controversy exists on the role of dietary fat on the promotion of breast cancer. Some animal studies and epidemiological data have suggested that the type of fat consumed may initiate the development of breast cancer. We recommend that you:

  • Limit the intake of highly saturated foods such as beef, lamb, organ meats, cheeses, cream, butter, ice cream
  • Decrease food containing trans fatty acids, such as commercially prepared baked goods, crackers and margarine
  • Increase your intake of poultry, fish and vegetarian proteins (legumes and lentils). Increasing your intake of fish to 3 times per week will increase omega-3-polyunsaturated fat intake. Research has suggested that these fatty acids may inhibit the growth of breast tumors.

How to calculate your ideal body weight and daily fat and calorie needs:

1. Calculate your ideal body weight (IBW) using your height in inches.

  • The first 5 feet of your height = 100 pounds
  • Add 5 pounds for each additional inch in height

For example: A person is 5 foot, 4 1/2 inches tall

  • The first 5 feet = 100 pounds
  • To determine the rest of the ideal body weight, multiply 4.5 inches by 5 pounds = 22.5 pounds
  • A person 5 foot 4 1/2 inches tall has an ideal body weight of 122.5 pounds: 100 + (4.5 x 5) = 122.5 pounds IBW

2. Account for your frame size:

  • Small frame: Subtract 10 percent from IBW = 110.25 pounds
  • Medium frame: Use IBW formula only = 122.5 pounds
  • Large frame: Add 10 percent to IBW = 134.75 pounds

3. Calculate your recommended daily calorie intake:

  • Your IBW x 10 x activity factor = your daily calorie intake

Activity Factors:

  • Sedentary = 1.2
  • Moderate = 1.4
  • Active = 1.6

4. Calculate your daily fat needs

  • Using 30 percent of calories coming from fat: Multiply your calculated number of calories x 0.3 = percentage calories coming from fat
  • Divide this answer by 9 = grams of fat needed per day

Healthy Body Weight

Women who are overweight or obese have higher levels of circulating estrogen than women at their ideal body weight. This might be important for anyone who is trying to reduce the risk of a future recurrence of a hormone-responsive cancer, even after they have been treated for cancer. Overweight or obese are defined by body mass index (BMI) that is greater than 25 or 30, respectively. A BMI chart can help you quickly calculate your own BMI, which is based on height and weight. Many studies have demonstrated an association between body mass index and breast cancer in postmenopausal women. We recommend weight reduction by diet modification first, followed by the introduction of exercise. We provide weight loss counseling that focuses on healthy eating tips and behavior modifications that will provide long term results.

For an individualized weight management consultation, you may wish to meet privately with one of our expert physicians at Green Spring Station who specialize in this area. More information is available at hopkinsmedicine.org/weightloss or please call 410-583-LOSE

BMI Classification
18.5 to 24.9 Normal weight
25 to 29.9 Overweight
30+ Obesity
40+ Extreme obesity

Alcohol Consumption

Several studies have shown an association between alcohol consumption and breast cancer. Alcohol’s role in the development of breast cancer remains unclear. Dietary guidelines suggest that a woman consume no more than one drink per day. Women diagnosed with breast cancer may want to consider avoiding alcohol.

We can provide nutritional counseling at the Nutrition Clinic of Johns Hopkins Hospital or at Green Spring Station. Please call 410-955-6716 for an appointment.

Request an Appointment

Maryland Patients

Request an appointment with the Breast Center at Johns Hopkins

Already a Patient?

Request your next appointment through MyChart!

Traveling for Care?

Whether you’re crossing the country or the globe, we make it easy to access world-class care at Johns Hopkins.

Outside of Maryland (toll free)
410-464-6713
Request an Appointment
Medical Concierge Services

International Patients
+1-410-502-7683
Request an Appointment
Medical Concierge Services

Health Library

Search breast cancer topics in the Johns Hopkins Health Library.

Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center

Learn more about breast cancer research and treatment from the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins—one of the world’s premier cancer institutions.

Follow Us on Facebook

Follow the Johns Hopkins Breast Center on Facebook for news, updates, hope and support.

Extreme Nutrition: Can It Beat Cancer?

Editor’s Note:
In this 2-part series, Medscape looks at diet as an essential therapeutic strategy for cancer patients. Part 1 focuses on the nutritional assessment of cancer patients, foods that help patients cope with side effects, and ways to make fortifying foods more appealing to the cancer-dulled appetite. Part 2 looks at extreme nutrition and the growing interest in fighting cancer with food.

Speaking to Medscape on these topics are 2 high-profile cancer nutrition and food experts. Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, is a dietician; author; speaker; and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, health, and cancer. Rebecca Katz, MS, is a chef, nutritionist, national speaker, and award-winning author whose books include One Bite at a Time, The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen, and The Longevity Kitchen.

Fighting Cancer With Food — and Attitude

Evidence that diet can prevent cancer or the recurrence of cancer is mounting. In the Women’s Intervention Nutrition Study (WINS), involving breast cancer patients who were on curative therapy, a low-fat diet was associated with reduced risk for cancer recurrence, particularly in those with estrogen-receptor negative cancers. “This is an important study,” comments Suzanne Dixon, “because women with estrogen-receptor negative cancer have fewer treatment options. The low-fat diet had a profound effect on recurrence in this group.”

In the Women’s Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) study, however, an intense plant-based diet high in fruits and vegetables did not appear to improve survival, but did reduce recurrence when combined with moderate, regular exercise. Still, women with breast cancer often struggle to shed excess weight. “Even if you don’t buy into a dietary effect on survival or recurrence, these are still healthier diets,” remarks Dixon. “Getting cancer isn’t a ‘get out of jail free card’ for heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes and other chronic diseases.”

In The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen, Rebecca Katz spends little time talking about what foods patients should avoid. “My philosophy is that people hear enough about what they shouldn’t eat. They hear a lot of don’ts. The book is an invitation to shift that thinking.” Katz views the book and its recipes as something that patients and family members can do to combat cancer, at a time when helplessness is a common feeling.

Along with maintaining a healthy attitude, avoiding illness and infection, and exercising regularly, research shows that what cancer patients eat can influence cancer progression, recurrence risk, and survival. Foods have many cancer-fighting properties, including anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and proimmune system effects. The right foods can stimulate appetite, aid in digestion, and relieve gastrointestinal side effects, all of which are important in preventing involuntary weight loss.

Food is a key part of a risk-reduction strategy for cancer, says Katz. In The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen, she provides an important tool for incorporating cancer-fighting foods into the diet. The chapter “The Culinary Pharmacy” is an A-to-Z resource detailing the evidence-based cancer-fighting properties of foods, herbs, and spices. These compounds are the foundation of the book’s recipes, which, by combining many of the cancer-fighting foods, increase the chances of yielding benefit.

Katz emphasizes whole foods in her recipes for cancer patients. “Whole foods provide the most nutrient density,” explains Katz. “When patients are going through cancer, every bite counts. From day to day, they don’t know how much they will be able to eat. Whole/organic foods provide the most bang for their buck. Furthermore, organic foods usually contain fewer toxins, so for the patient who is exposed to the toxic effects of chemotherapy, organic foods don’t add to this burden.” Although organic might be optimal, eating conventional produce is preferable to eating no produce at all. This important message should be conveyed to patients who may not have access to organic foods, or who may not be able to afford them.

What foods and drinks are linked to cancer?

It’s hard to miss the barrage of headlines warning about cancer’s link to, well, just about everything, or so it seems. “THIS IS THE BIGGEST CANCER CAUSING FOOD, AFTER READING THIS YOU WILL NEVER EAT IT ANYMORE,” screams one headline—in all-caps to boot. “Popular foods that could cause cancer,” warns another. “Top 11 cancer causing foods to stop eating right now,” implores a third. With so much information coming at you, determining fact from fiction may be difficult. And the fact is, relatively few foods and drinks have been linked to cancer. “It’s easy to fall victim to claims on TV, on the Internet and in articles regarding foods or drinks that cause cancer,” says Crystal Langlois, RD, LD, Director of Nutrition at our hospital near Atlanta. “It’s always a good plan to rely on information from reputable sources.”

For a food or drink to be considered a carcinogen, strong evidence must link its consumption to an increased cancer risk and show how cancer may develop as a result. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies carcinogens by determining how likely they are to cause cancer, with the scale divided into five groups: known, probable, possible, unclassifiable and probably not carcinogenic.

Foods and drinks the IARC considers carcinogenic to humans include:

Alcohol

  • When the body metabolizes alcohol, it produces acetaldehyde, a chemical compound that may damage DNA, which may lead to cancer.
  • Research has found that the more alcohol you drink, the higher your risk for developing certain kinds of cancer, such as head and neck, esophageal, liver, breast and colorectal cancers.
  • Although experts recommend abstaining from alcohol to avoid the risk, Langlois says that if you choose to indulge, limit your alcohol consumption to no more than one serving per day if you are a woman, or no more than two servings per day if you are a man. A serving is defined as 12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. of wine or 1.5 oz. of liquor.

Processed meats

  • Examples include bacon, sausage, hot dogs, pepperoni, prosciutto, beef jerky and salami, meats often preserved by curing, salting or smoking, or with chemical preservatives.
  • Research has found that eating 50 grams of processed meat—the equivalent of four strips of bacon or one hot dog—every day increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent.
  • If you do eat processed meats, look for nitrate- and nitrite-free versions, which don’t have added preservatives, Langlois says.

Foods and drinks that the IARC classifies as probably carcinogenic to humans include:

Meats charred or cooked at high temperatures

  • Meats cooked at high temperatures form chemicals that may cause changes in your DNA, which may lead to cancer.
  • Eating a large amount of well-done, fried or barbecued meats has been linked to an increased risk of colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancer.
  • When preparing meat, Langlois recommends braising, baking or boiling it. Also, marinating meats before cooking may help reduce the risk of carcinogens forming.

Red meat

  • Examples are beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse and goat.
  • Eating a large amount of red meat has been linked to colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancer.

Very hot beverages (hotter than 149° F)

  • In the United States, drinks like coffee, tea and hot chocolate are typically prepared at lower temperatures, so they’re generally not a concern.

Sugar is not on these lists because it has not been directly linked to cancer, but the sweetener does add empty calories, which may lead to weight gain, and possibly obesity. Obesity has been linked to 13 types of cancer, which is a growing concern in a country where the average American consumes an estimated 89 grams of added sugars per day—two to three times the recommended amount. Cutting added sugars is one of the easier changes you can make to your diet to improve your waistline, while also helping to reduce your cancer risk, Langlois says. “A registered dietitian who specializes in oncology may also be useful in helping you make appropriate diet choices,” she says. “And, remember, it’s OK to indulge in these foods and drinks from time to time. The key is moderation, and following a well-balanced diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low in saturated fats.”

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *