Cancer Fighting Nutrition

It’s crucial to keep your body healthy after a cancer diagnosis-but it’s not always easy. The disease makes it particularly difficult for your body to get what it needs: calories, proteins, and adequate micronutrients to maintain a healthy immune system. Choosing the right diet can also help make treatment easier, minimize some side effects, and give you the energy you need to complete your treatment.

Foods that Help Fight Cancer

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to eating when you have cancer. However, there are some general guidelines you can follow to ensure your body is getting everything it needs to help you fight and heal.

Cancer Fighting Foods


Many people underestimate just how much protein they need in their daily diet while fighting cancer. It plays a critical role in boosting your immune system, maintaining your muscle mass, and helping your body repair itself during treatment. Try to incorporate a high protein food in every meal and snack–think pasture-raised meat, wild-caught fish, organic dairy, seeds, tofu, nuts, and beans.

Healthy Fats

Including at least one healthy fat with anti-inflammatory properties at every meal will support your immune system, nervous system, and cellular membranes. Butter from grass-fed cows, olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, and oily fish are all great options.


It’s never been more important to eat all your veggies. All vegetables have their place in a cancer-fighting diet, but leafy greens are exceptionally effective when it comes to supporting your body on its healing journey. Aim for at least two servings a day of greens like kale, spinach, chard, cabbage, or escarole. They’re packed with immune-boosting vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. 

A hint to make it easier to reach your serving goal: one serving equals 1 cup of raw greens, or a half cup of cooked. 


Garlic, onions, leeks, shallots, and chives aren’t just delicious. They also happen to be excellent at detoxifying your body, supporting immune response, and keeping your body strong. They also contain compounds that help ward off infections, viruses, and bacteria–ideal for when your immune system is weakened from treatment. Try to include alliums in at least one meal per day.


As for fruits, they’re not all created equal in terms of cancer-fighting properties. Berries pack the most punch, offering a wide array of phytonutrients that bolster your immune system, speed up healing, and keep your body strong. Eat at least one serving a day, and don’t be afraid to vary your choice of berry.

Foods that Help Manage Your Symptoms

Aside from helping your body fight and repair itself, the right diet can also help you manage symptoms related to cancer. Of course, everyone’s situation is different. Depending on the type of cancer you have and the treatments you’re undergoing, your symptoms and what’s required to manage them will vary. But in general, these strategies are helpful in addressing common symptoms and improving your overall well-being.


If you’ve undergone any form of chemotherapy or radiation treatment, you’re likely all too familiar with the nausea that comes with it. It can make eating especially difficult. Many people are able to control it well enough with anti-nausea medication. But if you can’t take it, or if it doesn’t work for you, there are alternate ways to deal with your nausea. 

To start, a cup of warm ginger tea in the mornings helps to settle your stomach.  As a rule, try to avoid foods that are greasy, spicy, rich, fried, or extra sweet. Surprisingly, tart, tangy foods can be easiest to tolerate.

Smaller, more frequent meals can make eating easier. And, if drinking liquids makes you feel sick, try eating a few crackers or a slice of toast first. It can help absorb any extra stomach acid.


Nearly all cancer treatments cause fatigue. Of course, adequate rest and sound sleep can help manage this. Ensuring you’re getting enough protein, calories, and micronutrients like B vitamins, iron, and magnesium is just as important. Make sure every meal contains a protein, a healthy fat, and colorful plants. Incorporating those three parts every time will make it easier to give your body what it needs. 

If possible, don’t skip meals. In fact, set a goal to eat something every three or four hours so you have a steady supply of energy and nutrients. 

And of course, stay hydrated. Drinking enough water is key to maintaining your energy levels.


Anemia is a condition that occurs when your red blood cell count drops too low. Your red blood cells carry oxygen through your body, so fewer cells means your body is working overtime to oxygenate your tissues. It’s a common side effect of chemotherapy and radiation, and it can lead to extreme fatigue, lightheadedness, and shortness of breath. 

Protein is great at combating anemia. When you eat a meal or snack, always include a protein. Iron-rich foods are also helpful, like dark, leafy greens, beans, meats, poultry, eggs, fish, and lentils. 

You should also incorporate foods rich in vitamin C: berries, tomatoes, broccoli, citrus, and bell peppers, for example. They’ll make it easier for your body to absorb iron. 

Changes in Taste

Chemo, radiation to the head or neck, and other medications can cause loss of taste or smell. You may be surprised to learn that these senses can also be altered–food may not taste “right” to you, seeming bland, metallic, bitter, or too sweet. If you’re experiencing this, there are some simple strategies to trick your taste buds.

Before you eat, try rinsing your mouth with a bit of baking soda and water. Swish it and spit it out to neutralize your taste buds. If food is tasting especially dull, a dash of salt or a squeeze of lemon or lime juice can brighten it up. Tart and tangy foods–like pickles or fermented foods–are also an option.

If you’re struggling with a metallic taste, metal cups and utensils can make it worse. Instead, try using BPA-free plastic, glass, or even wood products. A sprinkle of sweetener is also helpful.

Finally, too-salty or too-sweet tastes can be neutralized with fresh lemon juice.

Sore Mouth or Throat

After certain types of chemotherapy or radiation, especially to the head or neck, patients often experience mouth sores or a general sensitivity in the mouth or throat. Soft and moist foods will be more comfortable and easier to eat. 

It may also help to avoid highly acidic, spicy, or salty foods, as well as chocolate and caffeine. You can also try eating foods that are room temperature or even a bit chilled. Foods that are cooling and healing, such as avocado, cucumber, mint, coconut oil, raw honey, and aloe vera juice not only feel good in your mouth, but can also help heal the soreness. You can even try applying a bit of coconut oil or honey to the area to help soothe and encourage healing.

Unintentional Weight Loss

Weight loss can be a dangerous side effect of cancer treatment, lowering your immune response and causing extreme fatigue. It’s usually caused by your body’s increased need for certain nutrients combined with a general lack of appetite, but there are any number of reasons you could be faced with unintentional weight loss.

To manage your weight, make a commitment to eat, even if you don’t feel like it. Set an alarm to eat a small meal every three to four hours, taking at least a few bites each time. Be sure to make it count: Eat your protein first, adding high-calorie foods that enrich your meal. For example, including butter, olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, or whole fat dairy in a dish will give you more nutrients without adding to your plate. Adding an unflavored, organic whey protein powder to whatever you’re eating can also increase the nutrients you get.

Aside from diet, a mild exercise routine will help you maintain your muscle mass and can even stimulate your appetite. 


Digestive changes, including diarrhea, are common side effects of chemotherapy and radiation or surgery in the abdominal area. Left untreated, diarrhea can cause fatigue, weight loss, and dehydration. 

In addition to any medication your doctor prescribes to help you manage your diarrhea, eat more foods high in soluble fiber, like oatmeal, oat bran, lentils, apples, oranges, pears, strawberries, nuts, flaxseed, beans, dried peas, blueberries, or bananas. Also consider adding more probiotic-rich foods to your meals, like miso, sauerkraut, kefir, pickles, or tempeh.

You should try to avoid or at least limit milk and other dairy, beverages sweetened with sugar, foods or drinks sweetened with sugar alcohols, and fried or greasy foods. 

And no matter what, make sure you’re drinking enough fluids to stave off dehydration. Prioritize anything with electrolytes, like soup, broth, fresh vegetable juices, or coconut water. 


On the other hand, constipation is another common digestive change that can result from treatment or medication side effects. As with diarrhea, staying hydrated when you’re constipated is critical. Track how much you drink in a day, then aim to increase that amount by two to four cups each day. 

Keep in mind that warm or hot fluids can help stimulate a bowel movement, especially warm prune juice and certain herbal teas. Fresh vegetable juice is also an option.

Adding more healthy fats and oils to your food can also help stimulate movement in your gut. For example, adding a spoonful of coconut oil to a cup of warm tea in the morning may help. 

To help alleviate constipation, increase your intake of foods high in insoluble fiber, like whole wheat or other whole grains, seeds, nuts, broccoli, cabbage, onions, dark leafy vegetables, raisins, grapes, or other fresh or dried fruits. Be careful not to overdo the vegetables that increase gas production, like broccoli and cabbage, and avoid carbonated beverages, as these can sometimes make your symptoms more uncomfortable. 

Remember: How your body responds to certain foods may differ from the next person’s. Do what you can to build a balanced diet that’s appetizing to you, so eating and staying strong is easy–not a chore.

Foods that Help You Heal

Food / Cancer-Fighting Properties / Target Symptoms


Good source of fiber and healthy fats; Healthy calories; Anti-inflammatory

Fatigue; Sore mouth/throat; Trouble swallowing; Weight loss


Good source of fiber, iron, B vitamins and protein; Supports digestion

Anemia; Diarrhea; Fatigue; Trouble swallowing


Good source of B vitamins, iron, vitamin C and fiber; Detox supporting; Anti-inflammatory

Anemia; Constipation; Fatigue


Good source of vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants; Anti-inflammatory; Immune boosting

Anemia; Diarrhea; Nausea; Taste changes

Brazil nuts

Good source of selenium, fiber, and healthy fats; Healthy calories; Supports digestion; Anti-inflammatory

Constipation; Diarrhea; Fatigue; Weight loss


Good source of fiber, B vitamins, vitamin C, antioxidants, and phytonutrients; Detox supporting; Hormone balancing; Antibacterial against H. pylori

Anemia; Constipation; Fatigue


Good source of vitamin A, carotenoids, fiber and phytonutrients; Immune boosting; Anti-inflammatory; Detox supporting

Diarrhea; Fatigue


Good source of vitamin C, potassium and antioxidants; Anti-inflammatory; Supports digestion

Diarrhea; Fatigue


Good source of vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants; Immune boosting; Detox supporting

Diarrhea; Nausea; Taste changes

Flaxseed (and other seeds)

Good source of fiber, healthy fats and phytonutrients; Healthy calories

Hormone balancing; Supports digestion


Good source of sulfur compounds and other phytonutrients; Antimicrobial; Immune boosting; Detox supporting; Supports digestion

Constipation; Taste changes


Good source of various vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients; Supports digestion; Anti-inflammatory; Antimicrobial; Immune boosting

Constipation; Diarrhea; Nausea; Taste changes

Green tea

Good source of antioxidants and catechins; Detox supporting; Anti-inflammatory; Immune boosting

Sore mouth/throat; Taste changes; Trouble swallowing


Good source of antioxidants, B vitamins, vitamin D and beta-glucan fiber; Immune boosting; Anti-inflammatory; Supports digestion; Hormone balancing

Anemia; Constipation; Diarrhea; Fatigue

Salmon (and other fish)

Good source of protein, vitamin B, zinc, antioxidants and healthy fats; Healthy calories; Anti-inflammatory

Anemia; Constipation; Fatigue

Tofu (and other whole soy foods)

Good source of protein, iron, calcium and isoflavones; Hormone balancing

Anemia; Fatigue; Sore mouth/throat; Trouble swallowing


Good source of vitamin C, potassium, lycopene and other phytonutrients; Anti-inflammatory; Supports digestion

Anemia; Constipation; Fatigue; Taste changes


Good source of manganese, iron and phytonutrients; Anti-inflammatory; Detox supporting; Immune boosting; Antimicrobial

Constipation; Diarrhea; Nausea; Taste changes

Walnuts (and other nuts)

Good source of protein, fiber, vitamin E and healthy fats; Healthy calories; Anti-inflammatory; Supports digestion

Constipation; Diarrhea; Fatigue; Weight loss

Meet the Nutritionist

Nationally Board-Certified Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Angela Rahm, specializes in full body health, safe and easy detoxing and long-lasting health fundamentals. She works with people all over the country to help them get out of the fear-based system, sypher through the informational chaos, regain energy and motivation to heal so they can get their lives back and feel alive again!

Dr. Angela Rahm

Self-Care for Caregivers

Caregivers are quite often the forgotten heroes of the cancer-fighting journey. To help caregivers out, here are a few tips:

  • Batch-cook meals whenever possible to have leftovers or store extra servings in the freezer.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask other family members and friends to help you cook and prepare meals. Share your favorite recipes with them so they know what to do.
  • To reduce your workload, consider grocery or healthy meal delivery options.
  • Take some time for yourself while the cancer patient is resting, just as we recommend for mothers with newborn babies. You can build resilience by taking a nap, doing something fun, exercising, lying in the sun, reading a book, taking a hot bath, meditating, or anything else that is restorative and nourishing for you.
  • As a caregiver under tremendous stress, make sure to laugh every day. It’s an excellent tip for cancer patients as well. Watch a funny movie, tell jokes, and call a friend who always makes you laugh. Laughter is good medicine. You can use it to reduce stress, boost your immune system, heal, be energizing, and get through this.