Cancer Chronicles: 13 Principles of a Cancer Prevention Diet

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Each of us has a unique biochemistry, constitution, and dietary needs. There is no one diet that suits all people. However, there are foods we can eat and foods we can avoid to help prevent cancer. Adopt as many of these dietary recommendations as agree with you. Work with a health professional to create a dietary program tailored for you using some or all of these recommendations.

Principles of a Cancer Prevention Diet

1. EAT ORGANIC: Organic food has fewer cancer-causing pesticides and is richer in cancer-fighting nutrients.1 An Italian study done in 2002 found that vitamin C and E levels were higher in organic peaches and pears than in non-organic ones.2 Organic crops contain significantly more vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus than their chemically grown cousins.3

2. BE PRIMARILY VEGETARIAN: Restrict or avoid consuming meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs. Build a diet around vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, tofu and a small amount of nuts and seeds. The vitamins, minerals, fibre, and phytochemicals in vegetables and fruit offer significant protection from cancer, particularly when eaten raw, as enzymes and vitamins are destroyed through heating, as are the indoles in the brassica family of foods. The incidence of cancers of all types is 30-40% lower in Seventh Day Adventists, who are strict vegetarians.4, 5

The present trend towards early onset of puberty in lower young girls can be reversed when a vegetarian diet is eaten rather than the standard North American diet.6 Eating lower on the food chain decreases the quantity of environmental chemicals that we ingest. A low fat, high fiber vegan diet is best for managing the hormone estrogen as well as insulin — both of which are implicated in a variety of cancers. Research shows that a vegetarian diet prevents 20 – 50% of all cancers. Consume a primarily vegetarian diet of at least 50-80% raw vegetables and fruit. Eat 8-9 servings daily, where one serving is equal to 1/2 cup of vegetables or one cup of salad or one large piece of fruit.

3. UTILIZE AN ALKALINE DIET: Monitor the pH of your urine and saliva and adjust your food intake to keep your pH in the range of about 6.8 to 7. Fruits and vegetables increase alkalinity (raise pH) while animal protein and grains (except millet) increase acidity (lower pH). Increased acidity tends to promote fungal growth, accumulation of toxic metals, loss of the alkaline minerals calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium and degenerative diseases including cancer. Approximately 80% of your dietary intake should be alkaline-forming foods.

4. EAT LOW-GLYCEMIC FOODS: When we eat carbohydrates, they are broken down into glucose, a form of sugar that provides energy to our cells. Certain carbohydrates dramatically raise blood sugar levels after we eat them, which in turn elevates insulin levels. The degree to which a carbohydrate raises blood sugar two to three hours after eating is called its glycemic index and has been measured for different foods.

A diet high in carbohydrates with a high glycemic index will cause consistently high blood levels of insulin (and the hormone IGF-1), which leads to increased fat deposition and promotion of cancer cell growth. Become familiar with the glycemic index of carbohydrates and choose ones that do not dramatically elevate insulin and blood sugar levels. For example, legumes, pearl barley and bran have a low glycemic index, while white rice, corn and potatoes have a high glycemic index. When carbohydrates are combined with fibre, protein or flaxseed oil in the same meal, the glycemic index is lowered.

5. INCREASE DIETARY FIBRE (to 30-40 grams daily). Fiber is present in legumes, bran, fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds. A high fiber diet usually has a lower content of fat and a higher content of antioxidant vitamins, which may protect against many cancers. Diets high in fiber and complex carbohydrates stabilize blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity, which is associated with a drop in circulating estrogen.7

A high fiber diet modifies the composition of flora in the bowel to promoting more of the “good” bacteria that build a strong immune system. Fiber speeds up elimination and decreases toxicity, while improving bowel disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome and colitis. You can follow a high fiber diet by eating a cooked cereal for breakfast such as oatmeal, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, rye flakes, 7-grain or millet meal with added bran and freshly ground flaxseeds. Grains that can be included in lunch or dinner are brown or basmati rice, wild rice, millet, quinoa, buckwheat, barley, and kamut. Wheat (other than the bran) and corn are common food allergens, and should be used infrequently, perhaps once weekly, or not at all.

Psyllium can be taken in powdered or capsule form for additional benefit and bowel cleansing. Beans are a wonderful source of fiber and can be consumed daily in soups, spreads, or with grain dishes. Eat 30 g of fiber daily, using beans, bran, ground flax seed, raw fruits and vegetables, and whole grains to do so. Minimize flour products such as bread, baked goods, and pasta. Consume bran (wheat, oat or rice) and psyllium daily, approximately one tablespoon of each.


6. EAT AT LEAST 8 SERVINGS OF FRUITS & VEGETABLES DAILY: Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that prevent cancer. Particularly good vegetable choices are those in the brassica family, as well as onions, garlic and leeks, sprouts, and sea vegetables. These should be consumed daily. Foods high in beta carotene are protective and include orange fruits and vegetables and leafy greens. Many fruits and vegetables are naturally high in anti-oxidants, which protect us from cancer.8 The following chart lists many of the protective phytochemicals present in fruits, vegetables and other foods and what they do for us.

Phytochemical Effect Food Sources
Allyl sulfides Increases liver enzymes to detoxify carcinogens. garlic, onions, leeks
Capsaicin Prevents carcinogens from binding to DNA. chili peppers
Carotenoids Act as antioxidants that neutralize free radicals, enhance immunity, and high intake is associated with low cancer rates. parsley, carrots, spinach, kale, winter squash, apricots, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes
Polyphenols Act as antioxidants; reduce damaging effects of nitrosamines. Kills human cancer cells. broccoli, carrots, green tea, cucumbers, squash, mint, basil, citrus
Flavonoids Prevents the attachment of cancer-causing hormones to cells by blocking receptor sites. most fruits and vegetables, including parsley, carrots, citrus, broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers, squash, yams, eggplant, peppers, berries
Curcumin Assists the liver in detoxifying carcinogens. Arrests cancer cells. turmeric
Ellagic acid Neutralizes carcinogens in the liver, antioxidant, inhibits cancer cell divisions red raspberries, walnut skin
Isoflavones (genistein and daidzen) Bind to the estrogen receptor so that harmful estrogens can’t bind; block the formation of blood vessels to tumors, inhibit enzymes that might cause cancer; inhibits activation of breast cancer genes. soybeans, tofu, miso, lentils, dried beans, split peas, garbanzo beans, green beans, green peas, mung bean sprouts, red clover sprouts
Indoles Decreases the estrogen that initiates breast cancer. raw cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower, bok choy, kohlrabi, mustard, turnips
Isothiocyanates Prevents DNA damage; blocks the production of tumors induced by environmental chemicals, act as antioxidants, assist liver detoxification. mustard, horseradish, radishes, turnips, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, bok choy, watercress, garden sorrel
Limonoids Induce protective enzymes in liver and intestines that fight cancer. citrus fruit rind, essential oils of lemon, orange, celery, lemongrass
Linolenic Acid Regulates production of prostaglandins in cells. flaxseeds and flaxseed oil
Lycopene Protects from cell damage. tomatoes, red grapefruit, guava
Lutein Protects against cell damage. spinach, kiwi, tomato, grapes
Monoterpenes Antioxidant properties, induce protective enzymes, inhibit cholesterol production in tumours, stimulate the destruction of breast cancer cells, inhibit growth of cancer cells. cherries, lavender, parsley, yams, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, basil cucumbers, peppers, squash, eggplant, mint, tomatoes, grapefruit
Phenolic Acids Block the effects of free radicals; inhibit the formation of nitrosamine, a carcinogen. berries, broccoli, grapes, citrus, parsley, peppers, soy, squash, tomatoes, grains
Plant Sterols (beta-sitosterol) Prevent cells from becoming cancerous and lower fat levels in the body. broccoli, cabbage, soy, peppers, whole grains
Protease Inhibitors Block the activity of enzymes involved in the growth of tumours. beans and soy products
Quercetin Slows down cell division. onions, apples, green cabbage
Quinones Neutralize carcinogens. rosemary, pau d’arco tea
Sulforaphane Increases the ability of the liver’s detoxifying enzymes to remove carcinogens. Is an antioxidant. broccoli sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts


7. CONSUME 40 GRAMS OF PROTEIN DAILY – PRIMARILY VEGETARIAN: Protein should be sufficient but not excessive to prevent cancer in general, and needs to be combined with quality oils for optimum health. The average adult requires approximately 30-50 g per day. High protein diets that encourage weight loss may promote cancer by causing excess acidity. Excess protein obstructs the transportation of oxygen, which favors formation of cancer cell colonies.

During the breakdown of amino acids in high protein diets by intestinal bacteria, toxins produced in the colon are linked to increased cancer risk. High protein diets also cause more calcium to be lost, promoting osteoporosis and a deficiency of alkaline minerals. Be cautious with fish. Although fish oils protect us from cancer, fish act as reservoirs of toxic environmental chemicals that circulate on global air currents and fall into our rivers and oceans as rain. Toxic metals such as mercury and organochlorines such as PCBs, lindane, DDT, and dioxins accumulate in the oil of fish from polluted ocean waters.

Dioxins, which are extremely carcinogenic, have been found in the bodies of fish at concentrations 159,000 times higher than the water they swim in.9, 10, 11Similarly, a 10,000 times greater concentration of PCBs is found in fish tissues than in their surrounding waters.12 Unless you know it is not contaminated with chemicals, avoid fish, and then eat it seldom. Adequate vegetarian protein would include 2-3 servings a day, where one serving equals either 1 cup of cooked legumes, 1/2 cup tofu or tempeh, 1 glass of soy milk, 1 tbsp nut butter, or 2 tbsp of nuts or seeds. Protein-rich legumes include organic kidney beans, chickpeas, split peas, and lentils.

8. AVOID SUGAR AND SWEETENERS such as honey, maple syrup and rice syrup. When we consume sweets, a type of white blood cell called the phagocyte decreases its numbers within 30 minutes, and this decline lasts for over five hours, with a 50% reduction in phagocytes approximately two hours after ingestion. This leads to a poorly functioning immune system. This effect occurs after glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey, and orange juice.13 Sweets will also promote an overgrowth of unwanted organisms in the intestinal tract, such as yeast and parasites. Included in the category of restricted sweets are soft drinks, juice-flavored drinks, powdered instant drinks, canned juices, candy, chocolate bars, granola bars, chocolate, donuts, and cookies. Limit sweets to a treat perhaps once weekly. Use instead fruit, stevia, frozen fruit desserts, and sugar-free natural fruit jams. Dilute your natural fruit juices with water.

9. AVOID SATURATED FATS – as well as most vegetable oils and hydrogenated oils. Instead, use cold-pressed flaxseed oil (as a salad dressing), uncontaminated fish oil and extra virgin olive oil. Omega-3 fatty acids, found primarily in flax seed oil, purslane, black currant seed oil, and cold water fish oils, provide protection from most cancers. Saturated fats, found in meat, butter, animal products, and peanut oil, increase cancer risk, as do hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats. Omega-6 oils found in vegetable oils and evening primrose oil will promote breast cancer if not balanced with at least twice as much omega-3 oil. Olive oil is neutral, and can be consumed liberally as long as it does not cause weight gain.

Our bodies cannot make the two essential fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid, which belongs to the omega-3 family; and linoleic acid, part of the omega-6 family of oils. Diets that recommend no fat will make us sick, for these ‘fats’ are necessary for life. They maintain the integrity of the cell membrane, making it less vulnerable to carcinogenic substances. Essential fatty acids help transport oxygen from the air in the lungs to each cell membrane in the body, where the oxygen acts as a barrier to viruses, bacteria, parasites, and cancer. Essential fatty acids are found around the DNA where they regulate chromosome stability, preventing damage from radiation and chemical toxicity. They are required in cell membrane formation, are essential in the health of the immune system and help to buffer excess acid in the body.

If you are in good health, consume 1-2 Tbsp of flax seed oil daily, along with at least 2 Tbsp of ground flax seeds. Also use fish oil capsules (700 mg daily) containing EPA and DHA, but be sure they are free of contaminants. If you have cancer, take 3-5 Tbsp of flaxseed oil daily with 2-4 Tbsp of seeds, along with 3,000 mg of fish oil. Individuals with cancer metastases can take 6 – 7 Tbsp flax seed oil daily along with 6 – 7 Tbsp of ground seeds. Only buy refrigerated flax oil and use it within 6 weeks. Consume only small amounts of omega-6 oils in the form of raw unsalted nuts and seeds (1-2 tablespoons daily).

10. EAT GARLIC, ONIONS, TURMERIC as well as seaweeds, brassica family vegetables and green tea daily. These are some of the super foods that aid in cancer prevention and should be consumed as often as possible.


11. AVOID DAIRY – milk, cheese, butter. A small amount of yogurt and goat cheese is acceptable as long as you are not allergic to it. Although dairy products are high in calcium, they are reservoirs of environmental toxins, difficult to digest, and many people’s immune systems are stressed by them. Cows are treated with hormones and antibiotics and are fed grains that may have been sprayed with pesticides. These accumulate in the fat of the cow over its life span and are discharged into its milk. We ingest these when we consume dairy products and accumulate them in our tissues over our life spans, passing them on to our children in utero and when we breast-feed.

Our bodies can react to dairy products by producing excess mucus or “dampness.” This tends to accumulate in particular areas and be linked to certain conditions: in the eustachian tubes it leads to chronic ear infections; in the sinuses, sinusitis; in the lungs it can result in asthma; and in the breasts, uterus or ovaries, it may cause tumor formation. Several studies have shown a link between dairy consumption and cancer risk, including two Harvard University studies of milk from hormone treated cows published in 1998.14 The Physicians’ Health Study and the Nurses’ Health Study found that insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), a protein that is elevated in the milk of cows treated with bovine growth hormone, increases risk of both breast cancer and prostate cancer.

12. MINIMIZE OR AVOID ALCOHOL USE. Alcohol use causes a woman to be more susceptible to breast cancer. A weekly intake of four to seven drinks or more will increase risk. In one study, the risk increase was 250% for women who drank two or more drinks daily. Women who have even one drink a day have an 11% higher risk of breast cancer. Alcohol may interfere with the liver’s ability to detoxify both chemicals and excess estrogen in the body.15 Moderate consumption of alcohol increases the production of insulin-like growth factors by the liver, which promote the development and/or growth of breast cancer.16 Drink less than two to three alcoholic beverages weekly.

If you were to succeed in adopting all of the suggestions above, here is what your daily diet might look like. Eat every two hours to normalize the adrenal glands and thyroid, to keep blood sugar levels stable, and to decrease cravings.

On Rising Green drink – either 1-3 tsp Greens+, Pure Synergy, Barley Green, spirulina or other green powder in water (or 1-3 oz of wheatgrass juice) – followed by two glasses filtered or spring water, with a little lemon or lime juice added plus a pinch of cayenne pepper.
Breakfast 1 cup whole grain cereal (use barley, oatmeal, buckwheat, quinoa, millet meal, amaranth, brown rice) with 2-3 tbsp freshly ground flaxseeds, 1 tbsp wheat bran (if tolerated), small amount of stevia if desired, plus 1/2 to 1 cup soy milk or fruit by itself.
Snack 2 cups fresh vegetable juice, especially carrot, beet, and cabbage, with 1 tsp dulse or kelp powder and 2 tsp ground flaxseed or 1-2 pieces fruit, especially, cherries, apple, pear, banana, orange, grapefruit, tangerine, or berries.
2 glasses filtered or spring water or herbal tea (green tea, licorice, Essiac, red clover, fenugreek, pau d’arco, mint, dandelion, rosehip).
Lunch 1-2 cups salad with cabbage (eaten at the beginning of the meal so their enzymes will aid digestion).
3/4 cup vegetables (at least 50% raw, including 1/2 cup brassicas).
1/2 cup mung bean, red clover, sunflower or broccoli sprouts (in salad or in bean and rice dish).
1 to 2 tbsp. flaxseed oil, as salad dressing, and over beans and grain.
1/2 to 1 cup beans, with onion and garlic (hummus, bean dips, bean soup, or bean and grain dish).
1/2 to 1 cup grain, preferably whole grain rather than flour products (rice, millet, barley, quinoa, buckwheat).
3-4 shitake mushrooms.
Snack 1-2 tbsp raw almonds, pumpkin seeds, soy nuts and/or sunflower seeds.
2 cups vegetable juice (especially carrot, beet, cabbage, dulse powder with added watercress, parsley, kale, mustard greens, garlic, ginger, sprouts, dandelion greens, or apple).
2 glasses filtered or spring water or herbal tea, as above.
Dinner Green drink (as before breakfast, taken 1/2 hour before dinner).
1 cup salad with fresh sprouts, onions and garlic, raw sunflower or pumpkin seeds, and grated citrus peel.
1/2 cup firm organic tofu or tempeh.
1/2 to 1 cup whole grains (wild rice, quinoa, millet, rice, barley, and buckwheat – omit this if you are food combining or wanting to lose weight).
3/4 cup vegetables, raw or lightly steamed.
1/2 cup red clover, sunflower, mung bean or broccoli sprouts.
2 tbsp sea vegetables (hiziki, arame, wakame, nori, dulse, kelp).
1 to 2 tbsp flaxseed oil and 1 tablespoon olive oil as part of salad dressing or over grain or vegetables.
Snack 2 glasses filtered or spring water or decaffeinated green tea.



1. Asami, D.K., Y.J.Hong, D.M. Barrett, A.E. Mitchell. “Comparison of the total phenolic and ascorbic acid content of freeze-dried and air-dried marionberry, strawberry and corn grown using conventional, organic, and sustainable agricultural practices.” Agric Food Chem, 2003 Feb 26; 51(5):1237-1241.

2. Carbonaro, M., M. Mattera, S. Nicoli, P. Bergamo, M. Cappelloni. “Modulation of antioxidant compounds in organic vs conventional fruit.” J Agric Food Chem, 2002 Sep 11; 50(19):5458-5462.

3. Worthington, V. “Nutritional quality of organic versus conventional fruits, vegetables and grains.” J Altern Complement Med, 2001 Apr; 7(2):161-173.

4. Steimetz, K.A., J.D. Potter. “Vegetables, fruit and cancer prevention: a review.” J Am Diet Assoc, 1996;96:1027-39.

5. Phillips, R.L., “Cancer among Seventh Day Adventists.” Journal of Environmental Pathology and Toxicology, 1980;3:157-69.

6. Sanches, A., et al. “A hypothesis on the etiological role of diet on age of menarche.” Medical Hypothesis, 1981;7:1339-45.

7. Jibrin, Janis. “The ultra diet for healthy breasts.” Prevention, Sept 1996:65-71,148.

8. Weed, Susun. Breast Cancer/Breast Health! Woodstock, NY: Ash Tree Publishing, 1996:46-52.

9. Clorfene-Casten, Liane. Breast Cancer: Poisons, Profits and Prevention. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 1996:27.

10. Greenpeace. “Death in Small Doses: The Effects of Organochlorines on Aquatic Ecosystems.” London, England: Greenpeace Communications, 1992.

11. EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). “National Dioxin Study Tier 4-Combustion Sources: Engineering Analysis Report.” Washington, DC. U.S. EPA Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, 1988.

12. Greenpeace. “Chlorine Chemicals in Cod Liver Oil.” London, England: Greenpeace Communications, 1995.

13. Gaskill, S.P., et al. “Breast cancer diet and mortality in the United States.” Cancer Research, 39:3628-37.

14. Le, M. G. et al. “Consumption of dairy produce and alcohol in a case-control study of breast cancer.” Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 77:633-36.

15. “Alcohol and the breast.” Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 1993;85:692, 722.

16. Yu, H., J. Berkel. “Do insulin-like growth factors mediate the effect of alcohol on breast cancer risk?” Med

For several decades Sat Dharam has been integrating and creating a fusion of her three great passions: Kundalini Yoga, Naturopathic Medicine, and Environmental Sustainability. She has developed and/or teaches several programs: Kundalini Yoga Classes, The Healthy Breast Program, Four Season Yoga Cleanse, Beyond Addiction, and Compassionate Inquiry with Dr. Gabor Maté, taught in Canada and around the world. She invites you to participate and/or train with her on one or more of these extraordinary journeys to wholeness and fitness. She believes that together we can form dedicated, purposeful global communities to inspire, educate and uplift others. She looks forward to working with you to discover a way of living that helps sustain you and the planet. For more information, visit:

Write a Comment

view all comments