Therapeutic Meal Report: Cancer

One of the projects for my Food Therapy class was to choose a disease, identify which nutrients someone with that disease is deficient in, and come up with a meal that contains large amounts of those nutrients. My group chose cancer.

We did not focus on one particular type of cancer. Someone with breast cancer may be more likely to be deficient in certain nutrients than someone with pancreatic cancer. However, we did identify eight main nutrients that someone with cancer is likely to be deficient in, and we used these to create recipes for a “therapeutic” meal.

All cancers begin in the body’s cells. To understand cancer, it's helpful to know what happens when normal cells become cancer cells. In a healthy body, cells grow and divide in a controlled way to produce more cells, as they are needed to keep the body healthy. When cells become old or damaged, they die and are replaced with new cells.

Certain things, such as environment and other lifestyle factors, can cause this orderly process of cell division to go wrong. The genetic material (DNA) of a cell can become damaged or altered, producing mutations that affect normal cell growth and division. When this happens, new cells form when the body doesn’t need them, and they can create a mass of tissue, or a tumor. These mutated cells begin to divide uncontrollably and eventually can invade other tissues and spread throughout the body.

Some of the environment and lifestyle factors that can cause these gene mutations include tobacco and alcohol use, diet and nutrition, UV radiation exposure, and exposure to carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) in the workplace or environment. Some gene alterations can be inherited, although this does not mean one will automatically develop cancer. Rather, it means their chances of getting cancer are increased. This is why it is so important for people with a history of cancer in their family to make their health a priority.

Top Therapeutic Nutrients for Cancer

1. Vitamin A – an antioxidant; may inhibit binding of carcinogens to DNA; stimulates immune function; sources: darkly colored orange or green vegetables and orange fruits.

2. Vitamin C – an antioxidant; has ability to block formation of nitrates, which are carcinogens formed in the stomach from one’s diet; helps eliminate free radicals inside the body; sources: red berries, kiwi, lemon, limes, red and green bell peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, and juices made from guava, grapefruit, and orange.

3. Vitamin E – an antioxidant, blocks formation of nitrates similar to the way vitamin C does this; enhances immune function; sources: nuts, green leafy vegetables, avocado, wheat germ, and whole grains.

4. Calcium & Magnesium – calcium binds free fatty acids and bile to form insoluble compounds, which reduces toxicity in the colon; magnesium is necessary for calcium absorption and other bodily functions; sources: dark greens, soybeans, almonds, sea vegetables, fish, whole grains and berries.

5. Selenium – an antioxidant and component of several essential enzymes; can inhibit cancer of mammary gland and colon; sources: brazil nuts, tuna, whole grains, garlic, turkey and swordfish.

6. Zinc – combats oxidative free radicals and plays major role in DNA repair; has anti-inflammatory effects; sources: beef, lamb, venison, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, beans and mushrooms.

7. B-Vitamins – vitamin B3 can help prevent DNA damage in cells and supports genetic processes; vitamin B6 helps maintain red blood cell health and supports immune system; sources: tomatoes, spinach, kale, chicken breast, salmon, onions, honey, red berries, pomegranate seeds, and mushrooms.

8. Potassium – a potassium deficiency is very common among people with cancer; sources: sea vegetables, garlic, parsley, dark greens, carrots, lentils, and raw honey.

Up next: the recipes from the meal we prepared!


  1. Hello.
    Valerie sent me over. I look forward to seeing what you cook up! Best wishes.

  2. These are some great tips. For those who could use some more specific advice, tips and information about great article thanks for posting.

    Cook at Foods to Avoid During Cancer Treatment foods.