The Breast Cancer Prevention Diet: The Powerful Foods, Supplements, and Drugs That Can Save Your Life
Bob Arnot

A comprehensive look at diet and breast cancer. Readable and based on solid science. Arnot has also written a book on diet and prostate cancer.

Beating Cancer with Nutrition
Patrick Quillin with Noreen Quillin

Cancer Survivor's Nutrition & Health Guide: Eating Well and Getting Better During and After Cancer Treatment
Gene Spiller and Bonnie Bruce

The Cancer Prevention Diet: Michio Kushi's Macrobiotic Blueprint for the Prevention and Relief of Disease
Michio Kushi with Alex Jack

Nutrition and diet

The National Cancer Institute tells us that one-third of all cancer deaths are related to malnutrition. For patients who have developed cancer, in addition to the disease itself, as a result of the treatments they often must deal with decreased appetite, lower food intake, and impaired digestion, which lead to weight loss and depletion of nutrients in the body. Many consider food an essential weapon in the fight against cancer: it provides the energy, nutrients, and antioxidants the body needs for recovery and to fight the disease.

You really are what you eat

Many books on breast cancer contain a chapter about diet and nutrition. I believe it is an essential subject when you are dealing with any cancer. Good nutrition is not only an important part of treatment but also key to preventing cancer in the first place and preventing its recurrence.

The energy in all the food we eat originally comes from the sun. Plants, through photosynthesis, use the energy of sunlight to grow. Animals eat the plants and convert that energy into a different form. All food, ultimately, is condensed sunlight, a way to take in the energy of the sun in a form that we can assimilate and use.

I believe that the food we eat also carries spiritual light, and the quality of this light varies in different types of food. Food is one mode of delivering the light to our bodies in a way that we can readily assimilate, and by choosing our food wisely, we can deliver to our bodies a specific quality of light that can assist in healing.

I knew that my body would need the physical energy of certain foods, as well as the light in those foods, in order to support the healing process. And I felt that my body would know what it needed. So instead of ignoring my body, I started to listen to it, and as I listened, I found that I began to crave some things more than others. For example, I began to crave the sea vegetables and pickled ginger that I had eaten some years before when I was on a macrobiotic diet.

When I talked about these cravings with a nutritionist, I was interested to see how much my own body had been telling me what was correct for me to eat. Sea vegetables and ginger are rich in minerals and are known to help remove toxins from the body and stimulate the function of the liver, two things I needed to do during cancer treatment. Ginger is also effective in treating the nausea associated with chemotherapy.

I also took a greater interest in the spiritual aspect of food and its preparation. I had known about this before but had been simply too busy to put it into practice. Now I had the time and the inclination, and I began to understand more fully the concept of healthy food as a medicine in itself. I returned to my old habit of blessing my food and giving thanks for it, asking for it to be charged with light and energy for my healing. I began to enjoy taking the time to prepare and eat my meals.


On a cellular level, a primary cause of cancer is free radicals, which attack the DNA and cell membrane. Antioxidants counter the effects of oxidation and protect the body on a cellular level from the effects of free radicals and many environmental pollutants. They also strengthen the immune system and help it to fight the cancer more effectively.

Many fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants. In general, look for foods that are higher in color: red grapes rather than white, sweet potatoes rather than white potatoes, spinach rather than lettuce.

The macrobiotic diet

Some years before I developed breast cancer, I had been on a more-or-less macrobiotic diet for some time. I had heard claims about the macrobiotic diet being able to “cure” cancer and had read of people who claimed to have cured themselves in this way. I also had a friend with metastatic melanoma, a cancer that is nearly always fatal, who attributed her still being alive fifteen years later to a strict macrobiotic diet. Therefore, when I was diagnosed, I definitely wanted to find out more about the macrobiotic diet and what it could do for me.

What I found is that many elements of the macrobiotic diet make sense according to the best scientific research into cancer and nutrition. It is low in fat and high in fiber, uses whole grains, avoids red meat, and includes fish, soy protein, and lots of vegetables. All of these things are good ideas, no matter what diet you choose.

I was not able to find any rigorous scientific studies to show that the macrobiotic diet in itself can cure cancer. However, I did find one study of late-stage prostate cancer patients that showed that those on a macrobiotic diet lived an average of 177 months, compared to 91 months in the control group. Other evidence seemed to point to the same conclusion: that a macrobiotic diet could extend the life of someone with cancer but was not a cure in itself. However, even this is very significant, and I am sure the people in this study were very grateful for the average of seven years extra that they lived after their diagnosis.

My conclusion was that the principles of the macrobiotic diet were helpful to me in putting together my plan. Many of the recommendations I had already decided to follow were part of the diet, and people who had been working with the diet for many years had evolved a way of incorporating these principles into appealing and satisfying meals. It felt good to me.

I did not follow a strict macrobiotic diet but made adaptations according to what the scientific evidence showed, as well as what I felt my body was telling me I needed.

If you feel called to pursue a more rigorous macrobiotic diet as part of your healing program, I would recommend getting advice from someone with expertise so as to avoid potential pitfalls (such as B-12 deficiency) that some people have run into when they tried to follow it strictly without the necessary understanding and experience.

Putting together your plan

Diet is very personal and individual. What works for one person does not always work for another, yet the basic principles of a healthy diet do apply to everyone.

When you are deciding on what diet you will follow, it is important to listen to what your body is telling you. Your body is designed to work with natural, whole foods, and if you can cut down on artificial and processed foods, you can give it the best opportunity to send you clearer signals about what it needs.

Some people do very well without changing their diet. However, many feel that a change in diet is helpful, and science is beginning to clearly support this. You may find it helpful to talk to a nutritionist, especially one who is experienced in diet for cancer patients. This is especially important if you are thinking of making major changes in your diet. A nutritionist can help you sort through a lot of information, prioritize, and put together a practical, balanced program.

Eat food that you enjoy, and perhaps learn to enjoy different foods than you have before.


Excerpted from A Journey through Cancer, by Neroli Duffy