The thought of a cancer diagnosis is something you hate to imagine, the journey, the treatment and varying prognoses. It’s pretty scary stuff.

But what if you could bolster yourself during that journey by eating a special diet that is proven to help fight cancer?

Mercy Health Dietician Liz Weber gave us some examples of cancer fighting foods.

Including a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes in the diet can help reduce your cancer risk. In addition, research indicates that extra body fat can increase your cancer risk for 11 different cancers, emphasizing the importance of following a healthy diet, highlighting plant-based foods.

Dark Green Leafy Vegetables (spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, leaf lettuce, mustard greens, collard greens, chicory and Swiss chard)-

  • What you need to know:
  1. Contains carotenoids, such as lutein and zeaxathin, as well as other flavonoids that are both anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidants
  2. Great source of dietary fiber, folate, and carotenoids
  3. Can help reduce risk of colorectal, mouth, pharynx, larynx, breast, and lung cancer
  • Quick tip: Massaging raw greens with 1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil can help with palatability in salads.


  • What you need to know:
  1. One serving of ground flaxseed is about 4 tablespoons and contains 150 calories and ~7 grams of fiber.
  2. Great source of dietary fiber, magnesium, manganese, thiamin, vitamin E, and selenium.
  3. Flaxseed contains lignans, a plant estrogen, and provides about a good source of omega-3 fatty acids in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
  4. Daily consumption of 1-4 tablespoons may have a protective effect against cancer risk.
  5. Because of the fiber content, flaxseed may reduce your risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Quick tip(s): Be sure to drink adequate fluids (64 fl oz) when introducing ground flaxseed into your diet due to the increased fiber intake. Add to cereal, yogurt, oatmeal, smoothies, baked goods, or homemade energy bites.


  • What you need to know:
  1. Whole soy foods include tofu, tempeh, edamame, soymilk, and miso. One serving equates to 1 cup soy milk, ½ cup cooked soy beans (edamame), or 1/3 cup tofu. Based on research, up to 3 servings per day does not link to increased cancer risk.
  2. These plant-based proteins provide all your amino acids (unlike many other vegetarian proteins) making it a great protein source, fiber, potassium, magnesium, copper, and manganese.
  3. Soy contains omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids making it a good source of polyunsaturated fat.
  4. Based on the phytochemical and specific compound makeup (saponins, phenolic acids, phytic acid, etc.), soy intake in moderate amounts (~1-2 servings per day) may have a protective effect against cancer risk.
  5. May reduce risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Quick tip(s): Try blending Silken tofu in your favorite smoothie for an extra calcium and protein punch. Did you know? Soymilk has one of the highest protein content for non-dairy milks.


  • What you need to know:
  1. Contains the cancer-fighting substance, lycopene and beta-carotene, in addition to providing good sources of vitamins A and C.
  2. May reduce risk of mouth, pharynx, larynx, and lung.
  • Quick tip(s): For better absorption of lycopene in the body, use cooked or pureed more often than raw tomatoes.


  • What you need to know:
  1. High amounts of the omega-3 fat, alpha-linoleic acid, copper, magnesium, manganese, vitamin E compounds, and phytochemicals such as polyphenols and phytosterols.
  2. Store shelled walnuts in the refrigerator for up to a month or unshelled walnuts in the refrigerator or cool, dry place for up to 6 months.
  • Quick tip(s): Because of omega-3 content, raw or toasted walnuts can be easily blended and added to pesto, savory or sweet sauces, or salad dressings.

Remember, the best way to get the cancer-fighting effects of these foods, are to consume a variety of them together and not just one by itself. These are only some of the many cancer-fighting foods. For more information on cancer fighting foods, be sure to ask your dietitian or check out a more extensive list on American Institute of Cancer Research's website at

As the only centers of their kind in West Michigan, Mercy Health Comprehensive Breast Centers deliver prompt, personal, specialized care for all aspects of breast health. Here, we focus on total breast health — from screening mammograms and lifetime cancer risk assessments to, when necessary, the latest surgical procedures and treatments. Learn more at

For more information about the Comprehensive Breast Centers at Mercy Health visit

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