Diet and Nutrition After Cancer Treatment

Cancer and its treatments take a toll on your body. Eating well will help you regain strength, rebuild tissue and feel better overall. After cancer treatment, it is particularly important for you to eat properly so that you can reinforce your immune system and begin healing at the cellular level.
Evidence suggests that a diet emphasizing vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes may reduce your risk of developing cancer. Cancer survivors should avoid or limit their consumption of saturated fats, processed foods, high-calorie foods, added or refined sugars, and processed or red meat, as these foods are associated with a higher risk of developing cancer.
Patients on active cancer treatment should consult with their doctor regarding dietary suggestions and restrictions. The recommendations provided here are solely for cancer survivors who have completed active treatment. Ask your doctor for a consultation with City of Hope’s nutrition and dietetics team.

Plants, Fruits and Veggies

Cancer survivors should strive to eat a plant-based diet. Consumption of fruits and vegetables provides vitamins, minerals, fibers, carotenoids and other beneficial nutrients that help to prevent cancer.
Experts recommend that cancer survivors:
  • Eat 2.5 cups of vegetables and fruits each day
  • Include vegetables and fruits at every meal
  • Eat a variety of vegetables and fruits every day
  • Emphasize whole vegetables and fruits
  • Use a variety of different cooking methods
  • Choose 100% juice if you drink vegetable or fruit juices
  • Limit consumption of creamy sauces, dressings and dips with fruits and vegetables
  • Avoid fried vegetables and fruits


Studies show that processed and red meats can have harmful effects on health. Meat is a major contributor to the consumption of fat and cholesterol in the American diet. High intake of processed and red meat is also associated with an increased risk of developing cancer. Nitrates, which can lead to cancer, are added to many processed meats. Cooking meat at high temperatures or by charcoal grilling produces mutagens and carcinogens that are known to lead to cancer.
Experts suggest that cancer survivors:
  • Limit consumption of processed meats such as bacon, sausage, luncheon meats and hot dogs
  • Limit consumption of red meat, which includes beef, pork and lamb
  • Choose other protein sources such as beans, poultry or fish
  • If you choose to eat red meat, select lean cuts and eat smaller portions
  • Avoid frying or charbroiling
  • Prepare meat, poultry and fish by baking, broiling or poaching

Whole Grains and Fiber

A diet that is high in fiber and incorporates whole grains is associated with a lower risk of developing cancer. High fiber foods include whole-grain breads, cereals, rice, pasta and beans. Whole grain foods are those made from the entire grain seed, including wheat, rice, oats and barley. They are higher in fiber, vitamins and minerals than processed grains.
Experts recommend that cancer survivors:
  • Choose whole grains instead of refined or processed grains
  • Choose brown rice instead of white rice
  • Limit consumption of refined carbohydrate foods, including pastries, candy, sugar-sweetened breakfast cereals and other high-sugar foods