Oftentimes the simple act of changing your eating plan goes a long way towards beating disease. Making the right changes in diet have helped reduce (and sometimes eliminate) the disease process of countless patients living with diabetes, heart disease, stroke risk, celiac disease, allergies, and epilepsy, just to name a few. Making the right changes in your eating plan during your cancer treatments can also help reduce the growth your cancer thus helping your body and your doctor fight it better. Fortunately, when you are eating to beat cancer you are not enslaved to counting calories, carbs, fats, or proteins. The goal is to simply eliminate the food items known to encourage the growth of your cancer, nothing more.

When modifying your diet it is very important to realize that it does take commitment: If you stick to your modified plan for a few days but then take a “day off” to eat whatever you want you will likely undo any benefit that you have accomplished. Even if you cheat by having just “a little bit” of something off your plan you risk defeating any gains you may have achieved. This is serious: Stick to the plan through the duration of your cancer treatment, you do not want to feed your cancer!


To understand the relationship between animal-based proteins and cancer we must first discuss a substance known as Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1). This substance is a hormone that is chemically similar to insulin (a hormone which helps your body use sugar), but it is not actually insulin and thus serves a different purpose. IGF-1 helps maintain the growth of healthy body cells; without it we can neither develop into adults nor maintain the proper repair and replacement of cells on a daily basis. Your cells are equipped with special proteins in their surfaces known as IGF-1 Receptors. These receptors are designed to accept IGF-1 molecules as they flow past in the bloodstream. Essentially, the IGF-1 molecules fit into the grooves of the receptors like keys into a lock; when enough molecules have filled enough receptors they may activate cells when growth or repair is necessary. When normal levels of IGF-1 are running through your system this is not a problem; in fact, it is essential for staying alive. However, if your body begins producing an excessive amount of IGF-1 this excess continues to attach to the cells even when they do not need it. Since IGF-1 encourages cell growth this surplus runs the risk of encouraging some of the cells to grow needlessly. AND, since cancer is the excessive, uncontrolled growth of body cells, this surplus of IGF-1 significantly increases the risk of developing cancer.

These facts are heavily supported by research: One study followed 32,826 females for six years and found that women with higher levels of IGF-1 were two and a half times more likely to develop cancer than women with lower levels of the hormone. A second study following 14,916 men found that those with higher levels of the hormone experienced a fourfold increase in cancer risk compared to men with lower levels.1 One cohort study found that increased circulating IGF-1 levels is moderately associated with developing breast cancer in pre-menopausal women.2 One review of studies observed that increased levels of IGF-1 is associated with increased risk of developing colon cancer in both men and women.3 In a summary of evidence published in 2004 it was determined that elevated levels of IGF-1 contributed to the development of cancers in the pancreas, uterus, and prostate.4 These are but a few of the many confirmations that excessive IGF-1 levels in the system relate to increased cancer development.

This brings us to the problem with the consumption of animal-based proteins: Science has shown that one of the most common influences on the level of circulating IGF-1 proteins is the types of protein one consumes: Animal-based vs. plant-based. One study involving 292 women found that those who consumed plant-based proteins (vegans) experienced lower levels of IGF-1 in their systems than those who include animal proteins in their diets (meat, fish, and dairy). A larger study followed the protein intake of 6,381 adults for eighteen years, observing that animal-based proteins were strongly associated with the increase risk of IGF-1 levels and cancer development.5 An analysis of two larger cohort studies which followed a total of 129,716 subjects (male and female) observed that those who consumed plant-based proteins experienced a much lower rate of deaths due to heart disease and cancer than subjects who consumed animal-based proteins.6 Another study which followed 69,120 subjects noted that “Vegan diets showed statistically significant protection for overall cancer incidence in both genders combined and for female-specific cancers.7 And another study, which followed 696 males, observed that IGF-1 was, on the average, 9% lower in vegan men than in meat-eating men, and 8% lower in vegetarian men.8 Since earlier research has noted that men who had an 8% increase in IGF-1 tend to have prostate cancer,9 it is clear that the 9% decrease in vegan men is a significant factor in lowering their risk of developing prostate cancer.

We could keep going with the research, but you get the point: Clearly, switching out your animal-based proteins for plant-based proteins is a vital part of controlling your IGF-1 levels and reducing your cancer's growth and development. AND, not only does adopting a plant-based diet help control your IGF-1 levels, but it also cuts out most saturated fats which also contribute to cancer development; this brings us to the next topic.


“Fats” are a category of nutrients which are necessary for your body to produce energy, construct cells, insulate nerves, and absorb fat-soluble vitamins (such as vitamins A, D, E, and K). You cannot be healthy without fats in your diet. There are several types of dietary fats: Saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and trans-fats. Although you need fats to maintain your health the saturated and trans-fats carry health risks such as increased heart disease and systemic inflammation.10 11 Although heart disease is bad enough, in itself it is not a risk factor for cancer; however, systemic inflammation is a major factor for the development and growth of cancer.12 Saturated fats are a cause of systemic inflammation because they trigger certain cells in your brain and spinal cord to release inflammatory proteins known as cytokines; especially cytokines known for encouraging the growth of cancer such as Tumor Necrosis Factor (a.k.a. TNF), and interleukin-6.13 Trans-fats are no better: Studies have found that trans-fats increased systemic inflammation in women,14 may be associated with increased risk of breast cancer,15 that men without a certain gene variant have a strong association between trans-fats and prostate cancer,16 and, in Caucasian patients “colorectal cancer was positively associated with consumption of trans-fatty acids.”17 Because the United States Food and Drug Administration (a.k.a.“FDA”) recognizes that trans-fats contribute to the increase of heart disease and cancer it was ruled that, beginning in 2018, all food manufacturers in the United States must obtain permission from the FDA before adding trans-fats to their products. Although this will significantly cut down on the amount of trans-fats in food manufactured in the United States, keep aware that imported foods may still contain dangerous levels of it. Again, read your labels. Foods containing saturated fats and/or trans-fats include:


These are fats created by combining fully hydrogenated fats with liquid vegetable oils and then altering them through interesterification, a process which rearranges the fat molecules to give them a longer shelf life. This changes the composition of the fat so that it behaves like a partially-hydrogenated fat without the trans-fat content. Although interesterified fats (“IEF”) have been around since the 1920's they are recently gaining more popularity as food companies in the United States need a replacement for the trans-fats they can no longer use.

Research into the health effects of consuming IEF fats is ongoing, however there have been some interesting finds along the way. Some studies have found that IEF fats adversely altered cholesterol and blood glucose levels similar to trans-fats in humans. 18 19 Studies using mouse models observed that the use of certain IEF fats can influence the development of fatty liver disease – a common cause of cirrhosis,20 and that pregnant female mice consuming IEF fats predisposed their male offspring to obesity.21 Another mouse study found that IEF fat causes the release of inflammatory cytokines, including interleukin-6,22 a known contributor to cancer development.

Although research on IEF fats is still in need of more investigation I strongly recommend using caution when it comes to buying products containing IEF fats just to be on the safe side. Although some food labels will clearly list “interesterified” vegetable oil on their labels, they are not currently required to do so. Therefore, you should look for other key words which indicate the presence of this type of fat, such as high stearate, stearate high, stearate rich, or fractionated/fractions. In some cases, the IEF may be simply referred to as fully hydrogenated, palm oil, and palm kernel oil. Foods most likely to contain IEF's include fried foods, baked goods, margarines, and packaged snacks.


Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are healthy fats known for lowering the risk of heart disease23 and generally do not cause cancer-inducing systemic inflammation like the unhealthy fats do. Since we need fats in our diet to maintain proper health then these are the fats you need to stick with, especially since you want to reduce the growth of your cancer. Here is some important information you need to know before you go out and load up on these sources:


Modifying your diet to eliminate animal-based proteins and unhealthy fats may initially sound like you are limited to mostly salads, tofu, and oil-based dressings; however this is definitely NOT the case. Eating a balanced modified diet will supply you with all of the nutrients, proteins, healthy fats, and fiber you will need to stay healthy as well as giving you a wide variety of delicious foods. I strongly recommend that you consult with a properly certified nutritionist, a registered dietitian, or even vegan friends and Internet forums in order to learn how to balance your new eating routine. In the meantime I will give you a few quick pointers to get you started:

  1. Proteins: The typical recommended daily allowance of protein is .36g per pound of body weight, which translates to 54g per day for a 150 pound person. Plant-based proteins include (grams per serving in parentheses): chia seeds(4g), hemp seeds(10g), hummus(2.5g),1 legumes (varies according to kind, read labels),2 nutritional yeast(2g),3 pumpkin seeds(10g), seitan(21g),4 sesame seeds(5g), spirulina(4g),5 sunflower seeds(7g), tahini(3g),6 tempeh(15g), tofu(9g), russet potatoes with skin(4g/medium), collard greens(5g/cup), hubbard squash(5g/cup, cooked), spinach(5g/cup, cooked), asparagus(4g/cup, cooked), sweet potatoes with skin(4g/cup, cooked) and tree nuts (varies according to kind, read labels). Most whole grains are also significant contributors to your daily protein intake; please see the "Grains" subheading below for more detail. Take note that, although all plant foods contain all 9 essential amino acids (necessary to make a complete protein), the different foods will each contain different levels of these amino acids. For example, black beans have much higher levels of the essential amino acid known as lysine than what whole kernel corn has. As a result, many people buy into the myth that you must “pair” your amino acids to get a complete protein, such as pairing the corn and black beans in a Southwestern-style meal. Although the idea of pairing your proteins is not bad advice, it is not absolutely necessary. As long as you make sure you are eating a wide variety of foods throughout the day your protein needs will take care of itself.

  2. Grains: It is important to use whole, unprocessed grains to get better quality nutrients. Whole grains are those which have all three parts of the grain included: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm (processed grains tend to have at least one of them missing). However, if you have any chronic digestive or bowel problems we strongly advise that you speak with your treating physician before switching to whole grains. If whole grains are not a problem for your health we strongly encourage you to try a wide variety of whole grains in your plant-based diet. Here we will give you a list of the various options; for those of you who are sensitive to gluten proteins we designate the gluten free grains with the suffix “-GF” (grams of protein per grain serving inclduded in parentheses): Amaranth-GF(6g), barley(5g), buckwheat-GF(6g), bulgur(5.5), corn-GF(4g), einkorn(9g), emmer farro(6g), fonio(4g), freekeh(6g), hato mugi-GF(5g), kañiwa-GF(7g), khorasan/kamut(6.5g), millet-GF(5g),7 montina/Indian rice grass flour-GF(17g), oats, rolled-GF(6g), quinoa-GF(6g), rice-GF(3g), rye(4.5g), sorghum-GF(5g), spelt(6.5), teff-GF(6g), triticale(6g), wheat(7g), wheat berries (6.5g), and wild rice-GF(6.5g). If you are concerned about getting a complete protein in one grain, know that kañiwa, amaranth, and quinoa are all considered to be complete proteins.

  3. Calcium: It is generally recommended that adults get 1,000 - 1,200mg of calcium in their daily diet. Although animal-based dairy products are a popular way to get one's protein it is important to know that this bone-building mineral has many plant-based sources including (per 1 cup/240ml cooked/prepared serving, unless otherwise noted): Fortified soy milk(360mg), fortified rice milk(300), calcium fortified orange juice(300mg), collard greens(260mg), tofu(225 ½ cup), soybeans(175mg), white beans(160mg), 10 dried figs(140mg), navy beans(125mg), great northern beans(120mg), black “turtle” beans(100mg), and kale(94mg). If your blood levels of calcium continue to remain low on your plant-based diet keep in mind that vitamins C, D, E, and K, as well as the minerals magnesium, boron, and phosporus, can help you absorb calcium into your body better. We strongly advise that you speak with your prescribing physician(s) before starting supplements because some of them can become toxic in your system if they are taken in too large of a dose. Also, if your doctor recommends a calcium supplement keep two things in mind: (1) Products containing calcium carbonate need an acidic environment in order to dissolve properly. Therefore they should be taken with a meal in order to expose the supplement to more stomach acids, or with an acidic beverage such as orange juice or tomato juice. (2) Products using calcium citrate tend to contain less calcium than the products with calcium carbonate however the citrate type is more easily absorbed in the body.
  4. Vitamin B12: Admittedly, this very important vitamin is naturally present only in animal-based products. However, there are many plant-based commercial products which are fortified with this essential vitamin. If you are looking to eat natural, whole, unprocessed foods (many vegan products are processed) you should speak with your doctor about using a vitamin B12 supplement through the duration of your modified diet.
  5. Vitamin D: This vitamin is actually an important hormone that is synthesized in your body as a reaction to sunlight and other sources of ultraviolet-B light. Vitamin D helps your body to absorb calcium in order to give you good, strong bones. 20-30 minutes of direct sunlight (depending upon how dark your skin is) each day is plenty to help you get vitamin D during the summer, but other times of the year, when the sun's rays aren't so direct, you may need to eat this vitamin. Although the best sources are eggs and fatty fish there are also plant-based sources. These include mushrooms such as portobello, morel, button, and shiitake, as well as fortified soy or almond milks, and fortified tofu. (Tip: Putting your mushrooms out in direct sunlight increases their vitamin D content). If you are still not getting enough vitamin D speak to your doctor about using a commercial supplement. Do not use supplements without professional supervision because too much vitamin D in your body can be toxic.
  6. Commercial vegan products: Plant-based eating is more popular today than ever, and this means that many companies are manufacturing plant-base foods for the general public. Just as with all other kinds of foods, some companies do a better job than others. Therefore, you may need to try different brands to discover which ones suit your palate best. Just be aware of three things while you shop for your commercial plant-based foods: (1) Read the ingredients list to be sure there is nothing in the product which may trigger a sensitivity or allergy you may have. (2) Be aware that some companies produce both vegan and vegetarian products. This means some of their products may contain milk or egg in them. (3) Many companies add preservatives and artificial ingredients to their products. If you are looking for completely natural products you should look to your local health food/natural food stores for products.


1Harvard Gazette: April 22, 1999, “Growth Factor Raises Cancer Risk
2Circulating Levels of Insulin-like Growth Factors , Their Binding Proteins, and Breast Cancer Risk (Schernhammer, 2005)
3Insulin, Insulin-like Growth Factors, and Colon Cancer; A Review of the Evidence. (Giovannucci, 2001)
4Nutrition, Insulin, IGF-1 Metabolism, and Cancer Risk: A Summary of Epidemiological Evidence. (Kaaks, 2004)
5Low Protein Intake is Associated with a Major Reduction in IGF-1, Cancer, and Overall Mortality in the 65 and Younger but Not Older Population. (Levine, et al 2014)
6Low Carbohydrate Diets and All-cause and Cause-specific Mortality: Two Cohort Studies (Fung, et al 2010)
7Vegetarian Diets and the Incidence of Cancer in a Low-risk Population (Tanatamango-Bartley, 2012)
8Hormones and Diet: Low Insulin-like Growth Factor -1 but Normal Bioavailable Angrogens in Vegan Men (Allen, 2000)
9Growth Hormone and Prostate Cancer:Guilty by Association? (Grimberg, 1999)
10Effect of Hydrogenated and Saturated, Relative to Polyunsaturated, Fat on Immune and Inflammatory responses of Adults with Moderate Hypercholesterolemia. (Han, 2002)
11Induction of Proinflammatory Cytokines by Long-chain Saturated Fatty Acids in Human Macrophages. ( Håversen, 2009)
12Inflammation and Cancer: Back to Vlrchow? (Balkwill & Mantovani, 2001)
13Saturated Long Chain Fatty Acids Activate Inflammatory Signaling in Astrocytes. (Gupta, et al, 2012)
14Dietary Intake of Trans Fatty Acids and Systemic Inflammation in Women. (Mozaffarian, et al, 2004).
15Association Between Serum Trans-monounsaturated Fatty Acids and Breast Cancer Risk in E3N-EPIC Study. (Chajès , et al, 2008)
16Trans-fatty Acid Intake and Increased Risk of Advanced Prostate Cancer: Modification by RNASEL R462Q Variant. (Xin Liu, et al, 2007)
17Trans-fatty Acid Consumption and its Association with Distal Colorectal Cancer in the North Carolina Colon Cancer Study II. (Vinikoor, et al, 2010)
18Stearic-acid Rich Interesterified Fat and Trans-rich Fat Raise the LDL/HDL Ratio and Plasma Glucose Relative to Palm Olein in Humans (Sundram, et al, 2007)
19Influence of Interesterification of a Stearic-acid Rich Spreadable Fat on Acute Metabolic Risk Factors (Robinson, et al, 2009)
20Abstract 207: Interesterified Fat Rich in Stearic Acid Increases Liver Neutrophil and M1 Macrophage Infiltration and Induces Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis. (Lavrador, et al, 2014)
21Interesterified Fat or Palm Oil as Substitutes for Partially-hydrogenated Fat During the Perinatal Period Produces Changes in the Brain Fatty Acids Profile and Increases Leukocyte-endothelial Interactions in the Cerebral Microcirculation from the Male Offspring in Adult Life (Misan, et al, 2015)
22Abstract 250: Palmitic Interesterified Fat Induces Atherosclerosis and Inflammatory Cytokine Secretion in LDL Receptor Knockout Mice (Afonso, et al, 2014).
23Saturated Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Disease: Replacements for Saturated Fat to Reduce Cardiovascular Risk. (Briggs, et al, 2017)
24 Omega-6 essential fatty acids include linoleic acid, GLA (Gamma Linolenic Acid), CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid) and ARA (Arachidonic Acid)
25Omega-3 essential fatty acids include EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid), DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid), and ALA. (Alpha Linolenic Acid).
26Modulation of Pro-inflammatory Cytokine Biology by Unsaturated Fatty Acids. (Grimble & Tappia, 1998)
27Whole flaxseed will pass through your digestive system unchanged, depriving you of the fatty acids. It is better to either grind them up yourself or buy them already ground or powdered.
28Allergen alert: Usually contains tahini (blended sesame seeds).
29Legumes include: Dried beans, lentils, peas, peanuts, and soybeans.
30Allergen alert: May cause reactions in people with gluten sensititivy or mold allergies.
31Gluten alert: This is made with vital wheat gluten.
32Allergen alert: May cause reactions in people allergic to shellfish, finned fish, or have iodine allergies.
33Allergen alert: Tahini is made with sesame seeds.
34Fonio is a gluten-containing form of millet. When buying millet-containing products be sure the package states that it is gluten free if you are sensitive to gluten proteins.