Cancer-Fighting Foods

Cancer-fighting foods that boost your immune system and overall health include protein, fruits and vegetables. Healthy proteins consist of fish, meat, nuts and soy, and healthy fruits and vegetables include berries, grapes, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli and carrots.

All mesothelioma patients can benefit from cancer-fighting foods, but not for the reason many people believe. The idea of foods that fight cancer may conjure up a notion of nutrients killing tumor cells, similar to the way mesothelioma treatment works.

However, this isn’t how nutrition affects the body. Instead, healthy foods boost your body’s natural ability to fight cancer by supporting immune function and promoting healing and recovery. This allows you to stay on track with your treatment schedule and medication doses. Getting all your planned therapy is critical to achieving optimal tumor control.

Proteins: Chicken, Fish, Dairy, Meat, Eggs and More

Protein is among the most important nutrients for a mesothelioma patient. Excellent protein-rich options include chicken, fish, dairy, meat, eggs and beans.

Fish are also a good source of vitamin D, which is an important vitamin mesothelioma patients often lack. A 2021 clinical research study found that patients with asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma had lower vitamin D levels than their healthy counterparts.

Excellent protein-rich options to incorporate in a healthy diet include:
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Lean beef and pork
  • Greek yogurt
  • Beans, lentils and peas
  • Soy foods
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Cheese

Regardless of your usual weight — whether you are thin, average or overweight — your body needs extra protein after a mesothelioma diagnosis.
Even if you feel you have “room to spare” and some extra body weight, you should do everything you can to avoid losing weight during treatment.

Try the following tips to add protein to your diet:
  • Snack on cheese, sliced meats, nuts and nut butters
  • Add cheese or cooked meats to sandwiches, omelets, salads, soups and casseroles
  • Add powdered milk to whole milk, smoothies, milkshakes, creamy soups and mashed potatoes
  • Blend protein powder, ice cream, yogurt or nut butters into smoothies

Maintaining your weight and eating plenty of protein during treatment is the best way to preserve muscle and support immune cell repair and regeneration.

Most cancer patients should aim to eat 0.65 to 0.75 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day. For example, a person who weighs 175 pounds should try to eat 114 to 131 grams of protein daily.

Best Fruits and Vegetables for Fighting Mesothelioma Cancer

Some of the best fruits and vegetables for people with mesothelioma include dark berries, brightly colored stone fruit, purple and white potatoes, orange sweet potatoes, yellow yams and orange and yellow squash.

Beneficial Vegetables for a Mesothelioma Diet

The best vegetables for cancer patients include yellow, white, orange and purple root vegetables.

Colorful plant foods are among the top cancer-fighting items in a diet. This includes all vegetables, but for people diagnosed with mesothelioma it’s helpful to focus on the calorie-rich options.

Skip the salads and other low-calorie vegetables. Instead, fuel up with:
  • Purple and white potatoes
  • Orange sweet potatoes
  • Yellow yams

Many people in mesothelioma treatment struggle to get enough to eat. Good nutrition helps the body weather difficult cancer therapy and fuels recovery. For this reason, focus on vitamin- and mineral-rich options that also provide energy.

Beneficial Fruit for a Mesothelioma Diet

Purple, red and blue fruit, including berries and stone fruit, are among the most potent cancer-fighting foods in the diet. Those bright colors signal the presence of antioxidants and other cancer-fighting nutrients.

Combining fruit with some protein and fat offers the body calories, vitamins and minerals needed during cancer therapy. These important substances can support healing and recovery during and after mesothelioma treatment.

Try to include the following nutrient-rich fruit — fresh or frozen — in your cancer-fighting food plan:
  • Cherries
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Black raspberries
  • Cranberries
  • Boysenberries
  • Mulberries
  • Red and black currants
  • Salmon berries

Some of these items are only available fresh for a few weeks a year. Frozen fruit retains the same nutrients as fresh, and may be less expensive and easier to find.

Thoroughly wash produce under running water. Using soap is not recommended. Wash hands for 20 seconds with plain soap and running water immediately after handling unwashed produce. Never use the same cutting board for produce, meat and seafood, and wash boards immediately after use.

Foods Mesothelioma Patients Should Avoid

People with mesothelioma may want to avoid certain foods and beverages during treatment to steer clear of potential toxins and ensure their body is nourished properly.

For example, patients should limit or cut out alcohol during treatment because it damages human cells and their DNA, and may negatively interact with certain medications. Cancer patients should also focus on eating nutritious foods and avoiding sugary foods that are empty of nutrients.

For those who want to lower their risk of other cancers, avoiding red and processed meats will reduce the risk of stomach and colorectal cancer. Examples of processed meats include ham, bacon, sausage and hot dogs.

A heart shaped bowl filled with fruit
Free Mesothelioma Nutrition Guide
Eating right and balancing your diet while undergoing mesothelioma treatment can ease your symptoms.

Cancer-Fighting Recipes for a Healthy Diet

Consider the following nutritious recipes for a healthy diet during and after cancer treatment. This collection of recipes includes satisfying protein and delicious fruits and vegetables.

High-Protein Recipe

Perfect Pan-Seared, Oven-Roasted Roast Chicken Thighs

Servings: 3

Pan Roasted Chicken Thighs
Pan Roasted Chicken Thighs

Ingredients

  • 6 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (about 2 1/4 pounds)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Herbs and spices, to taste∗

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 475 F
  • Season chicken with salt and pepper
  • In a cast-iron, oven-safe skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until hot, but not smoking
  • Place chicken thighs skin down and cook 2 minutes on medium-high
  • Reduce heat to medium and cook about 12 minutes, until skin is golden brown
  • Move thighs around the skillet to ensure even heating
  • Transfer skillet to oven and cook an additional 13 minutes
  • Flip chicken and cook another 7 minutes, until skin is crispy and meat is cooked through
  • Check to make sure internal temperature of chicken reaches at least 165 F
  • Transfer to a plate and let sit 5 minutes before serving

∗ Herbs and spices can help reduce metallic and unpleasant tastes that can occur during chemotherapy. Try fresh or dried rosemary, oregano, basil or thyme.

Adding a bit of sweetness with a light brushing of honey or maple syrup at the end of cooking also may improve flavor for mesothelioma patients.

Nutrition information per serving: 370 calories; 36 g protein; 25 g fat; 0 g carbohydrates

Root Vegetables Recipe

Roasted Potatoes, Yams and Squash

Servings: 5

Roasted Potatoes, Yams and Squash
Roasted Potatoes, Yams and Squash

Ingredients

  • 1 medium orange sweet potato or fresh pumpkin, if seasonal
  • 1 medium yellow yam or sweet potato
  • 1 small acorn or half of a butternut squash (add extra potato and yam if squash is out of season)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Dash of salt and pepper, to taste
  • Fresh or dried herbs — basil, oregano, marjoram, thyme, parsley or rosemary
Preparation
  • Preheat oven to 450 F
  • Wash and dry vegetables
  • Peel and chop squash into roughly 1-inch pieces
  • Chop potatoes, skin on, into 1-inch pieces
  • Place vegetables into 3-quart glass baking dish (approximately 12 inches by 9 inches)
  • Add olive oil and stir to coat food
  • Sprinkle with salt, pepper and herbs
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes, stirring once halfway through baking time
  • Remove from oven and serve immediately

Nutrition information per serving: 177 calories; 3 g protein; 8 g fat; 23 g carbohydrates

If you enjoy grilling, you can brush whole potatoes in olive oil, sprinkle with herbs and salt, wrap in foil and place on the grill for 10 minutes, flipping halfway through. Open foil carefully, using tongs, to avoid contact with escaping steam. Poke potatoes with a fork to determine if they are cooked through. If not, cook to desired doneness, rewrap and return to grill for another few minutes.

Fruit Smoothie Recipe

Berry-Cherry, High-Protein Smoothie∗

Servings: 1

Berry Cherry High-Protein Smoothie
Berry Cherry High-Protein Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup frozen cherries
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries∗∗
  • 1 cup whole milk or nondairy option, if preferred (to blend to desired consistency)

Preparation

  • Combine all ingredients in a blender
  • Begin blending, adding a little milk at a time to combine to desired consistency

Nutrition information per serving: 485 calories; 29 g protein; 9 g fat; 72 g carbohydrates

∗ If you have been advised to avoid frozen and very cold foods during treatment, add berries to other foods such as oatmeal or cereal.

∗∗ If things taste too sweet, try substituting frozen cranberries in place of blueberries.

Shot of a doctor holding a file
Find a Top Mesothelioma Doctor
We’ve helped thousands of people affected by mesothelioma find the best treatments.

Treat Food Like Medicine

Some people struggle to eat enough during cancer treatment. If this is a problem for you, try to treat food like medication.

You may not feel hungry, but setting a timer to take a few bites or sips of food every hour can help you squeeze more calories and protein into your day. Do this for all the foods you can eat during cancer care.

If you are losing weight after a mesothelioma diagnosis, ask your medical team to refer you to a cancer dietitian. This person can help you design a plan to meet your nutrition needs before, during and after treatment.

Cover and open page view of the mesothelioma guide from The Mesothelioma Center
Get Your Free Mesothelioma Treatment Guide
man and his wife looking at computer together watching webinar from the mesothelioma center
Watch Our Free Mesothelioma Webinars
Scientist is laboratory studying cells under a microscope
Find Active Mesothelioma Clinical Trials