Nutrition and Weight Management for Healthy Cancer Survivorship

Nutrition and exercise are two areas in which lifestyle changes can help you to reduce the risk of recurrent and new cancers and promote overall survival. Both optimal nutrition and adequate exercise will help you to achieve a healthy body weight.

A Survivorship Nutrition Plan

The optimal diet focused on cancer prevention emphasizes increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans/legumes. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, at least 2/3 of your plate should be comprised of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans – “The New American Plate.”  In addition to the overall guidelines, you can further optimize your nutritional intake by striving to achieve these more detailed suggestions:

  • Eat a variety of 8-10 servings of fruits, vegetables, and legumes (beans) daily
    • Opt for vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables
    • Increase cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and cabbage)
    • Increase vegetables high in carotenoids, orange and dark green vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, and kale)
  • Consume a high fiber diet (25-35 g/day)
    • Increase beans and whole grains (brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, corn tortillas, whole grain breads and pastas)
    • Avoid processed and refined grains, flours, and sugars
  • Aim for a low fat diet (20-30% of calories from fat)
    • Limit saturated fats to <8% of total calories (butter, dairy, and animal fats)
    • Include healthy fats in the diet (flaxseed, avocado, canola oil, olive oil, soybeans, nuts, and seeds)
  • Optimize your animal proteins
    • Limit red meats likebeef, pork, lamb to 18ozcooked weight per week
    • Avoidprocessed meats like salt-cured, smoked and nitrate cured foods (bacon, sausage, pepperoni, and luncheon meats)
    • Increase cold-water fish (salmon, herring, tuna and sardines)
  • Limit fried and barbecued foods, especially proteins like chicken, beef, pork
  • Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with salt
    • Strive for less than 2400mg of sodium per day
  • Limit alcohol consumption to 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women. Or don’t drink at all.
  • Drink 1-4 cups of green tea daily
  • Limit calorie intake to achieve or maintain a healthy body weight

Descripción: C:Documents and SettingsAll UsersDocumentsnewamericanplate.jpgAchieve a Healthy Body Weight

The body mass index (BMI) is one of the ways of estimating a healthy weight, which should range somewhere between 18.5 and 24.9. Higher and lower values are proportional to increased risk. It is estimated that a BMI of greater than 30 (obese) relates to 14% of cancer deaths in men and 20% of cancer deaths in women. For more information about how to calculate your BMI and for more resources on weight management, check out this website:

Exercise to Reduce Your Risk and Manage Your Weight

Increased physical activity can complement a healthy diet and help you to achieve a healthy lifestyle. It is recommended that you get at least 30 minutes a day of moderately intense physical exercise five days a week or engage in vigorous-intensity physical activity for at least 20 minutes on three or more days of the week. If you need help on how to get started to become more physically active, I recommend the US Department of Health and Human Service’s Physical Guidelines for Americans website
or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at

In Summary

Research supports that a few of the best ways to reduce your cancer risk and prolong your survivorship are to avoid weight gain and/or achieve a “normal” body weight for a BMI 18.5-24.9; follow a diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans; and increase physical activity to recommended levels.

For more detailed information and the latest research on how weight and obesity, physical activity, and diet/nutrition relate to cancer, I recommend the National Cancer Institute’s website.

Category: Experts Speak

Tags: body mass index, Breast Cancer, Cancer Survivorship, Caregivers, exercise, healthy body weight, high fiber diet, low fat diet, Nutrition, Survivorship Nutrition Plan, The New American Plate, Weight Management