Fight cancer with good nutrition

It’s hard to miss headlines that tout the benefits of this fruit, that nut or another oil as a way to hold cancer at bay. In light of that, Molly Rusch, RD, LDN, registered dietitian at AAMC’s Geaton and JoAnn DeCesaris Cancer Institute, turns to the most recent evidence-based nutrition information for the facts.

“No one food causes or cures cancer,” says Molly. “Broccoli and blueberries are called ‘superfoods’ because they are high in antioxidants — which is great — but what people should really be aiming for is a lifestyle that incorporates a variety of foods for good health.”

While foods like chia seeds, coconut oil and walnuts offer a plethora of nutritional benefits, Molly explains that it’s easy to latch on to the newest food trends while missing the bigger picture. “We can’t expect superfoods to preserve our health while still eating processed and fast foods.”

So what’s the best way to use food to fight cancer? Eat more fruits and vegetables. Molly says fruits and vegetables should make up about 50 percent of the food we consume, which translates to at least two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables daily for most adults.

This plant-focused diet has the added benefit of contributing to a healthy weight, which is known to reduce cancer risk. “We know obesity is a risk factor for breast cancer and many other diseases,” Molly says.

For those who are currently in cancer treatment or who are survivors, the total gets boosted to three fruit and five vegetable servings or more each day.

With that said, Molly says, when one is dealing with the challenges of chemotherapy or radiation, a little nutritional latitude is given — at that point it’s more important for patients to tolerate food in general, rather than worrying about eating the “right” foods.

Recipe for Good Nutrition: Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry

The beauty of this vegetable-centric recipe is that nothing has to be exact. Shop your local market for what’s fresh and try different combinations of vegetables. Seasonal superstars like broccoli and bok choy pack a dense nutritional punch. Broccoli includes fiber and protein, and is a great source of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, manganese and iron. One cup of broccoli is only 30 calories! Similarly, one cup of bok choy, sometimes called Chinese cabbage, is only 20 calories. It’s an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, vitamin K, folate and some B vitamins.

You can easily substitute tofu for chicken and vegetable broth for chicken broth to make a vegetarian entrée.


2 teaspoons canola oil, divided

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips

2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

4 cups assorted vegetables, such as broccoli, bok choy, snow peas, carrot, bell pepper

1 tablespoon cornstarch

¾ cup chicken broth

2 tablespoons dry white wine or white cooking wine

1 tablespoon soy sauce


  1. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add chicken and garlic. Cook 4–5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  2. Remove chicken with slotted spoon, set aside, cover, keep warm. Add remaining teaspoon of oil to the skillet or wok. Add vegetables and stir fry 3–4 minutes until crisp-tender, stirring constantly.
  3. Place cornstarch in a small bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of chicken broth and stir to smooth paste. Stir in remaining chicken broth, white wine and soy sauce. Pour mixture over vegetables in skillet or wok and cook 1–2 minutes, until sauce thickens. Add reserved chicken and toss to coat. Serve over rice.
Molly Rusch, RD, LDN, is a registered dietitian at the DeCesaris Cancer Institute at AAMC.
Originally published Sept. 16, 2016. Last updated Feb. 11, 2019.


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