10 Foods for Cancer Patients to Avoid

Cancer management requires various lifestyle changes, besides adhering to a doctor-recommended treatment. 

The most important changes are regarding nutrition. 

Some foods can help you on the way to recovery, whereas others do not. 

This post focuses on foods for cancer patients to avoid. 

Read on to learn more about the importance of proper nutrition for cancer patients and what foods to exclude from your daily menu.  

Why should cancer patients adjust their diet?

Dietary modifications for cancer patients are necessary to build strength and withstand the side effects of cancer treatment. 

A proper diet helps cancer patients feel better, become stronger, lower the risk of infection, reduce inflammation, heal and recover faster, and maintain their weight.

According to a paper from the Annual Review of Nutrition, diet intervention reduces toxicity, improves chemotherapy efficacy, and reduces the risk of long-term complications in cancer patients.

A healthcare provider may recommend specific dietary adjustments for their patients, or they can include a nutritionist or dietitian in the process. 

10 foods for cancer patients to avoid

Cancer patients need a nutrient-rich diet to keep their bodies strong. To get the most from your diet, you need to avoid or reduce your intake of the following foods.  

1. Raw seafood

Raw seafood should be off the menu for cancer patients, especially while undergoing chemotherapy. For example, raw or undercooked shellfish such as oysters could carry the hepatitis A virus. 

At the same time, raw fish is rich in mercury. Since cancer patients have a weaker immune system, they should reduce intake or avoid these foods. Plus, there’s also the risk of cross-contamination with bacteria when raw meat is involved. 

2. Unpasteurized dairy products

Unpasteurized dairy products such as raw yogurt or raw milk may contain bacteria that can make you sick. 

Remember, cancer patients have weaker immunity meaning their body can’t protect them as it used to. Eating these foods could increase the risk of infection. 

3. Raw eggs

Generally speaking, eggs are healthful and belong to a well-balanced diet. They’re rich in nutrients and vitamins. 

Cancer patients don’t need to avoid eating eggs entirely. However, you do need to avoid eating raw or lightly cooked eggs or any meal that contains them. 

Why? Raw eggs contain Salmonella bacteria. These bacteria can cause infection, which is exactly what you need to prevent. 

In a nutshell, you can keep eating eggs and foods containing them, but make sure they’re properly cooked. You also need to avoid adding eggs to smoothies. Many people do that, but they risk developing an infection.

eggs prostate

4. Unwashed fruits and vegetables

Everyone should avoid eating unwashed produce, especially cancer patients. These fruits are full of dirt and also fertile ground for bacteria. Consumption of unwashed produce could lead to infection and sickness.

To avoid these problems, you should always wash fruits and vegetables. Do so even when they’re labeled “pre-washed.” 

Pay extra attention to leafy greens, produce you grow yourself, and homegrown or store-bought fresh herbs such as thyme or basil.

Remember, you need to wash fruits or vegetables even if they have a peel that you won’t eat. If you don’t wash them, you are still at risk of infection because cutting them through brings dirt and bacteria from the outside to the inner portions of the produce.

5. Raw vegetable sprouts

Speaking of vegetables, cancer patients should avoid consuming raw sprouts. While they’re popular nowadays, raw vegetable sprouts increase the risk of contamination. 

Some types of bacteria, such as E. coli, don’t come off that easily while washing. For that reason, the best thing you can do to prevent contamination and infection is to avoid raw vegetable sprouts entirely.

6. Foods with strong flavors

Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation have various adverse reactions, including nausea, vomiting, sores in the mouth, and sore throat

In order to prevent irritation of the sores or worsen other side effects, the best thing to do is to avoid foods with strong flavors. 

Ideally, you should avoid foods that are tart, acidic, sour, and spicy. Try not to eat them even if they’re among your favorite foods. 

Instead, focus on more bland flavors and foods such as cream-based soups, milkshakes, pudding, and cooked or canned fruits and vegetables.

7. Raw honey

Cancer patients, like babies, shouldn’t eat honey. You see, raw honey may carry botulism toxin and could make you ill. 

Consult your doctor or dietitian regarding the alternatives. After all, honey is beneficial for our health, and it could help people in many ways. 

American Cancer Society recommends commercial, grade A, heat-treated honey instead of raw honey.

benefits of honey

8. Undercooked meat

In the same way cancer patients should avoid raw seafood, they should also say no to undercooked meat. 

This kind of meat may contain bacteria and viruses that cause foodborne illnesses. If you like eating your steak rare, you may want to stop doing so. Always make sure meat is properly and thoroughly cooked before eating. 

9. Moldy cheese

Everyone loves cheese, and while there are plenty of options that are good for you, moldy cheese is not. You see, the mold responsible for the distinct taste and color of this cheese is a fungus. 

While in healthy people, the organism is strong enough to tackle this fungus, cancer patients have weaker immunity. Their body isn’t strong enough to handle these tiny organisms that could cause infections. That’s why you need to strive and avoid moldy cheese.

10. Junk food

The reality is that junk food is bad for everyone. Not only is it low in nutrients, but it’s high in salt and bad fat content. 

Salt is dehydrating, but as a cancer patient, you need to stay hydrated throughout the day. Additionally, junk foods have quite intense flavors that may contribute to your nausea. If you simply love junk food and have to eat it, make sure to do it in moderation. 


Men and women with cancer need to modify their diet in order to improve strength and energy levels, reduce inflammation, and decrease the side effects of their treatments. Some foods may worsen a cancer patient’s health. 

Ideally, cancer patients should avoid unwashed produce, raw meats, and foods with strong flavors. All these foods can either contribute to infections or worsen the side effects of cancer treatment. 

Strive to focus on healthy foods that are prepared thoroughly and supply your body with a wide range of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Adhere to the doctor’s or dietitian’s instructions regarding food intake during cancer treatment.

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Mittelman SD. The Role of Diet in Cancer Prevention and Chemotherapy Efficacy. Annu Rev Nutr. 2020. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8546934/

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