Kris Carr

Blog Post

What to Eat (and Avoid) if You Have Cancer

Hiya Gorgeous!

One of my favorite places can be found right outside of Chicago and worlds away from the scary, sterile hospitals that many of us have become all too familiar with. It’s warm, inviting, and filled with energy. I truly believe that it’s one of the most unique, special, and important places in all of cancer care.

I’m talking about the Block Center for Integrative Cancer Treatment and saying that I was surprised the first time I visited this magical, healing haven would be a serious understatement.

I was inspired not only by the environment—complete with a beautiful kitchen, exercise equipment, and spaces to connect and meditate—but also by the positive, patient-centric approach to cancer treatment, management, and prevention.

Liz Gold

That’s why I’m so excited to bring you this interview with Lizabeth Gold MS, RDN (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist).

Liz is one of three incredible Block Center care team members I interviewed for the Healing Cancer World Summit (I also spoke with co-founders Keith I. Block, MD, and Penny Block, Ph.D.). She works closely with patients to incorporate nutrition into their healing journeys, and we have so much to learn from her extensive knowledge and experience.

Learn More About Liz and The Block Center

The Block Center is an integrative cancer treatment center that provides conventional treatments such as chemotherapy but also understands the impact that nutrition and other lifestyle habits can have on the biochemistry of the body.

They use nutrition to not only make chemotherapy less toxic but also to alter the body’s biochemistry making it less hospitable to cancer. This is done by providing specific nutrition instructions for a whole-food, plant-based eating plan customized to fit each patient’s individual needs. They also provide all follow-up nutrition support as they move through chemotherapy and into remission.

The Block Center is constantly assessing new information regarding various supplements, natural remedies, and new cancer treatments and their side effects, such as immunotherapy.

Liz works extensively with their research team to parse out the large amounts of misinformation found on the internet. Many patients come in with misconceptions regarding various diet trends and/or cancer “cures,” so she has to understand the issues to address their concerns.

Why a Healthy Diet is Important for Cancer Treatment

Liz notes that the single biggest challenge for people who are sick or in treatment is loss of appetite. When you think about it, food is such a huge part of life and, for most people, it is associated with feelings of pleasure and good times. So when patients don’t feel hungry, it is not just a physical problem, it’s a mental problem. Patients have to do this whole shift from “I can’t wait to eat dinner” to “I know I should eat dinner.”

This is tough not just for the patient, but also for the family members caring for that person. As the patient begins to eat less, the family members tend to want to force him/her to eat. This causes a lot of guilt on the side of the family member and also on the patient. This is where Liz digs in to help find out what sounds good to the patient (because everyone is very different).

Depending on the type of cancer you’re being treated for, what you eat can have a large impact on common side effects. Eating the right food can increase your energy, boost immune function, and reduce inflammation. They can also help keep you at a healthy weight while undergoing cancer treatment. The health benefits of eating a plant-based diet while you treat cancer are incomparable.

The Mental Challenge Cancer Patients Face

When people are sick, they tend to fall back into habits of comfort foods like macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, mashed potatoes, and other sugar-laden junk. A large part of Liz’s job is providing the resources they need to make healthier versions of those comfort foods or to adapt recipes to their current preferences.

Patients often quickly lose interest in smoothies and shakes, but freezing them into little smoothie pops is effective for someone craving cold foods and can be very soothing for mouth sores.

If a patient is doing better with hot foods, we have dozens of hearty soup recipes we can suggest. We also provide cooking classes at the Block Center where we might take classic comfort food or junk food and make a healthy version such as crispy eggplant pizza, tempeh gyros, or BBQ jackfruit sliders. I think it is really useful for patients and their loved ones to see how easy it is to make healthy foods that are delicious.

Foods Cancer Patients Should Avoid

While Liz has shared why and how they create healthy meals for patients at the Block Center, let’s chat about the certain foods you should avoid if you’re being treated for cancer.

Spicy Foods + Acidic Foods

Many people undergoing cancer treatment struggle with mouth sores and/or difficulty swallowing and sore throats. To ease discomfort, stick to soft foods when possible and avoid spicy and acidic foods that will further irritate your digestive tract.

Ditch the Dairy Products

You need to avoid unpasteurized milk, undercooked eggs, and cheese (Brie, feta, queso fresco/blanco, etc) to lower your risk of contracting foodborne illnesses. Another reason to avoid dairy is because it can be highly inflammatory.

Raw or Undercooked Meat

The American Cancer Society Guideline for Diet and Physical Activity recommends cutting back—and we would recommend eliminating—processed meats and red meat. This also means cutting out raw fish or raw meat (like you’d have in sushi).

Why does it matter? Diets high in red meats have been found to increase cancer risk of colorectal cancer.

Meat is also inflammatory, and Liz states you should instead try to focus on plant-based proteins (and there are plenty of high protein foods that are vegetables).

Cut Out Processed Foods

Some other foods to avoid would be anything that is processed that include:

  • Chips
  • Baked goods
  • Deli meats
  • Fried foods
  • Artificial ingredients

You should also avoid alcohol and energy drinks because they contain zero nutritional value. Whole foods are always best, but if you have to buy something in a bag or box, now would be a good time to start paying attention to labels and looking out for hydrogenated fats, refined sugars, and artificial additives. They have little nutritional value and cause spikes in blood sugar.

Limit Your Use of Sugar

Speaking of sugar, although it’s vegan-friendly, excess sugar can harm your health and cause unnecessary weight gain. Limit food and drinks that are high in sugar, including honey, molasses, brown sugar, etc.

Foods Cancer Patients Should Eat

Now that we’ve covered what you should avoid, what should you eat more of to support your health?

Incorporate More Vegetables into Your Diet

Liz emphasizes that the most important thing you can do is eat more vegetables. Every meal should consist of mostly vegetables with a serving of some whole grains and a bit of fruit.

Eat More Healthy Carbs

Make sure your diet contains healthy carbs such as whole grain brown rice, nuts and seeds, bran, and oats. Opt for foods with soluble fiber (which help keep the poop train on schedule!). Eating high-fiber foods can help you combat constipation if you’re dealing with that pesky side effect.

Add in Healthy Fats

Choose foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids (which help combat inflammation) whenever possible. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in avocados, walnuts, olive oil, and grapeseed oil.

Focus on Plant-Based Protein

There are plenty of options to get plant-based protein in your diet like beans, peas, whole soy foods like tempeh or edamame, and lentils.

Prevent Dehydration

Make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day to avoid dehydration. Clear liquids like vegetable broth, sports drinks, fruit juice, and water are best.

Embrace Dairy Alternatives

I also suggest switching to dairy alternatives like oat, almond, or cashew-based products. There are plenty of cheese alternatives that are healthier for you, too, like nutritional yeast.

Supplements to Take While Undergoing Cancer Treatment

Liz notes that nutritional supplements can provide an additional boost in immunity, help fight inflammation, and even help balance blood sugar. But some supplements should be avoided, especially if they interfere with medications or if they are known to cause problems with the liver or kidney.

Health care professionals are usually open to having a conversation about supplements and can help you get the proper testing to determine which supplements you should and shouldn’t include in your routine.

Curcumin and vitamin D are two things that are good for everyone. Curcumin is known for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties. Many people know that vitamin D is necessary for bone health, but what a lot of people don’t know is that almost every cell in our body has a vitamin D receptor—and many people aren’t getting enough. Deficiencies in vitamin D have been implicated in a multitude of diseases from diabetes to multiple sclerosis.

Keep in mind: Because vitamin D is fat-soluble, you can also take too much. Testing is the best way to be sure about the vitamin levels in your body. At the Block Center, they do a full terrain panel that assesses antioxidant levels, immune system functioning, glycemic functioning and inflammation. Again, working with your health care team is the best way to determine the supplement regimen that’s right for you.

Avoid Excess Body Weight

A combination of a whole-food, plant-based diet along with a customized supplement plan and lifestyle changes (such as daily moderate-intensity physical activity) will help build immunity and reduce inflammation.

But did you know that excess body weight can be associated with a higher risk of breast cancer? Cancer research has found that women who are severely overweight have a higher risk of breast cancer returning. Oddly, research hasn’t yet shown that losing weight can lead to cancer prevention (but healthy weight loss is associated with overall health).

Tips to Support Loved Ones Being Treated for Cancer

If your loved one is dealing with nausea, encourage them to eat small meals and bland foods. Let your loved one know that it is OK if they only take a few bites. Certain smells can interfere significantly with appetite, so try to prepare food when the person is not home or have them eat in a room away from where it was cooked. If possible, taking a quick walk around the block outside in the fresh air can stimulate appetite as well as provide a good break from the cooking smells.

You can drink ginger tea or a ginger smoothie (frozen peaches with fresh ginger blended with almond milk) to ease nausea and improve digestion. Metal utensils can cause strange tastes, so swapping them out for reusable plastic utensils can help. Having music playing during mealtimes and putting flowers on the table may seem like small things, but they can make a big difference.

Different surroundings and groups of people make mealtime a little more festive and can help boost appetite as well. Take advantage of those “good” times of day when appetite is at its best and encourage loved ones to eat a little more during those times.

You also want to make sure you’re following proper food safety procedures:

  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly
  • Don’t eat leftover foods that haven’t been stored properly
  • Do not eat raw or undercooked meat

Foodborne illnesses can be especially dangerous for those with compromised immune systems, which is why following these procedures are so important.

Recipe Ideas for Patients and Caregivers

Nutrient-Dense Smoothies

Here’s a basic template for a nutrient-dense smoothie:

  • Healthy fats like MCT oil, unsweetened almond butter, or avocado
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Healthy proteins like a good pea protein powder and some soy* milk or cashew milk
  • A handful of berries (Other raw fruits or frozen fruit work well too)
  • 1/2 banana on the green side (good prebiotic)

*Soy WHAT? If you’re not so sure about soy,check out this article.

It is also OK to open up supplements and add them to the smoothie, especially if they’re difficult to take. Multivitamins, vitamin D, curcumin, and vitamin C are good choices for added nutrients and support for healing and detoxification.

Savory Soups

As I said earlier, vegetable and pureed soups are excellent options. The easiest thing to do is start with a ratio of 2:1:1 of onions, celery, and carrots (known as mirepoix). Chop and saute those ingredients for a bit, then add garlic and any other spices you like. Cook for a bit, then add vegetable broth. From there, you can add anything from beans to kale to red potatoes to parsley to cilantro.

I make most of my soups up as I go along and they turn out just fine. I buy a few good spices, like garam masala or curry powder, and decide on the fly depending on my mood (or the mood of my patients if I am making it for them).

Butternut squash is about the easiest thing to make and it is so comforting. Just take that same mirepoix and saute it along with cubed butternut squash (you can buy this at Trader Joe’s conveniently cut up for you!). After about 5 minutes, pour in some vegetable broth and cook covered until the butternut squash is soft. Let it cool, then blend it with a little bit of nutmeg, almond milk, and cinnamon and you’re good to go. Yum!

Kick Cancer’s Butt

Liz emphasizes that the power of healing is often dependent on three things: It is partly in the heart, partly in the mind, and partly in the body—and you really need to go after it on all three fronts. It is so important to have hope in your heart and courage and strength in your mind. And you have to be good to your body by giving it what it needs to be able to fight its biggest battle.

Liz is one of the most helpful, holistically-minded people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. I just love how her philosophy focuses on strengthening the immune system with small, manageable shifts in our diet and lifestyle choices. Liz truly exemplifies what it means to empower patients through an uplifting, non-judgmental approach.

Are you or a loved one living with cancer? I collaborated with experts I’ve met through my experience with cancer, and compiled a modern-day guide for navigating cancer with courage, clarity, and confidence. Whether you’re a cancer patient, survivor, thriver, caregiver or you’re interested in prevention, Your Cancer Guide was created with your needs in mind. Learn how this 7-step roadmap for prevention and recovery can help you in your cancer journey here.

Your turn: Do you have any questions for Liz? Leave them in the comments below!

Peace and cancer-fighting foods,

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  1. Liesl Maggiore says:

    I was wondering where Ms. Gold got her Masters and what exact degree she received. I’m interested in going to get an advanced holistic nutrition degree and get overwhelmed with all the different programs!

  2. kris says:

    Hey Liesl! Liz got her Master of Science in Nutrition from Eastern Michigan University. xo

  3. Elaine says:

    Been reading different interviews and articles on you for a long time now Kris. Then this year I was diagnosed with breast cancer, so now I’m following you and lots of others on the new road for many great tips and advise. Keep up the great work. Sincerely, Elaine

  4. linda says:

    Kris … this is really exciting … Liz mentioned vitamin D is important for MS and Diabetes … I have learned so much from you … I did not know about vitamin D … maybe that is why my neurologist was so freaked out over a blood test … I’m really interested in nutrition and the body’s innate ability to heal and ,of course, Louise’s movie … so you’ve knocked it out of the ball park by hand picking all of the speakers … it seems that they all contribute stuff that I’m interested in … how long did it take you to become the head unicorn ?????????

    • kris says:

      So glad you’re joining, Linda! You’re gonna love Day 3 (Food as Medicine) – tons of great nutrition content in those lessons. xo!

  5. Kelly says:

    After meeting Kris at a conference, we consulted with the Block Institute. This consult was for my son, who had been diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma at age 11. We (of course) wanted the most skilled professionals on our wellness team, but I also needed to feel a soul/heart connection. This was my child. Cancer has a way of striping our identity; I needed to feel like my team understood who my son was at his core (his hopes, his dreams, his gifts, his sense of humor–his unique spirit). I needed to trust them with my most prized possession. And we needed to know that they would honor our faith-driven, holistic, integrative approach to wellness. Liz is not only an amazing professional–she;s a mother who immediately understood my plight. When you are facing a diagnosis and frantically searching for answers, it feels so good to feel understood/valued. And, Dr, Block has the exact same intuitive way of bonding with his patients–so refreshing–puts you instantly at ease.

    Today, you would never know what my son has been through. He is now a junior in high school, plays varsity sports, drinks lots of green juice, and (like most teens) gets into a little mischief from time to time (I am so grateful–even the mischief is a pure blessing!) As we get ready to celebrate our 5th cancerversary–we are so grateful for the people who have been a part of our path to wellness! Thank you Kris! Thank you Liz!
    Peace & Health,

    • kris says:

      Wow, Kelly – this gave me the chills. I’m so glad to hear that your son is thriving. This is such a testament to the incredible work that the Block Center does – Liz, Keith and the entire time are such special people! Sending you and your whole family big hugs. xo!

    • Liz Gold says:

      Hi Kelly!
      So nice to hear from you and thank you for your kind words! Don’t minimize all your hard work too… have been (as Kris likes to say) such an awesome health detective and warrior for your son!
      All the best from all of us here at The Block Center,

  6. Pam says:

    Hi Kris,
    I think the Summit series is incredible. However, I just have 1 concern. Lizbeth Gold recommended eating Tuna for lunch. Having followed diet recommendations, Tuna has always been recommended to stay away from due to its mercury content. Has this changed recently and is Tuna now a good dietary choice, with no worries of mercury contamination?
    My daughter recently died of Stage 4 Breast Cancer and followed a similar diet, but Tuna was definitely in the never-to-eat list due to the mercury content. Please clarify. I

    Thank you so much,

    • Kathy says:

      I’m curious about the same. I was excited to hear tuna mentioned but wondered how to get good tuna or where. I had given up on making these kind of changes because the nutritional person I talked to just basically told me I could never eat any of the things I have eaten my whole life including tuna and most seafood. When I asked questions she was put off and basically told me to do what I want. I’m ready after a few months to try again to make some changes. Just so much confusing information out there.

    • Liz Gold says:


      There are two brands of canned tuna and salmon that are lower in mercury and sourced with sustainable methods…..Safe Catch and Raincoast Trading. Also, for some really awesome information regarding all seafood/fish, please check out the website There is a ton of info regarding each type of fish or seafood, where the best is located and it makes it easy to net out what type of seafood we should be choosing based on several factors. Look for environmentally friendly catch methods, BPA free cans, and companies that test for toxins!

      All the best,

  7. Thanks for sharing this tasty recipe.. looks yummy
    this blog very useful for cancer patients.. Good job dear!!

  8. Misty Ragland says:

    Hello Kris!
    Do you have any good curcumin supplement suggestions? I get confused choosing a good supplement and a lot of turmeric supplements don’t have a lot of curcumin.
    I’ve also read it’s hard for the body to absorb without a fat or pepper??? Yikes.

  9. Helen says:

    Hi liz
    You are just who I am looking for! I don’t live in the USA but next trip over I hope to make an appointment to see you.
    I have been a fan of kris Carr books and I followed her advice during my own battle. She gave me hope when I needed it the most!
    I have made amazing progress and agree completely with what you say. Now I need help to see what supplements I may need, and tests to check other things. Such as gut health etc.
    Can you advise on how long I need to get this done as I would be arranging a trip especially. Thank you ?

  10. Help! From N.H. says:

    Help! From N.H. My Dad isn’t doing good. He’s in hospital. Waiting on results from a liver biopsy but looks like liver cancer they are saying. Seven days on jello and chic broth he’s withering away.. what can we do to get strength back?

  11. Bernadette says:

    Compassion and kindness light the path of my soul this morning. Thank you for your posts.

  12. Nancy says:

    Hi Kris and Liz,
    Before covid, I was a so good at focusing on veggie-forward meals. But I kept hearing that protein was so important in helping us stave off this virus. Now, my family is eating pastured chicken and grass fed beef 5 nights a week. We’re not huge tofu/tempeh fans, but love edamame and legumes. Beyond stir fries and bean burgers, do you have any tips on getting back to plant based cooking right now? Or should we stay our current course until summer? I’m an 11 year metastatic breast cancer survivor, Mets to liver, if that matters! I’ve been taking aromasin since 2009

  13. Cassie says:

    Hi! I am a new member of your inner circle. I have stage IV lung cancer and am on chemo, radiation, antibody, etc. I never was a vegy person and am struggling to eat right. Does Liz do personal consults? Chicago is too far. I’m not much of a cook either so complicated recipes are a problem. Please help! I love reading your valuable information. BTW I made ur Za’tar sweet potatoes and they were delish. Others don’t really appeal to me. Also, is overnight oats ok for a cancer patient?

  14. Thank you for the very informative and detailed lesson about how to treat cancer

  15. Mohammad KALEEM says:

    Hi Good Evening, My Wife suffering from Breast cancer and Treatment is going on Chemotherapy after Surgery, please suggest me,what i have to good diet to my wife and she only the way to cook food for me and my children(3) but iam managing it with very difficult for cook and as financial. Please pray for cure.

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