Diet to support treatments of Cancer

Ketogenic Diet for Cancer

A ketogenic diet restricts the amount of carbohydrates you can eat as a method of reducing blood glucose (sugar) and insulin levels. Elevated blood glucose (sugar) levels and/or elevated insulin levels are implicated in the development and progression of many cancers. Research shows that cancer cells depend on a steady glucose (sugar) supply to produce energy and to continue growing and dividing. In addition, insulin, which is elevated in the blood when you eat a high carbohydrate diet, can promote cancer cell growth. Restricting the amount of sugary, sweet carbohydrates in your diet may therefore help reduce cancer proliferation.

When dietary carbohydrates are restricted, your body relies more on fat for energy. Dietary fat will be burnt for energy and converted into a harmless by-product called ketones (this is why diets low in carbohydrates are often referred to “ketogenic diets”). Ketones can act as source of fuel for healthy cells; however most cancer cells cannot derive energy from ketones and are, in effect, starved by a ketogenic diet. Studies on animals have shown ketogenic diets can slow the progression of cancer and/or cause cancer regression, and preliminary research on humans with advanced cancer has found that ketogenic diets can contribute to stabilisation and even regression of tumour growth. 

Although a ketogenic diet is low in carbohydrates, it is not low in calories – your caloric intake must be maintained during a ketogenic diet to ensure you do not lose any weight. It is recommended you replace sugary, sweet carbohydrate-based foods with healthy vegetables, extra protein-rich foods and plenty of “good” fat. A recent study on advanced cancer patients following a ketogenic diet showed that, when following these recommendations, the patients only lost 4% of their body weight during the trial. Data from studies on other populations following a ketogenic diet, such as children with epilepsy and obese subjects, have shown that a ketogenic diet is safe, even over a long period of time.

The ketogenic diet requires you to eat lots of fresh vegetables, nuts, seeds, low carbohydrate fruits, meat, chicken, fish and other protein-rich foods. In addition, your Practitioner may recommend low carbohydrate, high protein meal replacements (e.g. specially formulated protein shakes and/or high protein bars). A “ketogenic smoothie” can be made with whey protein powder and beneficial fats such as coconut oil and fish oil added. Fish oils contain high levels of omega-3 essential fatty acids which may help reduce inflammation, support energy production and help maintain wellbeing in cancer patients. Coconut oil may also be beneficial for cancer patients as it contains medium chain triglycerides (MCTs); MCTs are easily digestable, “good” fats that can help support energy production.

Included below are the foods you can include in your diet. Any foods not on these lists are to be excluded completely from your diet. These lists can form the foundation for your weekly shopping list. Some ideas on what a typical week on this diet might look like are also included. If you have any questions on the diet please feel free to contack us 07 83 83 83 2 or email

A Note on Serving Sizes

# Protein-rich food (e.g. chicken breast, steak) portions – same size as your hand (i.e. from the base of your palm to the tip of your index finger, and the thickness of your hand). (Note: Servings of vegetarian protein-rich foods such as tofu need to be twice the size of your hand to achieve the same amount of protein per serve).

# Salad and vegetable portions – enjoy 4 handfuls of vegetables per meal. Measure out vegetables when raw.

# Fruit – enjoy 1 handful of raw fruit as part of a meal or snack.

# Nuts and seeds – enjoy ½ to 1 handful as a snack.

# Fats and oils – use 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil in cooking or as dressing. If you are hungry and/or are losing weight, please increase these servings of good fats. Coconut oil should be used as the principle oil as it provides MCTs for additional calories and to support energy production. Olive oil can be added to dishes for flavour enhancement and can be used in conjunction with coconut oil. (Note: Coconut oil is hard at room temperature (i.e. at temperatures around 25°C) and just needs to be melted in a pan at low temperature to form a liquid that can be used as a salad dressing or in cooking).

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