The Anticancer Diet Cheatsheet

If you’re anything like me, you forget the important details from books too quickly. I always need the cliff notes and will occasionally share things on topics like health and nutrition when it feels like a summary is valuable.

I read Anticancer: A New Way of Life, by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, after seeing people close to me battle cancer. The book includes the science and specifics about how and why certain ingredients work to fight the disease, as well as much more detailed analysis of what can be done for each type of cancer.

The logic seems sound: For those of us lucky enough to not have cancer, now’s the time to start shifting our nutritional habits to keep it that way. Or if we’ve had it, or are currently battling it, Dr. Servan-Schreiber proposes some ways to give it your best fight.

A few of the key nutritional tips:

  1. Japanese Green Tea: Steep for 5-10 min; 2-3 cups per day; do not store for more than 1-2 hours
  2. Cold-pressed extra virgin Olive Oil: ½ – 1 tablespoon daily in cooking and dressings
  3. Turmeric: ¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder with ½ tablespoon olive oil and generous pinch of black pepper; add to vegetables, soups, dressings (a few drops of agave nectar can remove bitter taste)
  4. Ginger: Add grated ginger to vegetables in frying pan; marinate fruits in lime juice and grated ginger
  5. Cruciform Vegetables: brussel sprouts, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc (avoid boiling; cover and steam briefly, or stir-fry rapidly in wok with a little olive oil)
  6. Garlic, onions, leeks, shallots, chives: chopped and gently fried in olive oil, or mixed with steamed vegetables, and combined with curry/turmeric; or raw with sandwiches/salads
  7. Vegetables and fruits rich in carotenoids: carrots, yams, sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkins, Hokkaido squash, tomatoes, persimmons, apricots, beets, and bright-colored (orange, red, yellow, green) fruits and vegetables; plums, peaches, nectarines (especially plums for breast cancer)
  8. Tomatoes and tomato sauce: must be cooked to release nutrients – best in olive oil; canned tomatoes with olive oil with no sugar, or handmade tomato sauce (avoid cans with plastic lining); cook sauce with onions, garlic, tofu, cumin, turmeric, pepper
  9. Soy: soy milk or yogurt; raw or cooked tofu, tempeh, and miso; use in cooking with the ingredients above
  10. Mushrooms: shiitake, maitake (this is the best), enokidake, cremini, portobello, oyster and thistle oyster; use in soups/with vegetables, or with broth, or oven grilled/fried
  11. Herbs and spices: rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, mint, parsley, celery
  12. Seaweed: nori, kombu, wakame, arame and dulse; nori is best; use in soups, salads and added to pulses such as beans and lentils; kombu shortens cooking time for lentils and makes them more digestible
  13. Berries: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries; mix with muesli for breakfast; with fruit salads or as snacks; frozen is fine
  14. Citrus fruits: oranges, tangerines, lemons and grapefruit; grated citrus fruits sprinkled over salad dressings or breakfast cereal; skins steeped in tea or hot water
  15. Pomegranate Juice: slows spread of prostate cancer; one small glass with breakfast
  16. Red Wine: no more than one glass / day; pinot noir is high in the antioxidant resveratrol 
  17. Dark chocolate: more than 70% cocoa; 20 grams / ⅕ a bar daily; avoid milk chocolate; eat at the end of the meal in place of dessert (with green tea)
  18. Vitamin D3: talk to doctor first to see if you need it; prevents colds, flu and helps with mental outlook in dark months; daily intake of 1,000-5,000 IUs or a single dose of 100,000 IUs twice a month; can be toxic and cause kidney stones if too much
  19. Omega-3s: best in small fish (whole anchovies, small mackerel, and sardines in olive oil); salmon also good; avoid frozen fish and tuna, dogfish, shark and swordfish; can also get through flaxseeds – best to grind in a coffee grinder and mix with soy milk or yogurt or cereal or salad; can use flaxseed oil but not as good; store in refrigerator in airtight lightproof contain and replace after 3 months
  20. Probiotics: found in organic yogurts (especially greek), sauerkraut, and kimchi; most common are lactobacillus acidophilus and lactobacillus bifidus
  21. Foods rich in selenium: vegetables and cereals grown organically; also in fish and shellfish, and giblets and offal

What to skip

  1. Foods with high glycemic index (white flour, sugar, etc)
  2. Soda, beer, juice, alcohol (anything sweetened)
  3. Hydrogenated oils; sunflower, soy and corn oil
  4. Conventional dairy products
  5. Fried foods, chips, fried appetizers
  6. Non-organic red meat and eggs (no more than 7 ounces of red meat per week)
  7. Poultry skin
  8. Skins of non-organic fruits and vegetables
  9. Tap water in areas of a lot of farming; filter with carbon filter or reverse osmosis


  1. Boiling and baking on low heat is better than frying / grilling on high heat
  2. Avoid drinking from plastic bottles that have been heated up
  3. There are a lot more in the book… I’m not a doctor or nutritionist!
About The Author

David Swain

David Swain is the founder of Common Threads Media. Swain was the head of communications at Instagram and director of technology communications at Facebook. He is an advisory board member of Strava.

Enter your email to subscribe to Common Threads and receive notifications of new posts.
Email Address *