Breast Cancer Self-Care and Recovery: Nutrition

There are many questions about what to eat after a breast cancer diagnosis. There is no nutritional plan guaranteed to prevent breast cancer or to protect women with breast cancer from a recurrence. These recommendations, based on research, are designed to lower cancer risk and improve a sense of well-being.

Changing your relationship to food and eating involves a major shift in thinking, feeling and doing. The goal of this shift is to create a lifestyle change, not to temporarily lose weight on a diet.

Choosing, making and eating food with an "abundance model" includes the pleasures of delicious choices, many tastes, ample portions, not feeling limited, not counting calories and eating when hungry.

This is in contrast to the more common "deprivation model" where rules of "do not" and "should not" leave us feeling bad or guilty with unmet hunger and cravings. Cycles of stress and depression-related eating are common with this model. A shift from "I can't eat without feeling bad and guilty" to "I enjoy an abundance of healthy, delicious food" often results in a better-nourished and healthier self.



1. Lower dietary fat to between 10% to 20% of calories

Low or nonfat foods

2. Eat more plant-based protein and eat less animal-based protein

More beans and soy
Less turkey and lean meats

3. Minimum daily servings of:
Grains: 6 per day
Vegetables: 3-5 per day
Fruits: 2-4 per day
Beans: 1-2 per day
Soy: 1-2 per day

Whole grains
Cruciferous vegetables
Pinto and kidney beans
Tofu and soy milk

4. Drink 8 to 10 eight-ounce glasses of water a day

Carry a water bottle

5. Limit caffeine to no more than 1 to 2 cups a day

Herbal teas

6. Drink alcohol in moderation

No more than 3 servings per week

7. Limit nitrates and cured foods

Hot dogs

8. Decrease food additives

Artificial flavors

NOTE: Please discuss with us your personal goals for changes in behavior you want to make. Some changes are better made gradually and with support (for example, quitting smoking, lowering alcohol or caffeine intake).

Breast Cancer Self-Care and Recovery:


Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.