Diet and lifestyle may help reduce the risk of certain cancers, including ovarian cancer. A healthy diet and lifestyle could also help improve overall quality of life and survival rates in people with ovarian cancer. Dietary and lifestyle changes can accompany medical treatment but should never replace it.
Following a nutrient-dense diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats and low in highly processed foods may play a role in reducing the risk of developing ovarian cancer and improving certain health outcomes in individuals with the condition.
A medical team, including an oncologist and a dietitian, can give more specific nutrition and lifestyle advice based on a person’s overall health, prognosis, and more.
In this article, we discuss the impact of certain diets on ovarian cancer, suggestions for foods to include and avoid, and nutritional advice during treatment for ovarian cancer.
Changes to diet and lifestyle paired with medical treatment may help improve ovarian cancer survival rates.
Studies have associated diets high in certain foods and ingredients, such as
Some studies have shown that certain dietary patterns may be helpful in reducing the risk of ovarian cancer and improving health outcomes in people with the condition. However, there is no one specific diet that health experts currently recommend for those with this type of cancer.
However, the relationship between human diets and cancer risk is complex, and researchers need to conduct more studies to better understand how diet impacts ovarian cancer risk.
Research suggests the
- eating a diet high in green leafy vegetables
- incorporating more allium vegetables into the diet
- eating fish
- drinking green tea
avoidingwhole milk and choosing low fat alternatives
- including more calcium and vitamin D in the diet
Certain diets, including plant-based diets and those rich in cruciferous vegetables, may reduce the risk of ovarian cancer in some people.
A diet high in cruciferous vegetables may help lower the risk of ovarian cancer in some individuals. A
The researchers observed a connection between a high intake of cruciferous vegetables, particularly cooked cauliflower and greens, and a lower risk of ovarian cancer.
The study participants who ate the highest amounts of cruciferous vegetables had the lowest risk of developing the condition. The risk also seemed to decrease with every 10 servings of cruciferous vegetables per month.
Cruciferous vegetables contain large amounts of certain phytochemicals, called glucosinolates. During chopping, cooking, and chewing cruciferous vegetables, glucosinolates break down into isothiocyanates.
According to the 2018 study, these compounds have anti-cancer properties and may affect the metabolism of carcinogens, hinder tumorigenesis, suppress inflammatory mediators, activate immune defenses, and more.
Learn about ovarian cancer statistics here.
Benefits of a plant-based diet
Plant-based diets are dietary patterns that are rich in plant foods and lower in animal foods, including meat and dairy.
Any dietary pattern that emphasizes nutrient-dense plant foods, such as vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and seeds, and restricts highly processed foods is likely to reduce the risk of disease, including cancer.
- lower inflammation levels
- an improved insulin response
- less oxidative DNA damage
- higher levels of helpful bacteria in the gut
High in calcium, low in lactose
Dietary guidelines for general cancer prevention
Aim to eat:
- foods high in nutrients that help reach or maintain a moderate body weight
- a range of colorful vegetables, including red, orange, and dark green vegetables
- legumes, such as beans and peas, which are rich in fiber
- whole fruits in a variety of colors
- whole grains
Limit or avoid:
In the table below, we list the foods that
What to include
|broccoli, cauliflower, arugula, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, daikon, horseradish, kale, mustard seeds and leaves, radish, rutabaga, turnips, wasabi, watercress|
|carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash, onions, tomatoes, spinach, lettuce|
|blueberries, blackberries, mango, cantaloupe|
|whole grains||brown rice, quinoa, oats, millet|
|soy products||tofu, soy milk, tempeh, edamame|
|legumes||kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, white beans, chickpeas, lima beans, lentils, peas|
|oily fish||salmon, albacore tuna, herring, mackerel, trout|
|nuts and seeds||nut butters, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, flaxseed|
What to avoid
The following foods and substances may raise the risk that health experts associate with ovarian cancer:
|beef, pork, veal, lamb, mutton, horse, goat, bacon, sausage, ham, bologna, hot dogs, deli meats|
|processed and refined foods||ready meals, sugar-sweetened beverages, candy, industrially produced snacks or desserts|
|full fat milk|
If ovarian cancer and its treatment are causing digestive issues that are affecting how a person eats and drinks, they may want to consider the following tips:
- Gas and bloating: Try having smoothies, eating high calorie snacks, and having smaller meals more frequently to avoid bloating. Also, drinking peppermint or chamomile tea can help ease gas and stomach pain.
- Indigestion: Try taking over-the-counter antacids, eating 2 hours before bed, and eating only when sitting upright.
- Constipation: Drink a lot of fluids, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and get regular gentle exercise.
- Diarrhea: Replace lost fluids, eat smaller meals, avoid fried and spicy foods, and take time to rest.
- Bowel obstruction: People can discuss options with a healthcare team, but treatment may include drinking plenty of fluids, eating an easily digestible diet, and taking laxatives or steroids.
- Appetite loss: Eating small portions of high calorie snacks, such as smoothies, more often may help a person who is experiencing a loss of appetite.
- Nausea: Individuals can eat smaller meals more often. They could opt for easily digestible meals, such as soups.
Diet may have an impact on ovarian cancer prevention and treatment. Plant-based diets rich in vegetables, including cruciferous vegetables, fruits, fiber, soy, and omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial.
By contrast, a diet high in red meats, highly processed foods, and refined sugar may lead to poorer outcomes.
People who have ovarian cancer should consult a medical team, including an oncologist and a dietitian, for specific dietary recommendations.