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.

there is a kitchen drawer full of utensilsShare on Pinterest
Raymond Forbes Photography/Stocksy

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 whole milk, trans fats, and fried foods, with an increased risk of ovarian cancer.

Research also suggests that diets rich in nutritious foods, such as leafy greens and allium vegetables, foods high in flavonoid compounds, and green tea may help protect against ovarian cancer in some people. Examples of alliumvegetables include garlic, onions, shallots, leeks, and rakkyo.

Specific diets

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.

Research has linked diets high in fiber-rich plant foods and low in ultra-processed foods and saturated fat with a decreased risk of overall cancer. Moreover, certain dietary patterns may improve chemotherapy efficacy and lower the risk of long-term complications in people with 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 following dietary recommendations:

  • eating a diet high in green leafy vegetables
  • incorporating more allium vegetables into the diet
  • eating fish
  • drinking green tea
  • avoiding whole milk and choosing low fat alternatives
  • including more calcium and vitamin D in the diet

Learn about medical treatment for ovarian cancer here.

Certain diets, including plant-based diets and those rich in cruciferous vegetables, may reduce the risk of ovarian cancer in some people.

Cruciferous vegetables

A diet high in cruciferous vegetables may help lower the risk of ovarian cancer in some individuals. A 2018 study involving 675 females with ovarian cancer and 1,275 females without the condition found a link between intake of cruciferous vegetables and ovarian cancer.

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.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) guidelines state that the anti-cancer benefits of plant-based diets may be due to:

  • 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

A 2020 study investigated the effects of dairy products, calcium, and vitamin D on people with ovarian cancer. The researchers note a link between a higher intake of whole milk and increased risk of ovarian cancer. They also observe that consuming more low fat milk, vitamin D, and calcium might lower the risk of the condition.

A 2016 study following African American females found that a diet high in calcium and low in lactose, combined with adequate sun exposure for vitamin D, may reduce their likelihood of developing ovarian cancer.

Dietary guidelines for general cancer prevention

The ACS recommends the following diet, which could promote 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:

  • red meat
  • processed meat
  • beverages containing refined sugar
  • highly processed foods
  • refined-grain products
Was this helpful?

In the table below, we list the foods that may help lower a person’s risk of ovarian cancer.

What to include

Food typeExamples
cruciferous vegetablesbroccoli, cauliflower, arugula, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, daikon, horseradish, kale, mustard seeds and leaves, radish, rutabaga, turnips, wasabi, watercress
other vegetablescarrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash, onions, tomatoes, spinach, lettuce
whole fruitsblueberries, blackberries, mango, cantaloupe
whole grainsbrown rice, quinoa, oats, millet
soy productstofu, soy milk, tempeh, edamame
legumeskidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, white beans, chickpeas, lima beans, lentils, peas
oily fishsalmon, albacore tuna, herring, mackerel, trout
nuts and seedsnut 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:

Food typeExamples
red and processed meatbeef, pork, veal, lamb, mutton, horse, goat, bacon, sausage, ham, bologna, hot dogs, deli meats
processed and refined foodsready meals, sugar-sweetened beverages, candy, industrially produced snacks or desserts
full fat milkwhole milk
otheralcohol, tobacco

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.

Learn about ovarian cancer and weight gain here.

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.