Also known by these names
A Mediterranean diet derives from the eating patterns commonly or traditionally consumed in regions that border the Mediterranean Sea. It focuses on these foods:
In moderate amounts:
Clinical Practice Guidelines
Highlighted Video: Organic Food
Integrative oncologist and BCCT advisor Donald Abrams, MD, explains why all cancer patients should eat a plant-based diet and organic food.
- A diet rich in non-starchy vegetables and fruits, and also limiting the consumption of a large amount of red meat and processed meat is suggested to reduce the risk of lung cancer
- High-calorie and protein supplements to achieve weight stabilization for lung cancer patients who have experienced weight loss
Treating the Cancer
Reducing the risk of developing cancer or the risk of recurrence
Cancer-Fighting Kitchen Course
Join BCCT and you’ll be granted access to Commonweal’s Cancer-Fighting Kitchen course free of charge. CFK is a comprehensive course including detailed information and delicious recipes, along with culinary skills and techniques that will support a nourishing experience during treatment and recovery.
Adherence to the Mediterranean diet has been associated with reduced risk or mortality related to several types of cancer and cancer in general. Findings from large studies of diet and cancer:
Mediterranean Diet and Specific Populations
An intriguing study published in 2017 found that people with higher socioeconomic status or higher income receive greater benefit from the Mediterranean diet.10
Almost no concerns or cautions are associated with this diet, with just a few exceptions for children and for some cancer patients:14
- Children should drink whole milk until age two unless contraindicated by a medical condition.
- Whole nuts are not recommended for children under age four due to potential choking hazards.
- Wine and other alcoholic beverages are not legally consumable by children.
- Cancer patients with special nutritional needs should consult a dietician before changing diet.
Integrative Programs, Protocols and Medical Systems
|For more information about programs and protocols, see our Integrative Programs and Protocols page.|
- Programs and protocols
BCCT senior researcher Laura Pole, RN, OCNS, February 11, 2018: Several other diets—also plant-based with many elements similar to the Mediterranean diet—are used for cancer prevention and/or for people with cancer. Some examples:
- The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends a plant-based diet very similar to the Mediterranean diet. The AICR website describes their Cancer Protective Diet as consisting of mostly plant foods, with the addition of dairy, eggs, fish, poultry and moderate amounts of meat, and with minimal processing and little added sugar and fat.
- Ornish Spectrum Diet: used as part of the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program for Prostate Cancer20
- Keith Block’s Life Over Cancer Core Diet Plan21
- DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) eating plan from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Non-cancer Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is associated with a reduction in the incidence of many chronic diseases and events.
Written by Nancy Hepp, MS, and Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS; most recent update on January 20, 2021. Note: BCCT has not conducted an independent review of research of the Mediterranean diet. This summary draws from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s About Herbs, Mayo Clinic and other sources as noted.
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. About Herbs: Mediterranean Diet
- Mayo Clinic. Nutrition and healthy eating: Mediterranean diet: a heart-healthy eating plan
- American Institute for Cancer Research: Mediterranean Diet, Heart Disease and Cancer Risk
- WebMD: Mediterranean, DASH Top Best Diets List
- Gurdev Parmar and Tina Kaczor: Textbook of Naturopathic Oncology
- American Institute for Cancer Research: New American Plate Challenge
- Barbara MacDonald, ND, LAc: The Breast Cancer Companion: A Complementary Care Manual: Third Edition
- Rebecca Katz: Cancer-Fighting Kitchen Course for Commonweal
- Healing Kitchens Institute
- Neil McKinney, BSc, ND: Naturopathic Oncology, 3rd Edition
- Lorenzo Cohen and Alison Jefferies: Anticancer Living: Transform Your Life and Health with the Mix of Six
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: About Herbs, Botanicals and Other Products