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Couple making healthy smoothie in kitchen

Nutrition can have a direct and powerful impact on your physical health and well-being. Numerous studies confirm that eating a healthy diet can help you live longer and reduce your risk of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain malignancies, including lung cancer. Significantly, it is the essential nutrients obtained from food—and not dietary supplements—that are associated with these valuable health benefits.

The power of a plant-based diet

Studies performed to date suggest that eating a varied diet that is high in fruits and vegetables may lower your risk of lung cancer by providing your body with the vital nutrients it needs to stay healthy. With that said, scientists continue to investigate the connection between diet and cancer, and they have not yet determined the precise amounts of fruits and vegetables—or which ones—you need to eat to achieve those beneficial effects. In general, many experts suggest filling at least half of your plate with fresh fruits and vegetables at every meal. Some great choices include:

Cruciferous vegetables

Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy and brussels sprouts contain sulforaphane, a sulfur-rich compound that is believed to be one of the most potent cancer fighters found in food. These powerhouse foods also contain indole-3-carbinol, which can help repair cell damage caused by exposure to carcinogens, possibly nipping the damage in the bud before it causes the cells to mutate and become cancerous.

Orange fruits and vegetables

Oranges, tangerines, peaches, papayas, red bell peppers and carrots all contain a natural carotenoid pigment called beta-cryptoxanthin, which has a protective effect that can help prevent cancer. Specifically, studies have shown that high levels of beta-cryptoxanthin can reduce the risk of lung cancer development and spread.

Leafy green vegetables

Spinach, kale, broccoli and romaine lettuce are all good sources of folate, an essential B vitamin that plays a key role in cellular repair. Researchers have also found that folate can protect cells from tobacco carcinogens; as such, folate intake can be especially beneficial for lowering the risk of lung cancer in current and former smokers. What’s more, smoking drains folate from the body, as does alcohol consumption.

The importance of avoiding red meats and sugars

Eating a diet that is low in red and processed meats and processed sugar can help you maintain a healthy body weight and blood sugar levels. Both are important for preventing and fighting cancer. Excess body weight has been clearly linked to an overall increased risk of cancer. And research shows that sugar's relationship to higher insulin levels and related growth factors may influence cancer cell growth and increase the risk of other chronic diseases as well.

Talk with a specialist at Moffitt Cancer Center

When it comes to lung cancer, nothing is standard at Moffitt. We have an unparalleled understanding of the science and a deep appreciation of your needs. Moffitt is a place like no other; that’s why you should come here first.

If you would like to learn more about lung cancer prevention, turn to our experts, who are dedicated to a specific type of cancer and its treatment. You can request an appointment with a lung cancer specialist in our Thoracic Oncology Program by contacting us at 1-888-663-3488 or completing our new patient registration form online. You do not need a referral to meet with a member of our team. We also encourage you to browse our frequently asked questions about lung cancer or explore our comprehensive lung cancer screening and surveillance program.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Poor Nutrition
American Lung Association – Nutrition and Lung Cancer Prevention
American Cancer Society – Does Body Weight Affect Cancer Risk?
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – Does Sugar Feed Cancer?
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – Folate and Cancer