33 Protein

Protein, along with carbohydrates and fat, is one of the three macronutrients we need for good health. Adequate protein intake throughout our lifetime facilitates the growth, repair, and maintenance of every cell in our bodies. During treatment and in remission, adequate-protein is important. (Ravasco, 2019).

When we eat food that contains protein, our digestive system breaks it down into amino acids, which are used by our bodies for a multitude of tasks. Protein facilitates water balance, is a source of heat and energy, assists with disease resistance and cell repair, helps maintain blood sugar levels, fights fatigue, and is necessary for building and maintaining lean body mass, connective tissues, red blood cells, and enzymes.

Generally, the average diet provides adequate protein; however, when undergoing treatments (e.g. radiation), healing from surgery, and while the body is in a state of repair, protein requirements increase. It is important to be aware of protein food sources and to include these foods in meals and even snacks.

When we are at our healthiest, we need approximately 50 to 100 grams of protein per day depending on our life stage and activity level. While healing from cancer, we often need more. Many patients feel better when increasing their protein intake to approximately 65 to 125 grams of protein per day.

Protein Sources

Whole, organic plant foods, are ideal. Beans, peas, lentils, nuts, and seeds are rich sources of protein that also provide fiber as well as anticancer phytochemicals. 

Avoid animal foods as they are high in saturated fat and cholesterol, and increase cancer risks. They also displace healthy foods, meaning they fill us up and contain no fiber or phytochemicals.  Plant foods are also naturally free of cholesterol. Animal foods (dairy and meat) also contain varying levels of hormones. This is especially true for those with hormone-sensitive cancers as animal foods naturally contain hormones, but they may also contain synthetic hormones (e.g. bovine growth hormone) and antibiotics, which are commonly used on dairy cows (Romo, 2019). Saturated fats from animal foods have been found to increase breast cancer risk and growth. Saturated fats should be minimized as they may contain animal hormones and cholesterol and they contribute to body fat weight. Our own fat cells produce estrogen that can stimulate breast cancer growth, so this is significant.

For those with non-hormone-related cancer, small amounts of high-quality, organic dairy and small amounts of high-quality eggs are also permissible. However, a small amount is defined as just three ounces per week. High-quality eggs are organic and free-range. High-quality dairy is from grass-fed cows and is free of BGH.


Dietary egg intake appears to be riskier for older women, as a recent large cohort study found that egg intake was associated with a higher risk for postmenopausal women with breast cancer (Marcondes, 2019) than those who were premenopausal.

Quality Protein Foods

Excellent sources of plant protein include chia seeds and hulled hemp seeds as they are void of hormones. Be aware that some seeds are estrogenic, such as flax seeds. Chia and hemp are high in protein, fiber, and essential fatty acids (omega-three fatty acids), which not only reduce cancer growth but also are anti-inflammatory. 

Protein Powders

Vegan, organic protein powders are easy to digest and can be added to smoothies, yogurt, and cereal or baked into protein bars or cookies. They are often made from peas, rice, hemp, or chia.


Minimize egg intake and when you do eat eggs, choose organic eggs that are fortified with omega oils.

Protein Chart 

            PORTION SIZE                     FOOD                                                            PROTEIN                                                                                                                                           

            3 ounces                                  Skipjack tuna                                                  24

            3 ounces                                  Sardines                                                          22

            3 ounces                                  Almonds                                                         18

            3 ounces                                  Sunflower seeds                                              15

            3 ounces                                  Pumpkin seeds                                                15

            2 tablespoons                         Pea protein powder                                         14 

            ½ cup                                      Oats                                                                 14 

            3 ounces                                  Cashews                                                          13

            2 tablespoons                          Rice protein powder                                       11

            ½ cup                                      Black beans                                                     11

            ½ cup                                      Chickpeas                                                       10        

            ½ cup                                      Lima beans                                                     8

            ½ cup                                      Split peas                                                        8

            ½ cup                                      Lentils                                                             8

            ½ cup                                      Red beans                                                       8

            ½ cup                                      Pinto beans                                                     8 

            2 tablespoons                          Almond butter                                                 7

            2 tablespoons                          Chia seed                                                        6

            2 tablespoons                          Hulled hemp seed                                           5

            1 tablespoon                            Peanut butter                                                   4

            ½ cup                                      Green peas                                                      4