Budwig Diet Overview

Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D.
strawberry slices with curd cheese

If you have or are at risk for developing cancer, you may have heard about the Budwig diet developed by Dr. Johanna Budwig in the 1950s. While this way of eating is certainly nutritious, more researched is needed to determine what effects, if any, the Budwig diet has on different types of cancer.

Budwig Food List

When following the Budwig plan, choose from the following foods:

  • Cottage cheese
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Flax seeds
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Whole grains
  • Fruit and vegetable juices
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

Foods to Avoid

The following foods are on the do-not-eat list:

  • Processed meats
  • Most dairy foods (except cottage cheese)
  • Sugar
  • Processed foods
  • White flour
  • Foods containing preservatives
  • Animal fats
  • Fish
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine

Does the Diet Work?

Whether the Budwig diet helps prevent or treat cancer requires further research. The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center says the Budwig diet is an unproven cancer treatment that lacks large-scale clinical studies. A 2012 review in Deutsche Medizinische Wochenschrift says that anti-cancer diets (including the Budwig diet) aren't yet backed by research. Currently, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is funding research pertaining to the potential role flaxseed plays in ovarian cancer.

On the other hand, eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acid founds in flaxseed oil may lower cancer risks. A diet containing lots of fruits and veggies appears to protect against cancer, says Harvard School of Public Health. The University of Maryland Medical Center says flaxseed oil may help prevent breast tumor growth (likely due to its omega-3 fatty acid content) and slow colon cancer cell growth. But same source suggests to avoid taking any form of dietary supplement (including flaxseed oil) unless your doctor gives you the okay.

Pros and Cons

Pros of the Budwig diet include:

  • You may lose weight if you're overweight.
  • The diet is rich in fruits, veggies, and omega-3 fatty acids and free from processed foods and other junk foods, which may help lower disease risks (including cancer).

Potential negative side effects and safety precautions pertaining to the Budwig diet include:

  • You shouldn't follow the diet if you have bleeding disorders or are pregnant, suggests Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
  • The diet is restrictive, and difficult to follow long term for many people.
  • You'll have a higher risk for nutrient deficiencies.
  • Consuming large amounts of flaxseed oil may cause gas, constipation, upset stomach, bloating, and frequent bowel movements.
  • Flaxseed supplements may interact with certain medications.
  • You might require vitamin and mineral supplements (such as B12 supplements) when following the diet to prevent deficiencies.

Budwig Diet Reviews

Some patient reviewers who've followed the Budwig diet say it's helped them feel better and stay cancer-free. However, anecdotal evidence is the strongest there is to date that the Budwig diet works for cancer prevention or treatment. More research is needed to determine if any type of nutrition intervention is effective, says the Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Cancer.

Sample Menu

The following is a sample Budwig Diet menu (portion sizes vary based on your individualized calorie needs):

Breakfast

  • Herbal tea
  • Cottage cheese mixed with flaxseed oil
  • Oatmeal
  • Banana slices
  • Walnuts

Snack

  • Apple
  • Cottage cheese topped with flax seeds

Lunch

  • Herbal tea
  • Vegetable salad topped with flaxseed oil
  • Quinoa
  • Sunflower seeds

Snack

  • Cottage cheese topped with flax seeds
  • Vegetable juice

Dinner

  • Herbal tea
  • Lentils with brown rice
  • Asparagus or broccoli
  • Cottage cheese mixed with flaxseed oil

Snack

  • Cottage cheese topped with flax seeds
  • Blueberries
  • Almonds

Is the Budwig Diet Right for You?

The Budwig diet is basically a lacto-vegetarian meal plan that may or may not be effective for patients who have (or are at risk of developing) cancer. The diet is pretty restrictive, may cause weight loss, and can put you at risk for nutrient deficiencies if you're not careful. For all of these reasons and the fact that large amounts of flaxseed oil might not be safe for everybody, always chat with your doctor before following this type of meal plan.

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Budwig Diet Overview