Foods For The Gerson Diet
“Let food be your medicine, and medicine be your food”
The two most important aspects of the Gerson approach to healing are freshness and purity. All of the foods ingested on the Gerson Therapy must be fresh, organically or biologically grown, and consumed in their most natural form.
We strongly recommend that the patient does not add to or change the dietary guidelines without the advice of a certified Gerson Therapy practitioner. While many patients have used appropriate, compatible additions or adjuncts to the diet that have helped their healing process, there are many others who have failed to heal because they made too many “minor modifications” to the Gerson Therapy protocol. The Gerson Therapy has been shown to be successful in achieving remission and cure in many different diseases when used as directed; modifications may or may not affect the outcome of your particular condition, but significant alteration without medical advice from someone knowledgeable about the biochemical basis of the Gerson approach may reduce one’s chances for recovery.
Beets and tops
Parsley and parsley root
Horseradish (grated, not bottled)
Pepper, green and red Bell pepper
Cabbage, red & leaves (smaller
Radishes (not the leaves)
Celery Knob or stalks
Rice brown (if allowed)
Chards, all kinds
Rye bread (unsalted, non-fat)
Spices (small amounts only): allspice, anise, bay leaves,Chives,Cilantro,Coriander, dill, fennel, mace, marjoram, rosemary, sage,saffron, tarragon, thyme, sorrel, summer savory.
Corn (ONLY if allowed by physician)
Spinach (cooked only)
Flax oil (organic, not high lignan)
Fruit dried unsulphured as raisins,
Tomatoes,peaches, dates, figs, apricots and prunes (stewed or pre-soaked only)
Vegetables (except mushrooms, leaves of: carrots,radishes, spinach and mustard green)
Fruits fresh (except all berries and pineapple)
Vinegar (wine or cider)
Yogurt, non-fat, organic Horizon, Brown Cow, 7 Stars
Honey(after the sixth week on the Gerson Therapy)
Juices, freshly pressed, as prescribed or as allowed by the physician)
Lemons* * Patients with collagen related illnesses must avoid citrus juices and fruits. For all others, citrus juice is optional. Only one citrus juice a day is allowed and may be replaced for a carrot and apple juice.
Occasionally Allowed Foods
Breads made from whole rye – 1‐2 slices a day (if all of the foods are eaten first)
Sweeteners: maple syrup (grade B) or honey or unrefined blackstrap molasses may be used at 1‐2 teaspoons a day maximum.
Brown or wild rice – once a week
Yams and sweet potatoes – once a week
Banana – ½ a week
Organic popcorn – a holiday treat only
Prohibited Foods Alcohol,Ice cream,Animal fats,Legume-based food products, Avocados,Manufactured (processed) foods,Baking soda,Margarine or oil based spreads,Berries,Meats,Bicarbonate of soda in food, toothpaste or gargle,Mushrooms,Black tea and other non-herbal teas,Mustard,Bottled,Nut butters and any other source of dietary fats,ButterNuts and seeds,Cake,Oils and fats, and any foods that contain them. Candy,This includes corn oil, olive oil, canola oil, vegetable oil,Canned,except flaxseed oil, as specifically prescribed,Cheese,Pineapples,Chocolate,Preserved; refined, salted, smoked, and sulfured foods,Cocoa,Protein powders or supplements, including barley or Coconuts,algae based powders,Coffee as a regular beverage,Proteins and high-protein foods,Commercial beverages,Salt, table salt, sea salt, celery salt, Cream,vegetable salt, Bragg ,Aminos, Cream and other dairy fats,tamari, soy sauce, “lite salt” or salt substitutes,Cucumbers,Seafood, and other animals,Epson salts, sodium-based baking powders, Soy and soy products and anything with “sodium” in its name,Spices, pepper, paprika, basil and oregano,Fluorine in toothpaste,Spinach (raw) (allowed cooked only),Frozen foods,Sprouted alfalfa and other bean or seed sprouts,Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils’ ,White flour,Olean, Olestra or other “fat substitutes”,White sugar
The following is an explanation for some of the foods on the Prohibited List.
Salt and Sodium
Salt and sodium in all forms, including table salt, sea salt, celery salt, vegetable salt, Bragg Aminos, tamari, soy sauce, “lite salt”, baking soda, Epsom salts, sodium-based baking powders, and anything with “sodium” in its name, as well as salt substitutes.
Oils and Fats
Oils and fats, and any foods that contain them. This includes corn oils, olive oils, canola oils, and all other vegetable oils except flax-seed oil as specifically prescribed; butter, cheese, cream and other dairy fats; all animal fats; all margarines or oil-based spreads; coconuts and avocado; all hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils; Olean, Olestra or other “fat substitutes”; nut butters; and any other source of dietary fats, except as naturally occurring in allowed foods.
Proteins and High-Protein Foods
Proteins and high-protein foods, such as meats, seafood, and other animal proteins; nuts and seeds; soy or other legume-based food products; all protein powders or supplements, including barley or spirulina and chlorella, unless specifically used when prescribed for protein supplementation.
Outside of these three categories, there are other foods that must be “off-limits” until the patient is completely healed, and in some cases, even after full recovery. Almost all packaged, prepared (“convenience”) foods (frozen, bottled, or boxed) must be forsaken for health reasons. Restaurant food will almost always be unacceptable, both because it is rarely organic, and almost always cooked with added salt, fats, and other additives inappropriate to the Gerson diet.
Patients new to the Gerson Therapy often comment that Gerson’s list of prohibited foods is much longer and more restrictive than other “natural” or “holistic” approaches to healing and wellness. The Gerson approach looks at everything that goes into, or on, the body as important to the healing process. It is through this attention to detail that we are able to accomplish healing even in some extremely advanced cases, or in diseases that are otherwise not curable.
We have, whenever possible endeavored to provide a brief explanation why the various foods are not allowed on the diet.
All manufactured (processed) foods: bottled, canned, frozen, preserved, refined, salted, smoked, and sulfured.
All milk and milk products (including goat’s milk), such as cheese, cream, ice cream, ice milk, butter or buttermilk, except as specifically allowed under proteins. Dairy products are generally extremely high in fat; an 8 oz. Serving of 2% milk contains more fat than two strips of bacon! Cheeses can be as much as 65% fat, and are usually very high in sodium. Even “fat free” cheeses usually have undesirable additives, and are high in sodium. Buttermilk is prohibited because the commercial buttermilk now available is “cultured”, rather than churned, and is high in fat and sodium. Except plain, organic, non-fat yogurt after 6-8 weeks.
Alcohol is prohibited because it limits the blood’s ability to carry oxygen, places additional strain on the liver to detoxify and remove it from the body; and is, in general, toxic.
Pineapples and berries
Max Gerson found that a number of his patients were experiencing allergic reactions, apparently to the aromatic acids present in pineapple and berries. Dr. Gerson felt that the aromatics interfere with healing. For this reason, pineapples and berries are prohibited.
Avocados are too high in fats.
Cucumbers, in combination with the juices, are difficult to digest and are high in sodium.
Spices (black pepper, paprika, basil, oregano, and others not specifically permitted) are prohibited because of their high content of aromatic acids.
Soy Beans and Products
Soy beans and products, including tofu, tempeh, miso, tamari, and other soy sauces, Bragg’s Aminos, textured vegetable protein, soy milk, and all other soy-based products. These are prohibited for a variety of different reasons including high fat, sodium and/or protein content, and the presence of toxic inhibitors to nutrient absorption.
Dried beans and legumes
Lentils are introduced if patient is doing well at about 6 months at once every 2 weeks. Soak overnight and sprout for one day before cooking.
Sprouted Alfalfa and Other Bean or Seed Sprouts
Alfalfa sprouts have been found to be high in l-canavanine, an immature amino acid that can cause immune suppression. Patients without a prior history who have used sprouts in juices have reported sudden onset of arthritic-like joint pains and other undesirable side effects. This has only been studied in alfalfa; we do not know if this effect applies to other sprouts, but we recommend caution. Before adding sprouts to your diet, discuss it with an experienced Gerson practitioner.
Oils and Fats
With the exception of fresh raw flax seed oil, no oils or fats of any kind are permitted.
Beef, Pork, Poultry, Eggs, Fish, Seafood, and All other Meat or Animal Flesh Products
These are high in protein, difficult to digest, often high in fat, and make additional work for the liver and excretory systems.
Black Tea and Other Non-Herbal or Caffeine-containing Teas
Black tea and other non-herbal teas are prohibited because they contain caffeine, which is undesirable when introduced by mouth, and because they often contain undesirable aromatic acids (see discussion under Berries above)
Candy, cake, muffins, pastries and other refined sweets
Candy, cakes, muffins, pastries, and other refined sweets are prohibited because they almost always contain one or more prohibited ingredients, such as fats, oils, refined sugars or flours, salt, soda, baking powder, or dairy products.
Note that some breads and pastries can be made using permitted ingredients; these can help to make the diet more interesting, but should not be consumed on a regular basis (i.e., only on special occasions)
Contrary to the commonly heard recommendation to “drink 8 glasses of water a day”, Gerson strongly believed that a Gerson patient should not drink water, so as to avoid diluting the stomach acid, and to allow maximum capacity for nutrition from fresh foods and juices. If the patient is taking less than 13 juices, he/she may need to augment with tea or other fluid.
Standard white mushrooms are not a vegetable, but a fungus. They are difficult to digest, and provide little nutrition.
Coffee and Coffee Substitutes by Mouth
Coffee and coffee substitutes by mouth, both with and without caffeine. Taken by mouth, coffee effects undesirable stimulation of the digestive system, and the caffeine acts as an undesirable stimulant to the central nervous system. Coffee is also virtually devoid of nutrients. However, when taken rectally, it has an entirely different, and desirable effect on the body.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds, including almonds, apricot kernels, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, peanuts, cashews, and all other nuts and seeds, are prohibited because they are high in protein, generally high in fat, often salted, difficult to digest and abundant in enzyme inhibitors.
Commercial Beverages, Juices, Sodas of All Types
Commercial beverages, juices, sodas of all types almost always have refined sugars, carbonation, or other undesirable additives, and are all but devoid of essential nutrients. In addition, consumption of these beverages reduces capacity for desirable fresh, organic foods and juices.
Hot peppers (jalapeños, etc) contain the same strong aromatics found in prohibited spices. These may inhibit healing responses and should be avoided. Green, yellow, and sweet red peppers may be used without limitation.
Baking Powder and Baking Soda
Almost all baking powders contain alum (aluminum), which is believed to be toxic. Those that are aluminum-free and also sodium-free may occasionally be used with the consent of your doctor. (Featherweight is a potassium-based powder that may be used occasionally.)
Other Prohibited Items
Fluoride in water, toothpaste, gargle, hair dyes, permanents, cosmetic, underarm deodorants, lipstick, lotions.