Plant foods and cancer prevention

Can eating a plant-based diet reduce your cancer risk?

Basing your diet on plant foods is a great first step to eating well and reducing your cancer risk. Research shows that vegetables and fruit probably reduce your risk of cancers, including:

Eating a diet rich in wholegrains, vegetables, fruit and pulses can also help you stay a healthy weight, which is linked with a reduced risk of 11 cancers, making it one of the most important ways to reduce your cancer risk.

Vegetables and fruit provide vitamins, minerals and other substances known as phytochemicals, which help protect cells in the body from damage that may lead to cancer. Different types of vegetables and fruit contain different phytochemicals, so it is best to eat a variety every day.

Diets rich in fibre (eg. wholegrains, vegetables and fruit) have been shown to decrease the risk of bowel cancer. This may be because fibre helps to move food more quickly through the bowel.

Tips for eating more plant foods

There are different types of vegetables and plant foods:

  • Vegetables and fruit – fresh, frozen, dried and canned in water or natural juices all count towards your 5 A DAY
  • Pulses – eg. lentils, peas and beans count towards your 5 A DAY
  • Grains and cereals – eg. rice, oats, pasta, bread, cous cous and unsweetened breakfast cereals. Opt for wholegrain varieties, and limit highly processed foods, such as cakes and pastries
  • Root vegetables – eg. swede, celeriac, new potatoes and sweet potatoes. Try to not add fat, like butter or cream, and opt for boiled or steamed rather than roasted or fried in oil

A few simple changes can bring a healthier balance to your diet:

  • At least 5 A DAY, every day

Vegetables and fruit are the building blocks of a healthy diet – aim for at least five portions a day. Try adding chopped banana or berries to your cereal or porridge or swap your normal snack for a piece of fruit or vegetable sticks. Find out what counts as a 5 A DAY portion.

  • Reshape your plate

Think differently about what you put on your plate – filling at least three-quarters of your plate with wholegrains, vegetables, fruit and pulses will help to provide your body with the nutrients it needs for good health. Our healthy recipes can help you get started.