You can lower your risk of cancer by enjoying a healthy diet, being physically active every day and maintaining a healthy body weight. Studies show being overweight, physically inactive and not eating well causes nearly one third of all cancers.
Healthy eating is a first step in reducing your cancer risk. Poor eating habits increase your risk of many cancers. Poor eating habits can also contribute to weight gain, and being overweight or obese increases your risk of cancer. The good news is that a healthy diet, combined with regular physical activity and a healthy body weight can reduce cancer risk.
While there is no one food that can protect against cancer, there are steps you can take to lower your overall risk. A healthy diet may protect against cancers including cancer of the bowel, liver, oesophagus (food pipe), lung and stomach.
Eat more fruit and vegetables
Fruit and vegetables are an essential part of a healthy balanced diet. They are high in nutrients such as fibre, vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants and phytochemicals. Eating plenty of vegetables and fruits is likely to reduce the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, oesophagus, stomach and bowel. Fruit and vegetables also play an important role in weight management and therefore cancer risk. Their fibre and low kilojoule content helps us to feel full and potentially eat less thereby helping to maintain a healthy body weight.
How much should I eat?
Cancer Council SA supports the Australian dietary recommendation of eating 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables daily for good health and to reduce risk of disease including cancer. The number of serves recommended for women who are pregnant or breast feeding is higher and the recommendations for children are slightly lower.
What is a serve of fruit?
- 1 medium sized fruit such as apple, peach, banana, mango, pear
- 2 pieces of the smaller fruits such as apricots, passionfruit, kiwifruit
- 1 cup of fresh fruit salad such as strawberry or diced melon or pineapple
- 1½ tablespoons of dried fruit e.g. sultanas or four dried apricots
- ½ cup (125ml) of unsweetened juice
What is a serve of vegetables?
- ½ cup of cooked vegetables
- 1 cup of fresh salad
- 1 medium potato
- ½ cup legumes e.g. soy beans, lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans
Increase your intake today
- Snack on fruit and vegetables.
- Add fresh or canned fruit to your breakfast cereal.
- Include at least three different coloured vegetables with your main meal.
- Include salad with your lunch.
- Include a new fruit or vegetable in your shopping basket each week.
- Cook vegetables in different ways for interest and variety e.g. oven roasted, grilled or barbecued.
- Use frozen, dried or canned vegetables if fresh are not available.
- Adapt your recipes to include more vegetables e.g. add carrot, celery and peas to bolognese sauce.
Other tips to eat for health
- Eat plenty of cereals (including breads, rice, pasta and noodles), preferably wholegrain.
- Eat red meat no more than three to four times a week. On the other days choose fish, poultry, dried or canned beans or lentils.
- Limit processed meats such as sausages, frankfurts, bacon and ham.
- Choose foods low in salt.
- Don’t eat too much fat, especially saturated fat. Be aware of hidden fats in snack foods, cakes and takeaway foods.
- Choose low fat yoghurt, cheese and milk.
- Avoid sweet drinks, including soft drinks – choose water instead.
Limit alcohol – if you don’t drink don’t start. If you choose to drink stay within the recommendations:
o no more than two standard drinks a day
o have at least two alcohol-free days every week
o avoid binge drinking
o choose low alcohol drinks
o Avoid sweet drinks, including soft drinks – choose water instead
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