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.

There are four main types of plant foods:

  • Wholegrain foods like brown rice and pulses like lentils
  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Starchy foods like potatoes. Try to eat these with their skins on and without adding extra fat like butter or cream
  • Refined, non-wholegrain foods like white bread

If you can, it’s good to base your diet around wholegrains, pulses, vegetables and fruits because they contain more nutrients.

These foods also tend to be lower in calories and higher in fibre, which helps fill you up and manage your weight.

What's the link between plant foods and cancer risk?

Research shows that vegetables and fruit probably reduce your risk of a range of cancers, including:

The most recent science shows that eating fibre-rich foods decreases your risk of bowel cancer.

These foods include wholegrain bread and pasta, and oats. Experts think fibre has many benefits, including helping to speed up how quickly food moves through your digestive system.

Vegetables and fruit may protect against cancer because they contain vitamins and minerals, which help keep the body healthy and strengthen your immune system.

They also contain substances called phytochemicals. These can help to protect cells in your body from damage that can lead to cancer.

Plant foods can also help you to stay a healthy weight because most of them are relatively low in calories.

Tips for eating more plant foods

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. Find out what counts as a 5 A DAY portion.

  • Reshape your plate

Think differently about what you put on your plate ­­­– fill at least three-quarters of your plate with wholegrains, vegetables, fruit and pulses and then add a smaller serving of meat, fish or vegetarian protein. Our healthy recipes can help you get started.