Eating everyday ‘Cupboard Heroes’ can save your life

New research from World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) reveals that 97% of Brits already own the foods that could help to prevent cancer.

  • Brits who spend the least on their weekly food shop own the most cancer preventative staple foods
  • Nation’s favourite staples revealed as tinned tuna and pasta
  • Nation’s least favourite voted as dried pulses, seeds and tinned carrots

21 February 2022

This Cancer Prevention Action Week (21–27 February) World Cancer Research Fund, the leading authority on cancer prevention, is urging people to look in the back of their cupboards and make heroes of their forgotten basics.

While 40% of cancers could be prevented by lifestyle changes including diet, only 10% of Brits realise this, and 7% of people think that no cancers can be prevented.*

However, you don’t need to eat goji berries or other “superfoods” every day to help prevent cancer. The basic foods that often languish in our cupboards can hold the key to improving our health. Even better, most of us already own them.

Popular staple food items

Respondents were asked to select from a long list of common, nutrient-rich staple foods including tinned tomatoes, rice and pulses, which all aligned with one of the charity’s key Cancer Prevention Recommendations: Eat a better diet. 97% of people owned at least one of these items.

The nation’s most loved staples were revealed as tinned tuna and pasta (both 27%), while the nation’s least loved foods included dried pulses (4%), seeds and tinned carrots (both 6%).

To help people make the most of these ingredients, the charity has developed a Cupboard Heroes recipe generator where people can type in their cupboard (or fridge, or freezer) basics and discover an array of delicious and healthy recipes that can also help reduce the risk of cancer.

Interestingly, the research shows that the majority (42%) of people spend £20–30 per person on their weekly shop. And it’s those who spend under £30pp who were shown to own the most cancer preventative foods, proving that eating a healthy diet doesn’t have to break the bank.

Bestselling author, chef and ambassador for Cancer Prevention Action Week 2022, Phil Vickery, said:

Phil VickeryI’m thrilled to be partnered with World Cancer Research Fund to raise awareness of these important findings. Eating fuss-free staple foods has so many benefits, particularly in the current context.

It’s never too late to change your diet and improve your health, and you really can make showstopper meals which are full of flavour using unexpected ingredients.

Rachael Gormley, CEO of World Cancer Research Fund said:

We have seen the power of prevention first-hand. Healthy eating can often feel unattainable, but our evidence shows we don’t need to rely on heavily marketed, expensive ‘superfoods’.

While canned, dried and frozen items often get a bad rap, the good news is they are also packed full of vital nutrients and can help to reduce your risk of cancer.

This Cancer Prevention Action Week, we want to provide people with the tools and information that can help them reduce their cancer risk. Our latest research shows that people already have the right ingredients, they just need some inspiration to turn them into delicious dishes.

World Cancer Research Fund’s recipe generator enables people to input up to two basic ingredients and discover an array of nutritious meal ideas at the click of a button. Recipes include lentil & tuna salad – mixing the nation’s least favourite store cupboard staple with one of its favourites, vegetable pasta bake – a simple and budget-conscious option from the charity’s Family Flavours cookbook, and a chickpea & bean casserole. For all recipes, fresh ingredients can also be swapped for tinned.

Find out more at and watch the campaign video here.


*Based on a nationally representative survey of 2,000 UK residents.

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About World Cancer Research Fund

World Cancer Research Fund is the UK’s only charity solely dedicated to cancer prevention and survival. Over the last 30 years, World Cancer Research Fund has worked tirelessly to understand the links between a person’s weight, diet, and physical activity levels and their cancer risk. and Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & LinkedIn.

World Cancer Reseach Fund’s Cancer Health Check and Cancer Prevention Recommendations help people understand what changes they could make to reduce the risk of getting cancer. Based on the latest scientific research, the advice is practical and simple to understand.