Recommendation: Eat plenty of vegetables, legumes and fruits. Adults should eat at least 5 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit each day. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should have slightly more and the recommendations for children are slightly lower. Eat a variety of vegetables and fruit – it doesn't matter if they're fresh, tinned, frozen or dried – it all counts.
A serve size is about the same as an adult's handful, so adults should eat 5 handfuls of vegetables and 2 handfuls of fruit daily.
1 serve of vegetables =
1 serve of fruit =
Dietary fibre may help lower the risk of bowel cancer. Wholegrain and wholemeal breads and cereals are high in dietary fibre (as are fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and legumes).
Recommendation: Eat breads and cereals, preferably wholegrain, as part of an overall healthy diet. Adults should eat at least 2 serves of wholegrain or wholemeal breads and cereals a day.
A serve =
Research suggests that eating red meat and, in particular, processed meat, may increase the risk of bowel cancer.
Recommendation: Cancer Council recognises that red meat is important for supplying iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and protein in the Australian diet. However, because of the possible link with bowel cancer, no more than 3 to 4 serves a week of red meat is recommended. On other days try fish, chicken and other alternatives. Limit or avoid eating processed meats, such as sausages, frankfurts, bacon and salami.
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In terms of cancer risk, dairy foods and calcium have shown both protective and harmful effects. Overall the proven health benefits of dairy foods outweigh the unproven harms.
Recommendation: Dairy foods should be encouraged as part of a varied and nutritious diet as they are essential to maintain good bone and dental health. Cancer Council supports the Australian Dietary Guidelines, which encourage people to eat at least three serves of dairy foods (milk, cheese and yoghurt) each day. See the Cancer Council's position statement on Dairy foods, calcium and cancer prevention for more information.
According to current evidence there's no direct link between fat intake and cancer. However, a high-fat diet may cause excess body weight, which is a risk factor for several cancers including cancers of the bowel, kidney, pancreas, oesophagus and endometrium, as well as breast cancer (after menopause). Obesity also increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Recommendation: As part of an overall healthy diet, limit saturated fats and moderate total fat intake. Saturated fats are found mostly in meat and dairy products, but are also found in cakes, biscuits, snack foods and fried take-away foods. 'Good fats' (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) can be found in margarines, nuts, avocados and seeds.
An increased risk of stomach cancer has been linked with high-salt diets in countries where salting of foods is a common preserving method. In countries where refrigeration is commonly used, stomach cancer is not as common. Too much salt can also lead to high blood pressure.
Recommendation: Choose foods low in salt. Flavour foods with herbs, lemon juice and spices instead of salt. Try to limit salty snacks, take-away foods, processed meats, cheese and butter.
A 'low salt' food has less than 120mg of sodium per 100 grams.
There's no evidence that alcoholic drinks provide any protection against cancer. Alcohol is, in fact, an important risk factor for some cancers, particularly breast and bowel cancer, as well as cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus and liver.
Recommendation: Cancer Council recommends that, to reduce the risk of cancer, alcohol consumption should be limited or avoided. For people who do drink alcohol the recommended amount is an average of no more than 2 standard drinks a day.
Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with increased energy intake and in turn, weight gain and obesity. It is well established that obesity is a leading risk factor for some cancers.
The term 'sugar-sweetened beverages' includes sugar-sweetened soft drinks, energy drinks, fruit drinks, sports drinks and cordial.
Recommendation: Adults and children should limit sugar-sweetened beverages and instead drink water or reduced fat milk. Visit rethinksugarydrink.org.au for more information.