Eat vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, and beans

The World Cancer Research Fund have launched a new report on ‘Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: a Global Perspective’. In this third report, compiled by a group of world-renowned independent experts from an ongoing review of evidence, the link between overweight and obesity in cancer has been highlighted.

A summary of recommendations from the report include the following:

“There is evidence that eating wholegrains, fibre, vegetables and fruit can help protect against certain cancers, as well as against weight gain, overweight and obesity. The recommendation is to eat at least 30g of fibre and at least 400g of fruit and vegetable each day.

Although the evidence for links between individual cancers and consumption of non-starchy vegetables or fruit is limited, the pattern of association and the direction of effect are both consistent. Overall the evidence is more persuasive of a protective effect and that greater consumption of non-starchy vegetables and or fruit helps protects against a number of aerodigestive cancers and some other cancers.

Dietary goals:

  • Consume a diet that provides at least 30g per day of fibre from food
  • Include foods containing wholegrains, non-starchy vegetables, fruit and pulses (legumes) such as beans and lentils in most meals
  • Eat a diet high in all types of plant foods including at least five portions or servings (at least 400g or 15oz in total) of a variety of non-starchy vegetables and fruit every day
  • If you eat starchy roots and tubers as staple foods, eat non-starchy vegetables, fruit and pulses (legumes) regularly too if possible

Protective power of plants

An integrated approach to considering the evidence shows that most diets that are protective against cancer are rich in foods of plant origin.

Relatively unprocessed foods of plant origin are rich in nutrients and dietary fibre. Higher consumption of these foods, instead of processed foods high in fat, refined starches (eg white bread or pasta, biscuits, cakes and pastries) and sugars, would mean a diet is higher in essential nutrients and more effective for regulating energy intake relative to energy expenditure. This could protect against weight gain, overweight and obesity and therefore protect against obesity-related cancers.

What should we be eating?

  • non-starchy vegetables and fruit of different colours
  • non-starchy roots and tubers (eg carrots, artichokes, celeriac, swede, turnips)
  • wholegrains (eg brown rice, wheats, oats, barley and rye)

Traditional food systems

In many parts of the world, traditional food systems are based on roots or tubers such as cassava, sweet potatoes, yams and taro. Where appropriate, traditional food systems should be protected – in addition to their cultural value, and their suitability to local climate and terrain, they are often nutritionally superior to the diets that tend to displace them.

However, monotonous traditional diets, especially those that contain only small amounts of non-starchy vegetables, fruit and pulses (legumes), are likely to be low in essential micronutrients and thereby increase susceptibility to some cancers.

Public health and policy implications

A whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach is necessary to create environments for people and communities that are conducive to eating a diet rich in wholegrains, vegetables, fruit and beans.

The recommendations work together as an overall way of living healthily to prevent cancer. See the diagram below which shows the 10 recommendations.

Cancer prevention recommendations“Our evidence suggests the greatest risk is for people who consume no or hardly any vegetables or fruit, which is why we create healthy recipes that help people towards their 5 a day”. Dr Rachel Thompson, World Cancer Research Fund International’s Head of Research interpretation.”

Refer here for further information from the report.

Source: Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: a Global Perspective (the Third Expert Report), World Cancer Research Fund International, 2018

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