Four foods you should eat & three you should avoid to prevent cancer

Posted 29 Sep 2020.

Four foods you should eat & three you should avoid to prevent cancer

With close to 150,000 new cases of cancer diagnosed in Australia each year, it's not surprising that people are looking for the secret ingredient to reduce their risk. Up to a third of cancer cases can be prevented - and the food we eat can play a big role in this.

But with so much information out there about food and cancer, and everyone from doctors to celebrity chefs weighing in, it can be difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff when it comes to getting accurate nutrition information.

Our LiveLighter Team have put together seven dietitian-approved tips for reducing your cancer risk.

Eat more of these:

1. Fruit and vegetables

Fruit and vegetables

No surprises here!

Eating plenty of fruit and veg is linked to lower rates of lung cancer and cancers of the digestive tract. Go for two serves of fruit and five serves of veg each day. There's no one fruit or vegetable that you need to focus on - aiming to eat across the colours of the rainbow will give you the best mix of nutrients for health.

2. Dairy foods

Dairy foods

Not only are dairy foods packed full of calcium and protein for healthy bones and muscles, they may also reduce the risk of bowel cancer. Scientists think that the cancer preventing property of dairy foods may be due their high calcium content.

Add milk to your cereal, grate cheese over your pasta and have yoghurt as a snack. If you don't eat dairy opt for calcium fortified plant-based milk alternatives instead.

3. Fibre rich foods

Fibre rich foods

Think wholegrains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables. Eating high fibre foods, especially wholegrains, may reduce your risk of bowel cancer. Fibre also helps you feel full for longer, stabilises blood sugar levels and is a favourite food for your gut bugs. With countless studies coming out about the link between our gut ‘microbiome' and health, it's a good idea to keep the bacteria in our gut happy and well fed.

Add more fibre to your day:

  • Choose oats for brekkie - they're quick, affordable and delicious!
  • Sprinkle toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds onto soups, pastas and salads
  • Add lentils or beans to burritos, curries and stews
  • Snack on almonds and cashews
  • Opt for wholegrain breads and brown rice

4. Coffee


This one is great news for those who can't leave the house without a morning brew.

Research shows that drinking coffee may offer protection against liver and endometrial cancer. Coffee contains many different antioxidants, including chlorogenic acid, which are thought to be responsible for the reduced cancer risk.

Have less of these:

1. Alcohol

There's no easy way to say this - drinking alcohol increases your risk of seven cancers including breast, bowel and liver. The more you drink, and the more often you drink, the greater the risk. Reduce your risk by cutting back, choosing drinks with a lower alcohol content or skipping alcohol altogether.

2. Sugary drinks and junk food

Sugary drinks and junk food

Sugary drinks and junk food contains lots of kilojoules and don't have the good stuff our body needs like fruit, vegetables and wholegrains. A 600mL bottle of soft drink contains a whopping 16 teaspoons of sugar, nearly three times the daily limit recommended by the World Health Organization. Having too many of these foods and drinks can lead to weight gain, and weight gain is a risk factor for 13 types of cancer.

Avoiding these foods and drinks altogether is the safest option. Our LiveLighter Team has loads of delicious healthy alternatives for you to try on their website.

3. Processed meat

Processed meat

Processed meats like bacon, salami and ham increase your risk of bowel cancer. Swap deli meats for healthier options like chicken, tuna, hummus or eggs.

When it comes to red meat, less is more. Red meat is a great source of nutrients like protein, iron and zinc, but eating more than 500g each week could increase your bowel cancer risk. If you eat red meat, stick to 3-4 small portions each week. 

Key ‘takeaways' for reducing cancer risk

  • Fill your plate with vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, legumes, nuts, seeds and dairy.
  • Avoid processed meats like bacon, salami and ham.
  • Choose drinks with a lower alcohol content, cut back, or skip alcohol altogether.
  • Cut sugary drinks and steer clear of fast food.
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