Definitions and terms

Allergens are substances capable of producing an allergic reaction in some people. Major allergens that can cause severe reactions must be listed on food labels. These include peanuts, tree nuts (e.g. almonds, cashews, walnuts), shellfish, finfish, milk, eggs, sesame, soybeans, gluten and sulphites. 

Allium vegetables include garlic, onion, leeks, chives and shallots.

Beta-carotene is found in green leafy vegetables and some yellow and orange coloured fruits and vegetables including carrots, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cantaloupe melon, oranges, paw paw and pumpkin. As a rule of thumb, the greater the intensity of the colour of the fruit or vegetable, the more beta-carotene it contains.

Carotenoids: sources include spinach, kale, butternut squash, pumpkin, red peppers, carrots, tomatoes, cantaloupe melon, sweet potatoes.

Convincing evidence indicates there is data strong enough to support a causal relationship between the exposure and the risk of a particular cancer. There is enough evidence to justify recommendations designed to reduce the risk of cancer. It is unlikely that this will change in the future as new evidence accumulates.

Dietary Fibre is a part of plant food that our bodies cannot digest. There are different types of fibre and all are beneficial. Soluble fibre can help reduce cholesterol levels and insoluble fibre assists bowel function. Wholegrain and wholemeal foods are high in dietary fibre. Examples include; wholegrain or wholemeal bread, muffins, pita, crumpets, crispbreads, wholegrain breakfast cereals, muesli, oats, brown rice and wholemeal pasta. Other foods high in dietary fibre include fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes such as peas, beans and lentils.

Folate (also called folic acid) is a B group vitamin. Dietary sources of folate include green leafy vegetables (such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach and salad greens), legumes (such as chickpeas, dried peas and dried beans), nuts, orange juice and some fruits (such as bananas, oranges and strawberries). Various foods are fortified with folic acid including some breakfast cereals, breads and fruit juices. Check the nutrition information panel on packaging to find out how much folic acid (listed as folate) is present.

Legumes are also referred to as pulses and include peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas. They are a good source of vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre, carbohydrate, protein and iron. Some ideas to include more legumes in your diet:

  • Add chickpeas and beans to salads, soups, stir-fries, pasta sauces and casseroles
  • Try vegetable lentil soups
  • Make healthy dips from pureed cooked white beans or chickpeas
  • Try lentil burgers as an alternative to meat
  • Add baked beans to toast, toasted sandwiches and baked potatoes
  • Blend red beans to use as a pancake filling.

Lycopene is mostly contained in tomatoes and tomato products. It is also found in watermelon, red peppers, grapefruit, guava, persimmons and apricots.

Non-starchy vegetables include green leafy vegetables (such as spinach, lettuce), cruciferous vegetables (such as bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, watercress) and allium vegetables.

Phytochemicals are compounds found in fruit, vegetables, beans, grains and other plant foods. Thousands have been identified, including many with antioxidant properties. Antioxidants protect cells against damage and may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer. The best way to get more phytochemicals into your diet is to increase your daily intake of fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and legumes.

Probable evidence indicates there is data strong enough to support a probable causal relationship between the exposure and the risk of a particular cancer. There is enough evidence to generally justify recommendations designed to reduce the risk of cancer.

Processed meat is meat that has been preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or by adding preservatives such as nitrites or nitrates. Examples of processed meat include ham, bacon, pastrami, salami, bratwursts, frankfurters, hot dogs and some types of minced meat. Note that ordinary Australian BBQ sausages aren't classified as processed meat as they're not smoked or cured with nitrates/ nitrates.

Selenium is present at varying concentrations in different soils and since plants take up selenium from the soil, these levels determine the amount present in vegetables. Other dietary sources include Brazil nuts, fish, wholegrains, wheatgerm and sunflower seeds. It is toxic in large amounts, but is essential in the diet at trace levels.

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid): natural dietary sources include red and yellow peppers, kiwi fruit, broccoli, papaya, citrus fruits, strawberries and potatoes. It is however destroyed by heat or contact with the air, such as when vegetables are chopped, or lost into cooking water. Vitamin C is also added to foods (such as bread) in small amounts as an antioxidant preservative.


Many of the above definitions are from: World Cancer Research Fund / American Institute for Cancer Research. Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective. Washington DC: AICR, 2007