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The Science

By building healthy eating habits and limiting unhealthy food, you can decrease your risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer.

Healthy food choices for cancer prevention

People whose diets are rich in plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, likely have a lower risk of several types of cancer, including mouth, throat, esophageal and colorectal cancer. Eating fruits and vegetables also reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and may help to control weight.

Cancers linked to food choices

On the other hand, evidence shows that eating red meat and processed meat can increase the risk of colorectal cancer. There is some evidence, though limited, that eating red meat regularly can also increase the risk of pancreatic and prostate cancer.

How does eating healthy reduce cancer risk?

What you eat is very important in protecting you from cancer. Eating a healthy, balanced diet together with exercise is one way to keep at a healthier weight, which in turn reduces your risk of cancer. There is strong evidence that excess body weight, especially body fat around the waist, increases the risk for 13 different cancers. 

There is no one food that prevents or causes cancer, but certain foods can affect your risk:

  • Fast foods and other processed foods, like deli meats, often have a lot of sugar, salt and saturated fat. These high-calorie foods can lead to weight gain.  
  • Red and processed meat contain chemicals that form during processing or cooking. These chemicals may increase cancer risk.
  • Plant-based foods (e.g., fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds) are rich in fibre, which helps to keep our digestive systems healthy.

Key facts 

  • One-third of cancers could be prevented through healthy eating, physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight
  • Approximately 12,500 new cancer cases in Canada are due to an unhealthy diet.
  • Nearly two in three (61 per cent) British Columbian children aged 12 to 18 do not eat the recommended intake of five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
  • Adults who live in households that experience food insecurity (or lack of access to affordable, nutritious foods) eat significantly fewer servings of vegetables and fruit compared to adults who are food secure.
  • If Canadians were to increase their fruit and vegetable consumption by one serving per week, we could prevent more than 30,000 new colorectal cancer cases by 2042.
  • If Canadians were to cut out a weekly half serving of red and processed meats, we could prevent approximately 8,700 to 16,000 cases of cancer by 2042.

Buddha bowl salad in female hands
​Small changes matter 

The benefits of healthy eating add up, bite by bite. When deciding what to eat or drink, fill your meal with these nutrients.

Reduce your Risk

SOURCE: The Science ( )
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