Living Well

Healthy Eating And Cancer Prevention


Maintaining a healthy lifestyle by eating right and engaging in sports to keep fit, play a significant role in reducing the risk of certain types of cancers.

According to the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF, UK), about 1/3 of most common cancers can be prevented through healthy living.

There are recommendations for Cancer Prevention – distilled from findings of more than 7,000 scientific studies:

1. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Scientists have shown that apart from smoking cessation, maintaining a healthy body weight is the next most important thing you can do to prevent cancer.

Keeping your weight within the healthy range (18.5<BMI<23) helps reduce the risk of chronic diseases and some cancers. For example, breast cancer (for postmenopausal women), colorectal cancers and esophagus cancer.

Stay active. Weight management is made easy when you commit to staying active and simply keeping your body in purposeful movement. Try to limit sedentary habits such as watching TV, playing computer games etc. Instead, start with moderately physical activities for at least 30 minutes, thrice a week. As your fitness improves, aim for 60 minutes of moderate or 30 minutes of vigorous activity every day.

2. Eat Less Energy Dense Foods

All food contains energy (calories). Some food contain more energy in a weight-to-weight comparison with other food types. For example, a 100 gram slice of chocolate cake contains almost 10 times more calories than a 100 gram apple. Food that contain a lot of calories are known as energy-dense foods. They tend to be high in fat and/or sugar and can contribute to weight gain. 

3. Eat more Plant Food

Plant food (like wholegrain, bean products, fruits and vegetables) can reduce our risk of getting certain cancers. The reason is because plant food have lower energy compared to other food; thus, helping us to maintain our body weight.

Furthermore, phytochemicals can help to prevent cells from damage that may lead to cancer. Last but not least, vitamins and minerals in plant food can strengthen our immunity and keep our bodies healthy; the high fiber content from plant food is good for our digestive system.

Tips on eating more plant food:

  • Aim to eat 5 servings a day, everyday: Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals, and are good sources of fiber.
  • When preparing your meal, try to fill up at least 2/3 of your plate with vegetables, whole grain products, beans or lentils and cereals.

4. Cut Down on Meat

According to WCRF, about 10% of bowel cancers cases in the UK could be prevented through reducing the amount of processed meat we eat. There is also strong evidence that co-relates eating a lot of red meat to bowel cancer.

Thus, in order to reduce the risk of getting cancer, we should aim to eat no more than 500 grams (cooked weight) of red meat (for example pork, beef and lamb) per week, and avoid taking processed meat (for example ham, hot dog, sausage, and luncheon meat).

*500 grams of cooked meat is about 750 grams raw meat.


One palm size of cooked meat is about 90 grams

5. Consume Less Alcohol

Alcohol is associated with an increased risk of a number of cancers, for example mouth and esophagus cancer, colon cancer and liver cancer (American Institute for Cancer Research, 2009). For cancer prevention purposes, we recommend not to drink alcohol at all if possible. However if consumed, alcoholic drinks should be limited to two glasses a day for men and one for women

*One standard drink:

  • Beer 250ml (3-5% ABV)
  • Wine 125ml (12-13% ABV)
  • Spirit 25ml ( 40% ABV)

 6. Eat Less Salt

Consuming too much salt can be harmful to our health, increasing the risk of getting stomach cancer, as well as high blood pressure. Salt is linked to 14% of stomach cancer in the UK. Sodium is a component of salt. To work out how much salt a food contains, multiply the sodium content by 2.5.

Our daily intake of salt should be less than 6g (2400mg sodium) (~ 1 teaspoon of salt/day)

Here are some tips to help you reduce your salt intake:

  • Cut down on salt intake gradually, eventually cutting off added salt completely. You do not need to add salt when cooking or at the table.
  • Check food labels and select food with lower sodium content.
  • Try to prepare food from scratch, use spices and herbs instead of salt for flavoring.
  • Use fresh meats rather than processed meat.
  • Limit the amount of salted snacks, choose alternative.

7. Supplements

Most of the time, we encourage people to achieve all their nutrient requirements through a regular dietary intake. Consuming a variety of food in a week should be sufficient in receiving all the different vitamins and minerals our body needs. Should you need to take supplements, be sure you understand why you are taking it.

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