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While many of us know that we should be eating two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables every day for good health, many of us don’t realise that it can lower the risk of cancers of the digestive tract. A study published in 2015 showed that around 1,500 cancers have been attributed to low fruit intake and over 300 attributed to low vegetable intake—so join Cancer Council SA Nutritionist Diem Tran as she takes a look at how fruit and vegetables can help you reduce your cancer risk.

New Cancer Council SA data reveals that only around a quarter (26 per cent) of South Australians consider low fruit consumption an important cancer risk factor, with just over half (51 per cent) aware of the link between low vegetable consumption and increased cancer risk. This is a concern as eating plenty of fruit and vegetables is likely to reduce the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, stomach and bowel. There is also some evidence that fruit may protect against lung cancer.

To share more about the importance of fruit and vegetable intake here is a list of just a few of the ways fruit and vegetables protect against cancer:

1.       High in dietary fibre

Dietary fibre is the part of plant foods that cannot be digested in the stomach or small intestine. Dietary fibre passes relatively unchanged into the large intestine, where it is fermented by friendly bacteria. It is the by-product of this fermentation process that can help protect our gut lining from cell damage. It is estimated that almost 20 per cent of colorectal cancers in 2010 could be prevented if Australians met their dietary fibre requirements.

2.       Helping people to maintain a healthy body weight

By being low in fat and kilojoules— and high in fibre to keep you feeling fuller for longer—fruit and vegetables also help prevent weight gain. Carrying excess weight is a risk factor for 13 different types of cancer, including cancer of the bowel, breast, kidney, pancreas, oesophagus and endometrium.

3.       High in nutrients

Fruits and vegetables are high in many nutrients such as fibre, vitamins and minerals and antioxidants which help protect the body from cell damage and cancer.

When it comes to reducing our cancer risk, the single most important change we can make to our diet is to eat at least two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables each day. Research suggests that every extra serve of fruit and vegetables we eat daily improves our health—so even adding one extra serve to our diet is a great start. A good diet is essential to not only reducing cancer risk, but to overall health and well-being – and even small changes can make a huge difference.

If you’d like more information on diet and cancer risk, or to access Cancer Council SA’s healthy recipes and high fibre meal plan to help boost your fruit and vegetable intake, visit the Cancer Council SA website.