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New Cancer Council SA data reveals that only a quarter (25.8 per cent) of South Aussies 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.

The data, collected from the 2020 South Australian Population Health Survey Module System (SA PHSMS) report, was recently released to coincide with the start of Dietitian’s Week.

Cancer Council SA Community Education Coordinator Diem Tran said that eating a healthy, balanced diet high in fruit and vegetables plays a key role in decreasing cancer risk.

“Whilst most people know that we should be eating two fruit and five vegetables everyday for good health, many of us don’t realise that it can lower the risk of cancers of the digestive tract.”

Alarmingly, the data also showed that daily consumption of fruit and vegetables in South Australia remains low.

“Given the link between low fruit and vegetable consumption and increased cancer risk, we are concerned that only 9.7 per cent of South Aussies are eating enough vegetables daily and less than half (43.6 per cent) are eating enough fruit,” Ms Tran said.

A national study published in 2015 showed that around 1,500 cancers were attributed to low fruit intake and over 300 attributed to low vegetable intake per year.

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.

“Fruit and vegetables also protect against cancer indirectly by helping people to maintain a healthy body weight and are high in nutrients such as fibre, vitamins and minerals and antioxidants to help protect the body from cell damage and cancer,” Ms Tran said.

This Dietitians Week, she encouraged South Aussies to learn more about the link between diet and cancer and take active steps to meet the recommended two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables daily.

“There are plenty of ways that you can add extra fruit and veggies into your diet and keep the cost low—adding canned kidney beans, lentils or other legumes to mince dishes or stews will make the meal go further and increase the fibre content,” she said.

“Buying fresh fruit and vegetables that are in season is also a great tip, as they tend to be in surplus and are often cheaper.”

“You can also look at buying frozen or canned vegetables—they are often cheaper than fresh fruit and vegetables, will keep in your cupboard or freezer and are handy for those days when you are looking to add more fruit and vegetables to your meals,” she said.

“We can all take small steps to increase our fruit and vegetable intake, which can greatly improve long term health. Cancer Council SA has developed healthy recipes and a high fibre meal plan to assist people to boost their vegetable intake.”

For more information on diet and cancer, including recipes and a high fibre meal plan, visit the Cancer Council SA website. 

Notes to editor:

One serve of vegetables =

  • ½ cup cooked vegetables (for example, broccoli, spinach, carrots or pumpkin)
  • 1 cup of leafy or raw salad vegetables
  • ½ cup dried or canned beans, lentils, peas or sweetcorn
  • ½ medium potato or other starchy vegetable
  • 1 medium tomato

One serve of fruit =

  • 1 medium apple, banana, orange or pear
  • 2 small apricots, kiwi fruits or plums
  • 1 cup diced or canned fruit (no added sugar)
  • Or only occasionally:
  • 125ml (½ cup) fruit juice (no added sugar)
  • 30g dried fruit (for example, 4 dried apricot halves, 1½ tablespoons of sultanas)

The South Australian Population Health Survey Module System Report 2020 was prepared by Behavioural Research and Evaluation Unit. Contact Cancer Council SA for more information.