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Eat a healthy diet

Fruits & vegetables

To reduce the risk of certain cancers we recommend a healthy body weight, regular exercise and a healthy diet. The guidance below relates to adults.

Vegetables and fruits

Eating plenty of vegetables and fruits is likely to reduce the risk of cancer of the mouth, throatoesophagus, stomachbreast, lung, and bowel.

Recommendation: Eat plenty of vegetables, legumes and fruits. Adults should eat at least 5 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit each day. Eat a variety of vegetables and fruit – it doesn't matter if they're fresh, tinned or, frozen – it all counts.

A serve size is about the same as an adult's handful, so adults should eat 5 handfuls of vegetables and 2 handfuls of fruit daily.

1 serve of vegetables =

  • 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables (such as cooked broccoli or carrots, or canned beetroot)
  • 1 cup of leafy greens or raw vegetables
  • 1 medium vegetable (such as tomato)
  • 1/2 cup of legumes (such as lentils or chickpeas)

1 serve of fruit =

  • 2 pieces of small-sized fruit (such as apricots, plums and kiwifruit)
  • 1 piece of medium-sized fruit (such as an apple, banana or orange)
  • 1 cup of fruit salad or canned fruit pieces (no added sugar)

Fibre and wholegrain cereals

Dietary fibre may help lower the risk of bowel cancer. Wholegrain and wholemeal breads and cereals are high in dietary fibre, as are fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and legumes.

Recommendation: People should eat at least 4 - 6 serves of grain (cereal) foods each day.

Aim for at least half two thirds of your daily serves to be wholegrain or wholemeal varieties.

1 serve of grains =

  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1/2 cup of cooked rice, pasta, noodles, or porridge.
  • 2/3 cup of wheat cereal flakes
  • 1/4 cup of muesli

Meat and meat alternatives

Research suggests that eating red meat and, in particular, processed meat, may increase the risk of bowel cancer.

Recommendation: Choose lean meat, fish, chicken and other meat alternatives, such as eggs, tofu, nuts, seeds and legumes. Adults should aim for 2 to 3 serves of items from this food group per day.

Red meat: Cancer Council recognises that red meat is important for supplying iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and protein in the Australian diet. However, because of the strong evidence that eating red meat increases the risk of bowel cancer, no more than 3 to 4 serves (350–500g) of lean red meat per week is recommended.

Processed meats: Eat little, if any, processed meats such as salami, frankfurts, bacon, ham and some sausages such as cabanossi and kransky.

1 serve of meat and meat alternatives =

  • 65g of cooked lean red meat
  • 100g of cooked fish
  • 80g of cooked lean chicken or turkey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 30g of nuts, seeds or nut-based pastes
  • 1 cup of cooked or canned legumes (such as chickpeas or lentils)
  • 170g of tofu

Dairy foods

Dairy foods should be encouraged as part of a varied and nutritious diet as they are essential to maintain good bone and dental health.

Recommendation: People are encouraged to eat at least 2.5 serves of dairy foods or alternatives each day. Low or reduced fat milk, yoghurt and cheese choices are recommended for most people.

1 serve of dairy and alternatives =

  • 1 cup (250mL) of milk (dairy based)
  • 2 slices (40g) of cheese
  • 3/4 cup (200g) of yoghurt
  • 1 cup (250mL) of plant based milk (with at least 100mg of added calcium per 100mL)


A high-fat diet may contribute to excess body weight, which is a risk factor for several cancers including cancers of the bowel, kidney, liver, pancreas, oesophagus and endometrium, as well as breast cancer (after menopause). Being above a healthy weight also increases the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Recommendation: As part of an overall healthy diet, limit saturated fats and moderate total fat intake. Saturated fats are found mostly in meat and dairy products, but are also found in cakes, biscuits, potato chips, pastries and fried take-away foods.

Unsaturated fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) are an important part of the diet. They can be found in margarines, nuts, avocados and seeds.


An increased risk of stomach cancer has been linked with high-salt diets in countries where salting of foods is a common preserving method. Too much salt can also lead to high blood pressure. Salt mostly comes from packaged and processed foods.

Recommendation: It is recommended to choose foods low in salt. This can be achieved by flavouring foods with herbs, lemon juice and spices instead of salt and limiting salty snacks, take-away foods and processed meats.

A 'low salt' food has less than 120mg of sodium per 100 grams.

Added sugars

Added sugars are found in foods such as cakes, biscuits and soft drinks. They can increase the amount of energy in a food or drink, which can increase the risk of gain excess weight and impact dental health.

Recommendation: Adults and children should limit sugar-sweetened foods, drinks and snacks.

Sugary drinks

Drinking sugary drinks is associated with increased energy intake and in turn, unhealthy weight gain.

It is well established that being above a healthy weight is a leading risk factor for 13 types of cancers.

The term ‘sugary drinks’ includes soft drinks, energy drinks, fruit drinks, sports drinks and cordial.

Recommendation: Adults and children should limit sugary drinks and instead drink water or reduced fat milk. They are not a necessary part of a healthy diet.

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Alcohol is a risk factor for some cancers, particularly breast and bowel cancer, as well as cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus liver and bowel.

Recommendation: To reduce the risk of cancer, Cancer Council recommends to limit or avoid consuming alcohol.

For people who do drink alcohol, the National Health and Medical Research Council Alcohol Guidelines recommends that healthy adults should drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any given day. People who are pregnant, or breastfeeding and children under the age of 18 should not consume alcohol.

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