Prevention Series 2 of 8 | Consume a Plant-Based Diet for Cancer Prevention

by Natalie on July 14, 2011

On Tuesday I started a series of posts featuring the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) recommendations for cancer prevention. The first post talked about energy density and empty calories. Catch it here.

The AICR recommendation I am featuring today discusses how a plant-based diet can help you prevent cancer.

Today’s featured recommendation for cancer prevention: “Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes such as beans”.

Researchers from the AICR/WCRF 2nd Expert Report found that cancer as well as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease were “rare or uncommon” in areas of the world that consume plant-based diets.

Plant-Based Diet Defined

As defined by the authors of the report, a plant-based diet consists mostly of plants (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes) with animal products used in small amounts. So a plant-based diet is not necessarily vegetarian, it just that plants are consumed in a greater ratio than animals. This is quite different than the typical diet in America today, where animal products are the main emphasis.

How a Plant Based Diet Can Help Prevent Cancer

There are several reasons why a plant-based diet can reduce your risk for cancer and other chronic disease. Plants are high in powerful plant chemicals known as phytochemicals. Phytochemicals help keep our body cells healthy and protect us from disease such as cancer.

Plants are also very high in vitamins and minerals which are necessary to maintain optimal health and keep our immune system strong. The high fiber content of plants helps keep our digestive system in ship-shape so we can remove waste and toxins more effectively.

Last but not least, a plant-based diet is lower in energy-density preventing us from becoming overweight or obese, another risk factor for cancer.

Putting Recommendations Into Practice

Here are some action steps to help you start eating more plants:

  •  Start buying only 100% whole-grain products. For information on grains, read my recent whole-grain post.
  • Start adding more fruits and vegetables to your meals. Read this article for ideas.
  • When planning a dinner, switch the main focus of the meal away from meat and direct it towards plants. The meat should become your side dish. The AICR recommends you fill your dinner plate at least ⅔ full with vegetables, whole grains, fruits and/or legumes.
  • When you are hungry for a snack, reach for some fruits or vegetables.
  • Buy a vegetarian cookbook. It doesn’t mean you are going vegetarian but it will help you figure out how to eat more vegetables.
  • Try preparing a meatless entree once or twice a week.
  • Go to your local farmer’s market and check out the produce. Become inspired by all the fresh food. Pick out something new and learn how to cook it.
  • Make a fresh fruit and vegetable smoothie for breakfast (or for a dessert).


A diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes can help prevent cancer and other chronic diseases. Start eating more plants today, it is never too late to start!

Please join me next week as I continue my series on the AICR’s recommendations for cancer prevention. There is a lot more valuable info to cover. See you next week!


What do you think? Leave a comment in the comments section below.

Read the WCRF/AICR expert report here (click on “view the summary” under the expert report box).


photo by: silver seams

Michael February 17, 2012 at 6:27 pm

My father was just diagnosed with colon cancer. I informed my doctor and my nutrition professor, and both told me to consider a plant based diet. The more I looked into the this diet, the more it made sense. I also learned more than I wanted to, like how horrible the previous food I ate was processed. Organic and GMO free veggies, fruits, beans, nuts, whole grains, and wild fish from now on.

Natalie February 20, 2012 at 8:25 am

Michael – I am so sorry to hear about your father’s diagnosis. It is great that you are becoming informed about nutrition – it will surely have a role in your father’s treatment and recovery as well as prevention for you! Thank you for your comment. Best to you.

may April 21, 2013 at 4:14 pm

not sure where to start, just had cancer remove from my left breast, next in radiation treatment . never to late to start eating right,so a friend told me to read this.

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