5 to 10 a day -
For Better Health:
Canadian Cancer Society:
National Cancer Institute
Dietitians of Canada:
National Institute of Nutrition:
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
The best way to prevent cancer is to keep it from starting in the first place and some risk factors are controllable. Diet is one factor within your control. Research shows that choosing a diet high in a variety of colourful vegetables and fruit lowers your risk of many cancers. These include cancers of the colon, breast, mouth, stomach, liver, pancreas and prostate.
Vegetables and fruit offer much more than basic nutrients. They are chock full of cancer-preventing agents such as essential vitamins and antioxidants, minerals, fibre, and other plant compounds called phytochemicals. The array of essential nutrients found in colourful vegetables and fruit work together to provide cancer-fighting health benefits.
Antioxidants such as beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium are vitamins that fight free radicals. Free radicals, or harmful forms of oxygen that damage the body's cells, can lead to cancer and other diseases. Antioxidants mop up free radicals and help keep the immune system strong and healthy. Vegetables and fruit are rich in antioxidants.
Phytochemicals are natural plant compounds that reduce the risk of cancer by stopping normal cells from changing into cancerous ones. Over 4000 phytochemicals exist, and all vegetables and fruit contain varying amounts. Ensure you are getting the benefits of all the different types by enjoying a variety of vegetables and fruit every day.
Vegetables and fruit are an excellent source of fibre. Fibre helps keep the digestive system running smoothly by adding bulk to stool, preventing both constipation and loose bowel movements. Some studies show that the fibre found in vegetables and fruit may reduce the risk of colorectal (large intestine) cancer. Meals and snacks that include vegetables and fruit also help keep you satisfied longer and lower your chance of overeating.
With the exception of avocado and coconut, vegetables and fruit are low in fat and calories. Enjoying vegetables and fruit instead of higher fat, higher calorie foods can help you maintain a healthy weight.
Canada's Food Guide recommends 5 to 10 servings of vegetables and fruit every day. The number of servings depends on many things such as age, body size, gender, and activity level. Though 5 to 10 servings of colourful vegetables and fruit may seem overwhelming, it is easier than you think when you understand what makes up a serving.
Start simple and slow! While the goal is five or more servings of vegetables or fruit, small increases of one or two servings from what you now eat still counts! If you are eating less than five servings, introduce extra servings slowly. Setting your sights too high can be discouraging. Small, incremental changes are easier to achieve and more likely to become permanent changes. To increase the number of servings you eat, include one or more servings of vegetables or fruit with each meal and snack.
The nutrients that make vegetables and fruit so good for us also give them their rainbow of colour. Dark green and orange coloured vegetables and fruit are especially rich in beta-carotene, folate, and phytochemicals. All vegetables and fruit offer essential cancer-fighting nutrients, so eat a variety every day.
Contrary to popular belief, frozen, canned, and dried vegetables and fruit are as nutritious as fresh. Studies comparing fresh cooked vegetables with canned and frozen products show very few differences in levels of nutrients. Frozen, canned, and dried vegetables and fruit are packed and processed shortly after they are picked, when nutrient levels are at a peak. During the winter months or in remote areas where fresh produce is less available, frozen, canned, and dried vegetables and fruit are a healthy alternative. Moreover, frozen and canned selections are often less expensive than fresh choices, have a much longer shelf life, and offer the variety we need for a healthy diet.
Many people feel the biggest barriers to eating more vegetables and fruit is the time and effort it takes to prepare them. Vegetables and fruit come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and flavours. They can be eaten raw or cooked, enjoyed in a meal or snack, and prepared and served in many different ways. There are many fast and easy ways to enjoy and include vegetables and fruit in your meals and snacks.
Many people think vegetables and fruit are expensive. Still, it does not have to cost a lot to include vegetables and fruit in your grocery shopping. Remember that serving sizes are small. Here are some money-saving tips.