The Healthy Food Guide team believe that making small diet and lifestyle changes brings the best long-term gains. We look at the science behind the headlines and promote a balanced way of eating.

One of the most preventable forms of cancer, research has shown strong links between bowel cancer and a poor diet, lack of activity, being overweight, smoking and alcohol consumption. Susannah Brown, senior scientist at the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) says ‘only 5-15% of cancer cases have a genetic cause’. By following a healthy lifestyle and keeping to a healthy weight, you can significantly lower your chances of developing bowel cancer. Here are some of the foods which can help reduce your risk, according to the WCRF’s 2017 report:

1. Fibre-rich foods – Research shows that people who eat fibre-rich foods such as wholegrains, fruit and vegetables, have lower rates of bowel cancer. ‘This is because fibre-rich foods reduce the transit time (passage through the gut) of potentially carcinogenic cheminals in the bowel and reduce insulin resistance, which is believed to raise the risk of cancer,’ explains WCRF’s Susannah Brown. In March 2018, The National Diet and Nutrition Survey for the UK revealed that on average adults are eating only 19.1g fibre a day – falling well short of the recommended 30g.

2. Wholegrains – ‘Unprocessed wholegrains break down into short-chained fatty acids in the gut, and these have anti-inflammatory effects’, says Susannah. They are also a great source of vitamin E, copper, zinc and  phytoestrogens, which have all been show to help reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer. Try adding more wholegrains into your diet such as brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, wholegrain bread and spelt. These will also help contribute to your fibre target.

3. Fruits and vegetables – Vitamin C has been shown to reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer so it is important to aim for a minimum of five fruits and vegetables a day. Kiwis, berries, citrus fruits and peppers are particularly good sources of Vitamin C so try to add more of these into your diet to help reduce the risk.

4. Fish – We are recommended to consume two servings of fish a week, one of which being an oily source, such as:  salmon, mackerel or sardines. Oily fish are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties, again, known for reducing the risk of developing bowel cancer.

5. Vitamin-D rich foods – WCRF recommend getting your vitamins from foods rather than supplements but throughout the winter months a Vitamin D supplement may be needed. Oily fish and eggs are great sources, rich in Vitamin D, as well as vitamin D-fortified products, such as breakfast cereals and some breads and mushrooms.