SmartFood shares the message of the World Cancer Research Fund International that has provided an evaluation of the link between food, obesity, physical activity and cancer.





    Scientific evidence shows that diets that are made up of too many energy-dense foods, particularly processed foods, increase the risk of us becoming overweight or obese. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of cancer and other diseases. The Expert Report also found that sugary drinks contribute to weight gain if consumed regularly due to their high calorie content.


    By making an effort to regularly fill up on these foods, you will find it easier to manage your hunger levels. They will not satisfy your hunger unless you consume them in great quantities and they do not provide you with the vital nutrients your body needs. Try to save these foods for occasional treats instead. Some foods that are high in calories, like nuts and seeds, contain beneficial nutrients and, in small amounts, are an important part of a healthy diet.



    Almost all foods provide us with energy (calories), but some foods contain more energy weight-for-weight than others. Foods that contain a lot of calories are known as energy-dense foods. They tend to be high in fat and/ or sugar and can contribute to weight gain. Some of these foods have little nutritional value, meaning they provide ‘empty calories’. Energy-dense foods are easy to recognize. In general they tend to be highly processed, low in water and fiber, and high in fat and/or sugar. Confectionery, chocolate, crisps, biscuits, spreads and mayonnaise, fried foods and processed meats are all examples of high energy-dense foods.



    Reducing the energy density of your diet

    • Enjoy a salad or soup at the beginning of a meal.
    • These are high in water and fiber, which help fill you up, leaving less room for energy-dense foods. Go for non-creamy soups and lightly dressed salads.
    • Add plenty of pulses, whole grains, vegetables and fruits to your meals.
    • Try to add a variety of these water- and fiber-rich foods into your breakfasts, pasta sauces, omelets, sandwiches or side dishes.
    • Lower the fat content.
    • If you use less oil, butter and mayonnaise in your dishes, you will immediately reduce the energy density of your meal without changing your usual portion size. Choose lower-fat dairy products, trim visible fat from meat and steam, grill or bake foods instead of frying them.
    • Think before you drink.
    • Although sugary drinks can't be classed as energy-dense because of their high water content, they can contribute to weight gain. Most sugary drinks, like soda, cola and squashes, don't fill you up or signal to your brain that it's time to stop drinking.
    • Keep portion sizes of energy-dense foods small.
    • Research shows that we tend to eat more when served more without even realizing it. Use smaller plates at home and skip value meals and super-sized portions, especially those containing processed foods, when eating out.




    Vegetables and fruits are generally low in energy density and, when consumed in variety, are sources of many vitamins, minerals, and other bioactive compounds (phytochemicals). Many non-starchy vegetables, including salad vegetables and fruits, may be eaten raw and may also be cooked. Pulses (legumes) are high in protein. Nuts and seeds are concentrated sources of numerous micronutrients and of essential fatty acids. All these foods are sources of dietary fibre. Many herbs and spices have potent pharmacological as well as culinary properties.


    An integrated approach to the evidence shows that most diets that are protective against cancer are mainly made up from foods of plant origin. Consuming mostly foods of plant origin and limiting the amount of energy-dense foods consumed, people can reduce their risk of cancer directly, as well as the risk of overweight and obesity.




    You gain the best protection by eating a variety of plant foods every day, including at least five portions of different coloured vegetables and fruits. Aim for a mix of colours in your shopping basket. Try:

    • green family (e.g. courgettes, beans, broccoli, asparagus, kiwi fruit).
    • blue/purple family (e.g. blueberries, aubergine, blackberries, plums).
    • red family (e.g. red cabbage, tomatoes, red apples, berries, beetroot).
    • orange/yellow family (e.g. orange and yellow peppers, apricots, carrots, oranges, peaches, lemons, sweetcorn).
    • white family (e.g. onions, white cabbage, cauliflower, mushrooms).
    • Pulses, herbs, nuts and spices are also a great way to enjoy some of the health-boosting properties of plant foods. Remember that one portion of non-starchy vegetables weighs roughly 250g, one portion of salad 50g and one portion of fruits 150g.


    • Snack on carrots and other crudités before dinner to help curb your appetite. Make coleslaw with cabbage and grated carrot and a little low-fat dressing rather than mayonnaise. Enjoy fresh salad in a sandwich or as a side dish.
    • Store your vegetables and fruits correctly – salad vegetables and some fruits are best stored in the fridge and others in a cool place – and try to use them up before they go off. You could add a few extras when cooking a hearty soup or stew, or use overripe fruit in your blender to make a smoothie.
    • Cut your vegetables into larger chunks and avoid any unnecessary peeling or slicing.
    • Minimize the amount of water you add to your vegetables when cooking them. Try cooking them in a microwave or steaming them, rather than pre-soaking or boiling them in large volumes of water.
    • Try not to overcook your vegetables. Crunchy vegetables retain more nutrients than those that are overcooked.




    Some methods of food preservation, processing, and preparation affect the risk of cancer. The strongest evidence concerns processed meats, preserved by salting, smoking, pickling, addition of chemicals, and other methods; salt from all sources; and salt-preserved foods. Salt is necessary for human health and life itself, but at levels very much lower than those typically consumed in most parts of the world. Health problems that are linked to regularly consuming too much salt include stomach cancer and high blood pressure. By reducing the amount of salt in our diet we can help to lower our risk of developing stomach cancer.



    Here is where the salt in our diet comes from:

    • Processed foods: these are often high in ‘hidden’ salt – hidden because often these foods don’t taste salty. Bread for example, usually do not taste salty is a major source of salt in high-income countries, together with many other industrially processed foods that may not appear ‘salty’. Manufacturers use salt as a preservative and a cheap flavour enhancer. About 50 per cent of our daily salt consumption comes from processed foods. Even sweet foods, such as biscuits or cakes, can contain high levels of salt.
    • Added salt: the amount of salt we add to our food during cooking or at the table.
    • Natural salt: very small amounts of salt can be found naturally in foods, including eggs, meat, fish and spinach. This would be enough to meet our daily salt requirements.



    Top tips to reduce salt in our diet:

    • Take the salt off the table. If you gradually reduce the amount of salt you add to food during cooking and at the table, your taste buds should adjust within a few weeks.
    • Replace salt with spices, herbs, garlic and lemon. Herbs and spices such as chilli powder, ginger and basil, and other flavours such as garlic, lemon and black pepper all add flavor to food without using salt.
    • Make your own meals from scratch. Cooking your own meals with fresh ingredients gives you more opportunity to control the amount of salt in your food.
    • Look for lower-salt foods when shopping. Check food labels and select products with less salt or sodium. Choose tinned or packaged foods with no added salt (or sugar).
    • Eat fresh meat rather than processed meat. Avoid eating processed meats like bacon, cured meats and some sausages.
    • Limit the amount of salty snacks you eat. Replace salty snacks such as crisps and salted nuts with small portions of dried fruit or unsalted nuts.




A healthy diet combined with active lifestyle is a valuable tool in the prevention, management and treatment of many diseases.



    An integrated approach to the evidence shows that many foods of animal origin are nourishing and healthy if consumed in modest amounts. One of the key Recommendations to help prevent cancer is to limit the intake of red meat and avoid processed meat such as ham, salami and bacon. This doesn’t mean that it’s necessary to give up on animal foods, as fish and lean poultry choices are not associated with an increased cancer risk. Eating oily fish also helps to provide your body with omega-3 fatty acids which can boost immunity and help protect against heart problems. It is best that processed meats are avoided. They are generally energy-dense and can also contain high levels of salt. They also tend to be preserved by smoking, curing, or salting, or with the addition of chemical preservatives. Some of these methods of preservation are known to generate carcinogens; while the epidemiological evidence that these are causes of cancer is limited, it is a wise precaution to avoid them.



    Experts recommend that to reduce the risk of cancer you should have no more than 500g a week of red meat such as beef, pork or lamb. Processed meat includes ham, bacon, pastrami, and salami. Sausages, frankfurters, and ‘hot dogs’, to which nitrates/nitrites or other preservatives are added, are also processed meats.

    Substantial amounts of meat are not needed to sustain adequate consumption of protein and iron. All flesh foods are high in protein, and for people who consume varied diets without any flesh foods, more than adequate protein can be derived from a mixture of pulses (legumes) and cereals (grains). Iron is present in many plant foods, as well as in meat. There are many ways to enjoy meat and other animal foods as part of plant-based diets.




    Think of red meat as one of the many protein sources you could choose (when you feel like adding extra flavour to your meal).

    • Try homemade bean burgers, falafels or fishcakes
    • Try eating more fish – it’s quick and easy to prepare
    • Swap red meat for lean poultry like skinless chicken or turkey
    • Eggs are a good source of protein and can play an important part in a healthy diet when eaten in moderation, twice a week
    • Dairy foods can replace a portion of meat, are a good source of protein, vitamin D and calcium for bone health. 





    The expert Panel found that drinking alcohol, irrespective of the type, is a cause of cancer. The evidence on cancer justifies a recommendation not to drink alcoholic drinks. Other evidence shows that modest amounts of alcoholic drinks are likely to reduce risk of coronary heart disease. The evidence does not show a clear level of consumption of alcoholic drinks below which there is no increase in risk of the cancers it causes. This means that, based solely on the evidence on cancer, even small amounts of alcoholic drinks should be avoided. The evidence shows that all alcoholic drinks have the same effect. Data do not suggest any significant difference depending on the type of drink. This recommendation covers all alcoholic drinks, whether beers, wines, spirits (liquors), or other alcoholic drinks. The important factor is the amount of ethanol consumed.


    Research shows that alcohol is particularly harmful when combined with smoking, especially for oesophageal, mouth and throat cancer. Alcohol is also high in calories but it has little nutritional benefit, providing 'empty calories'. It is easy to consume many calories from alcohol without realizing it, which can lead to weight gain. The Panel emphasizes that children and pregnant women should not consume alcoholic drinks.



    To reduce your cancer risk as much as possible, we recommend not drinking

    alcohol at all. However, if you do drink alcohol, try to limit your intake to no more than two units of alcohol a day for men and one unit of alcohol a day for women. A unit of alcohol contains about 10-15 grams of ethanol and is roughly the same as:

    •      Half a pint of normal strength (3-5% ABV) beer, lager or cider
    •      One 25ml measure of spirits (40% ABV), such as vodka or whisky
    •      One small glass (125ml) of wine (12-13% ABV)



    Tips for sensible drinking

    •      When ordering drinks, opt for the smallest serving size. All licensed premises now have to offer small glasses of wine and single measures of  Spirits. Avoid double measures of spirits, which are often encouraged as 'better value'.
    •      Don't drink alcohol when you are thirsty because you are likely to drink more. Have a glass of water or a non-alcoholic soft drink to quench your thirst before having an alcoholic drink.
    •       Sip your drink slowly to pace yourself and make it last longer.
    •       Avoid drinking on an empty stomach. The alcohol will be absorbed into the bloodstream more quickly.
    • Make sure you drink water before and after you drink alcohol to rehydrate yourself.







    A general recommendation to consume supplements for cancer prevention might have unexpected adverse effects. Increasing the consumption of the relevant nutrients through the usual diet is preferred. Vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients are assessed in the context of the foods and drinks that contain them. The Panel judges that the best source of nourishment is foods and drinks, not dietary supplements. There is evidence that high-dose dietary supplements can modify the risk of some cancers. Although some studies in specific, usually high-risk, groups have shown evidence of cancer prevention from some supplements, this finding may not apply to the general population. Their level of benefit may be different, and there may be unexpected and uncommon adverse effects. Therefore it is unwise to recommend widespread supplement use as a means of cancer prevention.



    Dietary supplements contain vitamins, minerals, herbs or plant material. They can be found in pill, capsule, tablet or liquid form and are used to supplement (add to) the diet, but they should not be considered a substitute for food. A nutrient at a high dose may have a different effect on the body compared with a nutrient at a low dose. For example, at a low level a nutrient may be necessary, but at a higher level it could be toxic or otherwise harmful to health. A high dose of one nutrient may also affect how the body absorbs other nutrients. If you are unsure whether you need to take a dietary supplement, it’s best to see your GP. Consuming nutrients as foods during the course of the day means you can get a range of vitamins, minerals and other supplements at safe levels. What’s more, a healthy diet has the added benefit of helping us to maintain a healthy weight.



    Choosing a healthy balanced diet is important for reducing our cancer risk. Following these tips will ensure you are consuming a variety of nutrients.

    • Base your meals around plant foods like vegetables, fruits, lentils, beans and whole grains such as brown rice and whole meal pasta.
    • Remember your 5 A DAY! Opt for a colourful variety of vegetables and fruits every day.
    • Eat red meat in moderation and avoid processed meats such as bacon and ham.
    • Avoid drinking alcoholic drinks. If consumed at all, then limit drinks to two for men and one for women a day.






    The evidence on cancer supports the evidence on well-being, positive health, and prevention of other diseases: at the beginning of life, human milk is best. The evidence on cancer as well as other diseases shows that sustained, exclusive breastfeeding is protective for the mother as well as the child.

    The evidence that lactation protects the mother against breast cancer at all ages is convincing. There is limited evidence suggesting that lactation protects the mother against cancer of the ovary. Having been breastfed probably protects children against overweight and obesity, and therefore those cancers for which weight gain, overweight, and obesity are a cause. Overweight and obesity in children tend to track into adult life.

    Other benefits of breastfeeding for mothers and their children are well known. Breastfeeding protects against infections in infancy, protects the development of the immature immune system, protects against other childhood diseases, and is vital for the development of the bond between mother and child.



    Breast milk contains all the nutrients your baby needs for healthy development in the first six months of life. Babies under four months should not be given solids because they can't yet digest food. You can start giving your baby solid foods when they are about six months old. Some babies may require solids earlier, so ask your health visitor or GP for advice. Some foods should not be given to babies before they reach six months. At six months, babies are ready to start eating solids. At this age, babies can sit up with support, control their heads and move food around their mouths. Their digestive and immune systems are also stronger and able to handle foods. Cows’ milk is not suitable until your baby is one year old as it contains too much protein and salt.



    • Make sure your baby is properly attached to the breast. You will have a good supply of milk and your baby will get a good feed. It will help stop your breasts getting sore.
    • Try not to give your baby other food or drink. The more you feed your baby, the more milk you will produce. Giving other food or drink will reduce your milk supply. You might increase the chance of your baby getting an infection.
    • Try not to give your baby a dummy. It can make it more difficult for your baby to attach to your breast. Your baby will be less likely to feed when they need to.
    • Don’t be scared to ask for help. It can take a while before you feel confident breastfeeding.
    • If you stop breastfeeding, it can be difficult to start again.






    Study after study suggests that a healthful diet – one high in a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans, and low in red and (especially) processed meat – can fight cancer at several stages. Scientists have known for some time that this general pattern of eating provides vitamins, minerals and protective plant substances that help defend the body against cancer and other diseases. Research conducted over the last few years has established also the central importance for cancer survivors to maintain a healthy weight. Having a healthy weight seems to establish a biochemical status that discourages cancer growth. At the same time being overweight places a variety of biochemical stresses on the body that, over time, seem to make it easier for the cancer process to begin. Regular physical activity strengthens the body’s immune system, lessens fatigue and prevents weight gain. By following a healthy diet and staying physically active, cancer survivors can avoid excess body fat and boost the body’s capacity to resist cancer.


    The number of cancer survivors has greatly increased in recent decades especially in high-income countries. This is partly because screening programs for commons cancers are identifying many more cases, usually at relatively early stages. Most experts agree that following the guidelines for cancer prevention should be a reasonable approach for cancer survivors. This may help prevent a cancer from coming back or a second type of cancer. Furthermore cancer survivors have a higher risk of osteoporosis, heart disease and diabetes and nutrition and lifestyle changes for cancer prevention are similar to the guidelines for general good health and well-being. They offer overall health benefits in preventing disease.



    • If you are underweight, you may wish to include liquid nutritional products in your diet. A registered dietitian can help you develop strategies to include more high calorie foods in a healthy way.
    • If you are unable to eat a large meal at one sitting, try having smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day.
    • Choose foods low in calorie density. Here’s another important reason to favor vegetables, fruits and other plant foods over animal foods. By making low-calorie-dense foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans the main part of your diet, you’ll be less likely to overindulge in fatty meats and sweets.
    • Snack wisely. Between meals, choose healthy snacks and monitor portions. They can boost your fruit and vegetable intake, provide essential nutrients and give you extra energy in the late morning or afternoon.
    • Put soup first. Broth-based soups tend to be low in calorie density and can fill you up.
    • If you’re thirsty, head to the water cooler instead of the vending machine. 


Università degli Studi di Milano


Ministero della Salute Joint Commission International bollinirosa

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