Recommendation 4 Background

Vegetables and fruits are plant foods. Currently they provide less than 5 and up to 10 percent of the daily intake of calories. So, if the day’s caloric intake is 2000 calories, 100 to 200 calories are provided by vegetables and fruits alone. This recommendation excludes roots, tubers and legumes which are covered in Recommendation 5.

In general, vegetables and fruits are good sources of fiber (a non-starch polysaccharide), vitamin C, carotenoids, folate, potassium, and other phytochemicals. Specific vegetables are good sources of B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, folate, pyridoxine or B6) calcium and iron.

The AICR/WCRF panel concludes that, "There is a strong and consistent pattern showing that diets high in vegetables and fruits decrease the risk of many cancers in general"

There are some 247 studies that have looked into the relationship between vegetable and fruit consumption and the risk of cancer. Seventy-eight percent of the studies have shown a significant decrease in risk with an increased intake of at least one vegetable and/or fruit

The following table summarizes the results of 217 studies. The risk of cancer of many body sites is modified by eating vegetables and fruits. The strength of scientific evidence is graded.


Evidence Decreases risk No relationship Increases risk
Convincing Vegetables & fruits
  • Mouth & pharynx
  • Esophagus
  • Lung
  • Stomach


  • Colon, rectum
Probable Vegetables & fruits
  • Larynx
  • Pancreas
  • Breast
  • Bladder
Possible Vegetables & fruits
  • Cervix
  • Ovary
  • Endometrium
  • Thyroid


  • Liver
  • Prostate
  • Kidney


Adapted from Food, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective, 1997.

See Recommendation 4 "How to" for practical applications.


EXTOXNET FAQS Diet and Cancer Homepage

Prepared 1998 by Bernadene Magnuson, Ph.D.
University of Idaho, Dept. of Food Science and Toxicology - EXTOXNET FAQ Team.