Plant-Based Diet

What is the plant-based diet?

A "plant-based diet" puts more emphasis on eating plant foods such as vegetables and fruits, whole-grains and legumes (beans) and less emphasis on eating animal foods. Plant foods that are low in calories, high in nutrients and dietary fibre should fill 2/3 or more of your plate while animal foods, such as cheese, meat, fish, poultry and eggs should make up the rest. The plant-based diet is not a vegetarian or weight loss diet; it follows Canada's Food Guide.

Why eat a plant-based diet?

Research shows that eating mostly plant foods, such as a variety of colourful vegetables, fruit, whole grains and legumes (dried peas, beans and lentils) daily may lower your risk of cancer and other chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and obesity, and promote your overall health.

Experts say that people who want to reduce their overall cancer risk should adopt a plant-based diet. In 2007, the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research released a report titled "Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective." This report reflects the findings of thousands of studies that looked at links between food, nutrition, physical activity and cancer risk. The report identified eight recommendations on how people can reduce cancer risk. Six of the recommendations focused on foods. Adopting a plant-based diet is one of these recommendations.

What's the link between the plant-based diet and breast cancer risk?

There is no direct link between reduced breast cancer risk and the plant-based diet; however, there is a strong link between eating a plant-based diet and lower overall cancer risk. Eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes will provide you with fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that may help protect against cancer. Phytochemicals are natural substances that give plants their unique colours, tastes and properties. For example, antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and beta-carotene, which are abundant in many plant-based foods, may protect our cells from damage by cancer-causing agents. Other phytochemicals, such as indoles, isoflavones and polyphenols, may also protect against cancer. Plant-based foods are naturally low in calories and high in fibre (which helps you feel full). Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight is strongly linked to lower cancer risk and eating a mostly plant-based diet can help you do this.

What does this mean?

Eating a plant-based diet will nourish your body with cancer protective substances and may assist in achieving or maintaining a healthy weight.