The incidence of bowel cancer in the ‘developing’ world is still generally low and experts believe that diet is a major contributory factor.

The following factors appear to increase the risk of bowel cancer:


A diet containing large amounts of red and processed meat.

There is strong scientific evidence of a link between red meat and bowel cancer, so we recommend eating less red meat – aim for less than 500g (cooked weight) a week. The research linking processed meats (e.g. bacon, ham, salami) with bowel cancer is even stronger, so we recommend avoiding these as much as possible.


Read more on why you should cut down on meat in your diet.


Food plate, portion sizesA low intake of dietary fibre from whole grains, fruit and vegetables and not drinking enough water.

There is strong evidence that foods containing dietary fibre decrease the risk of bowel cancer. These foods include wholegrain bread and pasta, and oats. Fibre is thought to have many benefits, including helping to speed up how quickly food moves through our digestive system. Vegetables and fruits contain both fibre and water and may protect against cancer because they contain vitamins and minerals, which help keep the body healthy and strengthen our immune system.


Read more details on the benefits of a plant based diet.


Under normal circumstances a good, healthy diet will include food from all the five groups shown here, listed in order of suggested portion sizes:


Fruit and vegetables

Important sources of a wide range of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale and broccoli, are also particularly good sources of calcium.


Starchy foods

Rice, pasta, bread and potatoes are good sources of energy-giving carbohydrates. The wholegrain variety, such as wholemeal flour and bread, and brown rice, offer a source of fibre and other nutrients lost in processing.



Lean meat, fish, eggs, beans, pulses and seeds – provide rich sources of important proteins, oils and other nutrients. They give us important building materials and energy for growth and repairing the body.


Dairy and soya

Milk, dairy foods and fortified soya products – provide important sources of calcium and some vitamins, as well as protein for growth.



Essential oils and healthy fats are found in nuts and seeds, vegetable oil, olive oil and coconut oil, and oily fish. However, processed foods and ready meals often contain the less healthy saturated and hydrogenated fats and sugar.



Water plays a very important role in your diet. Drink plain water, squash or juice and avoid too much tea, coffee and alcohol, which can make your body lose water and leave you thirsty.