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THINK Before You Eat & Drink

It’s important to do a little thinking before eating and drinking. Research strongly indicates that leading a balanced lifestyle, including making smart choices in terms of what is taken in (consumed), and exercising regularly can have a positive effect not only a person’s well-being, but also reduce individual cancer risk.

Media Release | Infographics | eNewsletter

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Dietary and physical activity factors have been shown to affect our biological processes and cancers associated with diet are commonly found in the digestive tract (oesophagus, stomach, and bowel).

A poor diet has been linked to increased cancer risk, and furthermore may lead to problems with weight management or obesity, which has been positively linked to an increased risk of 11 cancers.

CANSA encourages the public to lower their sugar intake. High sugar consumption elevates insulin levels, increases kilojoule intake without any nutrient value, and indirectly increases cancer risk by promoting obesity. It is also important to take note of food labels and make smart choices about what you put into your shopping trolley.

Many people in South Africa are overweight, including children and teens. In fact, South Africa has the highest occurrence of obesity in sub-Saharan Africa, with 42% women and 13% men carrying this label, while 7% of boys and 9.6% girls present as obese. ¹

Link Between Obesity & Cancer

The National Cancer Registry (2014) shows a steady increase in the number of patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer which brings this cancer to among the top 4 cancers diagnosed in South Africa excluding skin cancers.

CANSA recommends planning balanced meals & cutting down on and even eliminating intake of food or beverages which research has proved to increase cancer risk and / or risk for other non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke and hypertension.

It is also important to choose healthy food preparation methods and to ensure that food is safe to eat & not contaminated or spoiled.

¹ Ng M, Fleming T, Robinson M, Thomson B, Graetz N, Margono C, Mullany EC, Biryukov S, Abbafati C, Abera SF, Abraham JP. Global, regional, and national prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adults during 1980–2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013. The Lancet. 2014 Sep 5;384(9945):766-81

Let the traffic lights guide you to make smart, informed choices to enable leading a balanced lifestyle to lower your cancer risk.

Smart Food & Drink Choices


  • Eat at least five portions, preferably seven, of fruit (in season) and non-starchy vegetables daily – choose a variety of fruit and vegetables of different colours for different nutrients
  • Aim for three meals per day and snack in between meals on your favourite fruit or vegetable
  • Make starchy foods that are high in roughage and whole-grains part of most meals
  • Eat more fibre, e.g. fruit and vegetables with skins included and whole-grain foods (30 g daily) such as Bokomo Weet-Bix and Bokomo Oats (both CANSA Smart Choices) mealie pap, brown rice and sorghum
  • Dry beans, soya beans and other legumes / lentils are high in fibre & isoflavones. Try to include them in meals 3 to 4 times per week. View Bean Soup recipe.
  • Choose Canola Margarine products (Blossom Canola Margarine is a CANSA Smart Choice), also with the best ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 and it is trans fat free.
  • Drink plenty safe, clean water – drinking enough water not only keeps you hydrated, it also helps food move through the digestive system and carries nutrients to the cells
  • Drink rooibos tea, which is rich in antioxidants, low in tannin and caffeine free. Try the Red Espresso Company’s red espresso® (rooibos espresso) a CANSA Smart Choice.
  • Use Canola Oil with a high smoke point of 230 degrees Celsius in food preparation. It is rich in Omega-3 and has the best ratio (2:1) of Omega-6 to Omega-3. Nuts, avocado, vegetable fats / oils and olive oil are also recommended. B-Well Canola Oil & B-Well Extra Virgin Olive & Canola Oil are CANSA Smart Choice products.
  • Prepare your food by baking or steaming

CANSA’s Smart Choice Seal, found on approved products, is part of an ongoing effort helping people choose items that help reduce personal cancer risk. The E-book, Smart Choice Cookbook with CANSA and B-well is a collection of recipes that focuses on cancer risk reduction. It covers breakfast, lunch, dinner as well as snacks and treats, with a vegetarian option included in each section. All the recipes were developed in consultation with CANSA’s consulting registered dietitian Megan Pentz-Kluyts, renowned for her knowledge on the role of nutrition in helping to lower the risk of cancer.

See health benefits of:

Smart Trolley

Restrict or Limit:

  • Restrict salt – read Salt & Permissable Sodium Content in Foodstuffs Fact Sheet
  • Restrict sugar and sugar-containing foods and drinks. Alcoholic beverages often have high sugar levels. Consuming these can lead to weight gain and obesity which increases cancer risk. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that adults and children reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intake). In 2017 CANSA presented to the Parliamentary Health Portfolio Committee in support of the indirect taxation on sugar sweetened beverages and in 2018, we were pleased to see this health benefit come into effect
  • Read CANSA Position Statement Artificial Sweetners | Fact Sheet Sugar Substitute Stevia
  • Eat dairy products and animal protein in moderation – choose low-fat milk and hormone-free dairy products
  • Restrict animal and saturated fats
  • Limit red meat and rather eat more chicken, fish, beans, lentils and soya products
  • Limit the intake of refined starches (white bread)
  • Limit intake of processed and fast foods which are high in fat (fried) – check labels of processed foods like confectionaries and crisps for trans fat contents (trans fats are restricted to less than 2% by law)
  • If you have fruit juice, drink unsweetened, pure juice and dilute with water
  • Cut down on frying and braaing. Limit braaing to twice per week.

Beware – Cut Out!

  • Cut out or at least limit your intake of processed, cured and smoked foods such as biltong, bacon, polony, ham, russians and vienna sausages to less than 3 portions a week. Cured / preserved foods often have a high salt content.
  • In the light of scientific evidence, CANSA advocates against the consumption of alcohol in any form, be it beer, wine or distilled spirits. Alcohol use is a cause of cancer. Any level of alcohol consumption increases the risk of developing an alcohol-related cancer; the level of risk increases in line with the level of consumption. There is strong evidence that alcohol causes cancer at seven sites [in the body], and possibly others. The evidence supports “a causal association of alcohol consumption” with cancer in the oropharynx (a part of the throat), the larynx, the oesophagus, the liver, the colon, the rectum and the female breast. Recent studies found that the risk of developing breast cancer in men increased by 16% per 10 g alcohol / day consumed. Read Alcohol and Cancer Risk Fact Sheet & Position Statement…
  • Recent research has shown that cooking certain meats at high temperature creates chemicals that are not present in uncooked meats. Some of these chemicals may increase the risk of cancer. High temperature cooking includes pan frying or grilling directly over an open flame (braaiing). Note the dangers of meat cooked at high temperatures. Never eat burnt meat.
  • Cooking oil should not be re-used.
  • Note the dangers of Sodium Benzoate, and Sodium Benzoate in combination with Vitamin C (read food / drink labels)
  • Read more about Aflatoxins in agricultural products intended for human consumption
  • Position Statement: Ketogenic Diet

Find more information regarding food to be avoided or healthy options in our Balanced Lifestyle Fact Sheet

What Does a Balanced Meal Look Like?

Discover what a healthy, balanced meal looks like; see tips regarding food preparation methods & info re other important elements of a balanced diet:

Keep Food Safe

Store food with care especially when there are disruptions to power due to loadshedding. Read our latest food safety tips…

Use clingwrap free of harmful plasticisers, e.g. in-house products of Checkers, Pick n Pay, Shoprite and Spar, as well as brand name products: GLAD Wrap and Sylko which are CANSA Smart Choice products.

A Balanced Lifestyle is Key to Healthy Living

Read more about the importance of living a balanced lifestyle…

Do you have a question?
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 072 197 9305 English and Afrikaans
 071 867 3530 Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho and Siswati


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