Evidence shows eating wholegrains reduces bowel cancer risk

20 September 2017 | Wendy Watson

Wholegrain foods help prevent cancer

We already know that wholegrains are wholesome and high in fibre but new evidence1 published by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) shows that eating wholegrains every day significantly reduces your risk of bowel cancer (also known as colorectal cancer).

The new report analysed 99 studies from around the world, comprising more than 29 million adults, of whom over a quarter of a million were diagnosed with bowel cancer.

The report found that eating at least 90 grams of wholegrains per day, from foods such as wholemeal bread and brown rice, reduced the risk of bowel cancer by 17 percent, with the more you ate the lower the risk.

Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in Australia, yet the report shows that there is a lot more people can do to dramatically lower their risk. 1 in 3 cancers  are preventable through healthier lifestyle choices. The evidence suggests almost a half of all bowel cancers can be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, limiting red meat consumption, avoiding processed meat and limiting alcohol as well as eating a fibre-rich diet. Eating wholegrain foods can also assist with maintaining a healthy weight as they take longer to digest and help us feel full.


Wholegrain crackers and cheeseWhat are wholegrain foods?

Wholegrain and wholemeal cereal foods are those that include the three edible parts of the grain; the bran, the germ and the endosperm. Products made from wholegrains such as wheat, brown rice, corn, oats, rye, barley, millet and sorghum are an important part of a healthy diet as they are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, protein, dietary fibre and protective phytochemicals. Wholemeal foods are made from wholegrains which have been crushed to a finer texture.


So how much do I need to eat to get 90 grams of wholegrains per day?

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend choosing a variety of grain foods with two thirds being whole grains. Not all whole grain foods are the same. The whole grain content of foods can vary depending on the brand, serve size and ingredients used.

This is approximately how much whole grain is in some common foods:

  • 1 slice of multi grain bread = 5 – 15g whole grains
  • 1 medium wholemeal bread roll = 40g whole grains
  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice or wholemeal pasta  = 30g whole grains
  • 1/2 cup of cooked porridge = 20g whole grains
  • 1/2 cup of whole grain breakfast cereal = 10 – 25g whole grains


Easy ways to eat more wholegrains

Grilled salmon and brown rice salad

Grilled salmon and brown rice salad recipe

  • At breakfast choose wholegrain or wholemeal toast, wheat flake biscuits, wholegrain cereal or porridge.
  • For snacks try popcorn, wholegrain crispbread or untoasted muesli with yoghurt.
  • At lunch use wholemeal or mixed grain breads, or whip up a brown rice salad, wholemeal pasta salad or tabouli (made with cracked wheat).
  • For dinner try brown rice or quinoa with casseroles or curries, add barley to stews or soups.


1Reference: World Cancer Research Fund International/American Institute for Cancer Research. Continuous Update Project Report: Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Colorectal Cancer. 2017. Available at: wcrf.org/colorectal-cancer-2017