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AICR’s New American Plate: A Plant-Based Diet

This content was last updated on January 24, 2020

The Cancer Research

The New American Plate demonstrates healthy choices for the proportion of different foods on your plate and for the portions you eat. Aim for vegetables, fruits, whole grains or beans to provide 2/3 (or more) of each meal, with 1/3 (or less) coming from animal protein. This emphasizes choosing foods with plenty of fiber, nutrients and plant compounds that may help protect you from cancer, limits foods that increase the risk of cancer and helps you reach and maintain the healthy weight that research shows can play a major role in reducing cancer risk.

Interpreting the data

AICR’s New American Plate is an inclusive approach that shows how to put into practice the recommendations to reduce cancer risk and promote overall health.

  • All plant foods are not the same. Limited evidence suggests that high-fiber diets rich in whole grains, non-starchy vegetables, and fruits reduce the risk of a wide range of cancers. Although evidence linking individual nutrients or types of foods with lower cancer risk is limited, combined as an overall eating pattern, these choices add up to reduce cancer risk.
  • Including relatively unprocessed plant foods — whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans and nuts — as at least 2/3 of each meal may offer cancer protection beyond the fiber these foods provide. Aim for a variety of vegetables and fruits for the widest array of nutrients and protective phytochemicals. In laboratory studies, nutrients and compounds in these plant foods can change the expression of tumor suppressor and other genes, and influence cell signaling pathways, inflammation, and self-destruction of abnormal cells.
  • If you want to include dairy products, poultry, fish or red meat, keep amounts to no more than 1/3 of each meal. As part of those choices, if you include red meat (beef, lamb and pork), limit amounts to no more than 12 to 18 ounces a week. And be sure that it’s mostly unprocessed red meat. Processed meats (like bacon, sausage, salami and hot dogs) pose a greater cancer risk, so save them for much more occasional use.
  • Even though they’re technically plant-based foods, choices that are highly processed and contain a lot of fat and added sugar make it harder to maintain the healthy weight that plays a strong role in reducing the risk of at least 12 forms of cancer.
Source: AICR/WCRF. Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: A Global Perspective, 2018.

*After a systematic review of the global scientific literature, AICR/WCRF analyzed how foods and their nutrients affect the risk of developing cancer.

  • Evidence categorized as “convincing” or “probable” means there is strong research showing a causal relationship to cancer—either decreasing or increasing the risk. The research must include quality human studies that meet specific criteria and biological explanations for the findings.
  • A convincing or probable judgment is strong enough to justify recommendations.
  • Evidence categorized as “limited suggestive” means results are generally consistent in overall conclusions, but it’s rarely strong enough to justify recommendations to reduce the risk of cancer.

Ongoing Areas of Investigation

  • More on AICR's New American Plate

    What you do eat, what you don’t eat, and overall lifestyle counts:

    Studies of plant-focused diets and their association with cancer risk sometimes show different results. A closer look suggests that part of the difference may reflect the importance of specific food choices and the context of the overall lifestyle.

    Eating patterns are an important part of a lifestyle to reduce cancer risk, and there’s much more you can do. Be physically active in some way every day, limit the time you spend sitting, aim to reach and maintain a healthy weight, limit alcohol, and of course, avoid tobacco in any form.

    The overall context of AICR’s New American Plate as part of a healthy lifestyle that also includes physical activity, matters. Independent studies from around the world show that the more closely you follow the AICR Recommendations, the lower your risk of developing cancer.


  1. World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute of Cancer Research. Continuous Update Project Expert Report 2018. Recommendations and public health and policy implications. Available at dietandcancerreport.org.
  2. Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Washington, DC.2015.
  3. Arnett D, K., Blumenthal Roger S, Albert Michelle A, et al. 2019 ACC/AHA Guideline on the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease. Circulation.0(0):CIR.0000000000000678.
  4. World Cancer Research Fund / American Institute for Cancer Research. Continuous Update Project Expert Report 2018. Wholegrains, vegetables and fruit and the risk of cancer. Available at: dietandcancerreport.org.
  5. World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute of Cancer Research. Continuous Update Project Expert Report 2018. Meat, fish and dairy products and the risk of cancer. Available at: dietandcancerreport.org.
  6. World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute of Cancer Research. Continuous Update Project Expert Report 2018. Diet, nutrition and physical activity: Energy balance and body fatness. Available at dietandcancerreport.org.
  7. Kohler LN, Garcia DO, Harris RB, Oren E, Roe DJ, Jacobs ET. Adherence to Diet and Physical Activity Cancer Prevention Guidelines and Cancer Outcomes: A Systematic Review. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2016.