What can I do with nutrition to prevent cancer?

Melanie Logue, MS, RD

The foods that we eat, our physical activity, and weight management are three of the most important things to keep in mind when discussing colorectal cancer prevention. The following specific nutritional recommendations may contribute to an overall well balanced diet and may assist in colorectal cancer prevention.

Choose to Eat a Variety of Fruits and Vegetables. Fruits and vegetables provide our bodies with important nutrients as well as antioxidants and phytochemicals. Both antioxidants and phytochemicals are naturally found when consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables. Plant constituents like antioxidants have been associated with a lower incidence of colon cancer. Choosing a rainbow of colors of fruits of vegetables will add desirable antioxidants and phytochemicals to your diet!

Choose Less Red Meats and Processed Meats. Red meats have been linked to an increased risk of colon cancer. Red meats and processed meats (such as sausage and bacon) are typically high in saturated fats and cholesterol. Frequent consumption is associated with high overall serum cholesterol, increased LDL levels and serum triglycerides- which have all been associated with colon cancer. Instead of red meats, try chicken, turkey, or fish, – all great lean protein sources. Plant- based proteins such as lentils, beans, and nuts are also a great way to incorporate more protein (and fiber) in our diets and are typically lower in unhealthy fat and cholesterol.

Focus on Fiber. Fiber is found in fruits and vegetables. It is also found in nuts, seeds, and grains such as brown rice and quinoa. An easy way to add more fiber to your diet is by adding ground flaxseed to foods like yogurt or oatmeal. Fiber intake provides many benefits for our digestive health. Dietary fiber promotes healthy gut bacteria and normalizes bowel movements. There is some research that suggests a high fiber diet can assist in colorectal cancer prevention but more conclusive evidence is needed.

Limit Alcohol Use. Alcohol use has been an associated risk factor to colorectal cancer. It is important to limit the use of alcohol: the higher your intake of alcohol the higher your risk of colon cancer. Therefore, abstain from drinking alcohol but if you choose to drink, limit to no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink a day for women. Alcohol can also be dehydrating- which can negatively affect digestion. Be sure to stay hydrated throughout the day, preferably by drinking water.

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