The Best Foods You Can Start Eating Today to Help
Colon cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is a type of cancer that starts in the colon or rectum. The colon is the large intestine and the rectum is the end of the large intestine that connects to the anus. Colon cancer usually begins as a small, non-cancerous growth called a polyp, which can develop into cancer over time. So, what can you do for colon cancer prevention?
The American Cancer Society reports that the general lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is approximately 1 in 23 men and 1 in 26 women. However, individual risk levels may vary based on their risk factors for colorectal cancer, which can either increase or decrease the likelihood of developing this disease.
The risk of developing colon cancer can be influenced by various factors, including family history, genetics, personal health history and lifestyle choices such as diet and physical activity levels.
Once you have been diagnosed with colon cancer, doctors identify to which extent the cancer has spread from its original location in the colon.
Stage 0 is the earliest, while Stage IV is the most advanced stage, wherein cancer has already spread to distant body parts.
In terms of treatment, Stage II is where patients may be advised to have the combination of surgery, and chemotherapy (i.e., Capecitabine, Oxaliplatin). In Stage IV, the patient receives the most complex treatment, typically involving a combination of surgery, chemotherapy (such as Braftovi and Cetuximab), targeted therapy and other supportive care measures.
Importance of Diet in Preventing Colon Cancer
Diet plays a crucial role in preventing colon cancer because the foods we eat can directly impact the health of our digestive system, including the colon and rectum.
A diet high in red and processed meats, saturated and trans fats, and low in fruits, vegetables and whole grains is associated with a higher risk of colon cancer. On the other hand, certain foods contain nutrients and compounds that have been shown to have a protective effect against colon cancer.
Let's take a look at the three types of foods that you can count on in your journey to preventing colon cancer:
1. Dietary Fiber
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate found in plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Unlike other carbohydrates, fiber is not broken down by the body's digestive enzymes and passes through the digestive system largely intact.
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Fiber helps to promote healthy digestion and regular bowel movements, which reduces the amount of time that waste and potential carcinogens spend in the colon. Additionally, fiber has been found to bind to harmful substances in the colon, helping to remove them from the body before they can cause damage.
A diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes is associated with a lower risk of colon cancer. The American Heart Association recommends that adults consume at least 20-30 grams of fiber daily.
2. Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables contain a group of natural compounds, known as glucosinolates, broken down into various biologically active compounds, including indoles, isothiocyanates and sulforaphane. These compounds have been shown to have anti-cancer properties that may help prevent colon cancer.
Here are some examples of cruciferous vegetables that can be easily incorporated into a healthy diet:
- Broccoli: It is one of the most popular cruciferous vegetables, loaded with fiber, vitamin C and other nutrients. It can be eaten raw, steamed, roasted or stir-fried.
- Kale: A leafy green vegetable that is packed with nutrients, including vitamins A, C and K, as well as calcium, iron and fiber. It can be eaten raw in salads or cooked in soups, stews or as a side dish.
- Cauliflower: A versatile cruciferous vegetable that can be eaten raw, roasted or mashed as a potato substitute. It is high in fiber, vitamin C and other important nutrients.
- Brussels sprouts: Brussels sprouts are small, green cruciferous vegetables rich in fiber, vitamin C and vitamin K. They can be roasted, sautéed or steamed and make a great side dish.
- Cabbage: A cruciferous vegetable that comes in many varieties, including green, red and Napa cabbage. It is rich in vitamin C, fiber and other important nutrients and can be eaten raw in salads, coleslaws or cooked in soups and stews.
3. Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that is found in a variety of foods, particularly fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, as well as in some nuts and seeds. These fatty acids are considered essential because the human body cannot produce them on its own, and they must be obtained through the diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce the growth and proliferation of cancer cells in the colon. Studies have found that these fatty acids can induce apoptosis, or programmed cell death, in cancer cells, which may help slow or stop the growth of tumors.
In addition, omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce the risk of colon cancer by improving overall gut health. Research has suggested that these fatty acids can help increase the diversity of beneficial gut bacteria, promoting a healthy gut microbiome and reducing inflammation in the colon.
3 Types of Foods to Lower Risk of Colon Cancer
To recap, a healthy diet plays a crucial role in preventing colon cancer. A diet rich in fiber, cruciferous vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids can provide a range of health benefits that may reduce the risk of colon cancer.
By incorporating these foods into a healthy diet, individuals can take proactive steps towards colon cancer prevention and promoting overall health and well-being.