A healthy diet can improve your quality of life and make it easier for your body to fight off serious illnesses like colon cancer. Although there is no guarantee that your diet can completely prevent colon cancer, especially if it runs in your family, certain foods may help lower your risk.
Before we discuss which foods you should start incorporating into your diet, let's first discuss colon cancer and how the disease affects the body.
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The colon is also called the large intestine. This muscular tube’s main job¹ is to absorb water, salt, and remaining nutrients from digested food after leaving the small intestine. Once the food has been fully digested, it will stay in the colon before being moved to the rectum and ultimately expelled from the body through the anus.
Colon cancer occurs when cells grow at an abnormal rate inside the colon’s inner lining and become polyps. Over time, the polyps can develop into cancer.
Cancer cells typically begin in the colon’s innermost layer and eventually grow towards the wall. Once there, cancer can potentially spread throughout the blood vessels or lymph nodes.
Patients with colon cancer may experience the following symptoms:
Unexplained weight loss
Blood in the stool
Changes in frequency or size of bowel movements
Loss of appetite
Colon cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the United States. The National Cancer Institute² estimates that around 149,500 Americans are expected to be newly diagnosed with colon cancer by the end of 2021.
A recent report from the American Cancer Society³ revealed that approximately 4.4% of all men and 4.1% of all women are expected to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer at some point during their lifetime. There are currently 1.4 million people living with colon cancer in the United States.
Maintaining a healthy diet can certainly help reduce your risk of having colon cancer later in life. After all, food has the power to either promote or prevent disease. Here are several items you can start eating today to improve your health.
Whole fruits and vegetables
A study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry⁴ revealed that whole foods such as fruits and vegetables contain cancer-fighting macronutrients, vitamins, carotenoids, and flavonoids.
Colorful plants also usually contain bioactive compounds like anthocyanins and phenolic acids that can help with cancer prevention.
If possible, try to eat tree nuts such as walnuts, cashews, almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans. They can prevent colon cancer and other chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes because the nuts can reduce insulin resistance.
Research from Yale University⁵ revealed that people diagnosed with colon cancer who regularly consumed at least two one-ounce servings of nuts per week increased their chances of becoming disease-free by 42% and improved their overall survival rate by 57%.
Pterostilbene⁶, a compound found in blueberries, is a powerful antioxidant with properties that can prevent the development of cancerous cells and inhibit their growth. This delicious cancer-fighting superfood is consistently ranked as the one with the highest levels of antioxidants, closely followed by cranberries, blackberries, and strawberries.
Vitamin B6⁷ has several micronutrients that can potentially reduce the risk of colon cancer. You can either take B6 supplements or add more seeds, bananas, avocados, potatoes, and liver to your meals.
What to avoid
The Cancer Treatment Centers of America⁸ recommends avoiding processed meat, high-fat foods, and red meat since they can increase your chances of developing colon cancer.
Regular colon cancer screenings are still the most effective way to safeguard your health. When you are proactive about your health and eat a low-fat diet filled with nutritious fruits, vegetables, grains, and other whole foods, it may help reduce your risk of being diagnosed with colon cancer and other serious chronic diseases.
A well-balanced diet can significantly improve your quality of life, especially if you avoid smoking tobacco products, exercise regularly, limit your alcohol consumption and adopt other healthy habits.
If you have any concerns, we recommend that you schedule a consultation with a trusted physician.
What Is Colorectal Cancer? | American Cancer Society
Cancer Stat Facts: Colorectal Cancer | NIH: National Cancer Institute
Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures 2020-2022 | American Cancer Society
Colorectal cancer risk factors | Cancer Treatment Centers of America