Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S.A and colorectal cancer stands out as the second most deadly form of cancer, after lung cancer. Colorectal cancer is the name given to cancer of the colon or (large intestine) or of the rectum which is the last six inches of your digestive system. While medical science has progressed a lot, cancer still remains one of the toughest diseases to fight off. That is why primary prevention- preventing the cancer from forming in the first place- assumes great significance.
Foods reduce colon cancer
While there’s no way to prevent colon cancer completely, it’s heartening to know that you can minimize your risk by maintaining a healthy lifestyle (which includes maintaining a healthy weight, no smoking, drinking in moderation and lots of exercise) and an appropriate colon cancer diet plan. A recent California study suggests that a pesco-vegetarian diet is most helpful in warding off this deadly form of cancer.
Colon cancer diet and nutrition- What’s a pescovegetarian diet?
The study took into account over 77000 adults and categorized them into various sections depending on their diet habits- those consuming a vegetarian diet along with fish (one or more times a month) were called as pescovegetarians. These people were noted to consume other meats sparingly- less than once a month. It was found that such foods help reduce the risk of colon cancer b 43%. The reduction in risk for pescovegetarians is in fact even higher than those who ate a purely vegetarian diet (22%). Overall, a vegetarian or pescovegetarian diet was found to be a better choice to ward off colon cancer than a non-vegetarian diet. Even those who modified their vegetarian diet with fish or meat up to four times a month derived little benefit. Red meat is clearly in the red zone- you’d do best by cutting it off to bare minimum or better still, replace it with other healthier alternatives.
Even when we talk of a vegetarian diet, the question as to what foods prevent colon cancer arises. The study in question noted that their vegetarians not only consumed less meat, but also took less sweets, snack foods, refined grains and caloric beverages- so you could maybe list these among colon cancer foods not to eat. Also, the study noted that their vegetarians ate more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts- so these could be some of the foods that help reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Now the problem with dietary studies in cancer is that while they can show an association between cancer and what’s on your plate, they cannot really establish a connection or provide a cause and effect relationship. The same happens here- while the study identifies a vegetarian/ pescovegetarian diet as a diet that helps reduce colon cancer risk, it doesn’t know why this might be so- the exact connection remains elusive.
Foods that reduce colon cancer risk might work in the following ways:
- Nutrients such as calcium, folate and fiber that plant foods provide may help fight colon cancer.
- Omega 3 fatty acids in fish and vitamin D might be the reason why fish boosts immunity against colon cancer.
- There might be something in red meat, or how it is processed or cooked that could be serving as a trigger for colon cancer or at least supplementing its growth.
Accommodating a colon cancer diet- How to make the change?
For those of you who are strictly non-vegetarian, making the shift may seem tough. But you don’t need to cut down on non vegetarian food completely. Begin by reducing the amount you eat. Doctors suggest no more than two 3-ounce servings of red meat per week. Gradually, shift from basing your meals around pork, beef or red meat to plant-based proteins (you can very well get what your body needs from legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains etc.). Also, it is a good idea to go easy on sugary drinks and snacks that raise blood sugar. If there’s a lot of sugar in your blood, your body is forced to produce more insulin to turn it all into energy- and too much insulin contributes to growth of cancer.