By Jennifer Benedetto, MS, RD, LD at LMC
Did you know that diet and lifestyle contributes to 50% of all colon cancers? Since March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month, here are some prevention tips:
-Limit red meat consumption. According to the American Cancer Society, your risk of colon cancer increases by 15-20% if you consume 100g of red meat (a small hamburger) or 50 g of processed meats (bacon, sausage, hot dogs) per day. Red meat contains heme iron which has been linked to cellular damage that can increase risk. Red and processed meats also stimulate the production of N- nitroso carcinogenic compounds in the body. Red meat cooked at high temperatures produces heterocyclic amines which are known to be carcinogenic. Limit red meat intake to 2, four ounce servings (about the size of a deck of cards) of red meat per week. Consume processed meats rarely since they contain preservatives (including nitrates) that can be carcinogenic.
-Avoid alcohol. The body converts alcohol to acetylaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Alcohol also can impair the body’s ability to repair DNA damage, increasing risk. If you choose to consume alcohol, limit intake to 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men.
-Fill up on fiber. There is convincing evidence that dietary fiber protects against colon cancer. Obtaining a majority of your calories from minimally processed plant foods improves colon health. Fiber includes all parts of plant foods that the body is unable to digest or absorb. Whole plant foods contain a variety of types of fiber. Consuming a variety of fibers is recommended to gain health benefits. Boosting your fiber intake is easy, but should be done slowly. radually increasing fiber intake will decrease the risk of digestive discomfort. The Institute of Medicine recommends 38 g fiber/day for men under the age of 50 years old and 25 g for women in this age group. Adult men over the age of 50 years old should consume 30 g per day, and women 21 g/day. It is unclear if processed foods with added fiber have the same benefits as whole plant foods. Since whole plant foods contain other beneficial phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals, it may be best to get your fiber from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds.
-Power up with Prebiotics. Prebiotics are soluble fibers that are fermented in the colon to provide fuel to the good bacteria in the gut. Prebiotics allow these good bacteria to grow and flourish. Colon bacteria rely on prebiotics to make substances that maintain the health of our colon. It has been proposed that these fibers and the fermentation process prevent colon cells from becoming cancerous. Well researched prebiotic soluble fibers include inulin and oligofructose (FOS). These substances are found in plant foods including wild yams and other root vegetables, wheat, onions, garlic, bananas, leeks artichokes and yicama.
-Watch your weight. Excess body fat increases your risk of colon and other types of cancer. Overweight or obese individuals have higher insulin levels, which can promote tumor growth. Obesity creates a pro-inflammatory environment which can promote cancer. Being active can help regulate insulin levels and decrease inflammation.