It’s March, which means it’s both National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and National Nutrition Month. And that’s an apt combination.
A number of healthy diet tips can help lower the risk of colon cancer. And they’re all pretty straightforward.
Eat whole grains
Whole grains are filled with fiber and other healthy nutrients. And eating more of them can help lower the risk of colon cancer. Instead of foods like sugary cereals, white rice, and white bread, choose whole-grain cereals, whole-wheat bread, and brown or wild rice. If you’re not used to eating whole grains, add them to your routine a bit at a time – building up to three or more servings a day. They taste great but can take a bit of getting used to.
Limit red meat, especially processed meat
Eating too much red meat – like steak, hamburger and pork – increases the risk of colon cancer. And processed meats – like bacon, sausage and bologna – raise risk even more. Try to eat no more than three servings each week. Less is even better. Fish, chicken breasts and healthy plant-based proteins (like beans) are great alternatives.
Get enough calcium and vitamin D
There is good evidence that getting enough calcium and vitamin D can help protect against colon cancer. Shoot for 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams per day of calcium and about 1,000 international units (IU) per day of vitamin D.
Consider a multivitamin with folate
In addition to calcium and vitamin D, multivitamins also contain folate, which has been shown
in numerous studies to lower the risk of colon cancer. Avoid mega-dose vitamins. A standard multivitamin is best.
Drink only moderately, if at all
Alcohol is a strange thing when it comes to health. It’s heart-healthy in moderation but can increase the risk of colon and other cancers at even low levels. So what does this mean? If you drink moderately (up to one drink per day for women, two per day for men), there’s likely no reason for you to stop. If you don’t drink, though, there’s no reason for you to start. Heavy drinkers should try to cut down or quit.
Maintain a healthy weight
It’s not exactly a nutrition tip, but it’s closely related. And at least 11 different cancers have been linked to weight gain and obesity, including colon cancer. An ideal goal is to weigh around what you did when you were 18 years old. Realistically, if you’ve put on weight, the first goal is to stop gaining weight, which has health benefits by itself. Then, for a bigger health boost, slowly work to lose some pounds.