Cancer that originates in the final part of the digestive tract or colon is called colon or colorectal cancer. Colon cancer commonly affects older adults but can occur at any age. This cancer typically begins as a small, noncancerous growth, also called a polyp, on the inside of the colon. Gradually, such benign polyps can turn cancerous. Colon polyps hardly produce any symptoms and often remain undiagnosed. This is why doctors recommend regular fecal testing and colonoscopy to help identify polyps and remove them before they become colon cancer.
Apart from regular screening, colon cancer chances can be reduced by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, avoiding processed foods and red meat, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, and consuming a nutrient-rich diet.
For proper bowel movement, dietary fibers are essential. Omega 3-fatty acids, calcium, vitamin D, and other minerals and vitamins can prevent cancer cells from growing. Fiber is also essential as it aids regular bowel movement and helps limit the build-up of bacteria. The following are some food groups that might help maintain colon health and prevent polyp or cancer from forming:
1) Oily Fish
Oily or fatty fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Including such fish in your diet helps reduce inflammation in the body, maintains heart health, and may slow cancer cell growth. Individuals who avoid eating red meat and eat fish are less likely to get colon cancer. Prefer eating baked or smoked salmon, sardines, and tuna, as they also provide vitamin D and calcium. Limit swordfish, shark, and king mackerel, as the content of mercury and other pollutants are high, which might harm your health in the long run.
2) Colorful Fruits and Vegetables
Phytochemicals, natural substances with antioxidant action, are abundantly present in colorful fruits and vegetables. These chemicals block the growth of cancer cells and reduce inflammation. Inflammation in the colon can trigger cancer growth. The high fiber content in fresh vegetables and fruits also prevents constipation and lowers the risk of polyps and hemorrhoids. Apples, blueberries, oranges, raspberries, etc., have good fiber content. Make sure to fill two-thirds of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli, lettuce, kale, cabbage, carrots, celery, okra, spinach, and cauliflower.
3) White Meat
Your muscles need protein for growth and development. Red meats like beef, lamb, and pork might be rich in protein, but they are bad for your colon. The exact cause is not known, but studies show that regular consumption of red meat increases your chances of getting colorectal cancer. Instead of red meat, try healthier white meat alternatives, such as skinless chicken, duck, turkey, etc. Also, stay clear of meats preserved with chemicals or salt (bacon, sausages, ham, salami, etc.).
4) Whole Grains
Whole grains like oatmeal, barley, quinoa, and brown rice, are not only rich in fiber but also packed with nutrients like magnesium. They help regulate bowel emptying and prevent constipation. Constipated patients are at a higher risk of developing polyps and other growths in the colon or rectum.
Tree nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, pecans, and macadamia nuts, are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, flavonoids (plant pigments possessing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties), and fiber. One or two handfuls of nuts a week also help maintain blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, which is also a risk factor for colon cancer.
6) Beans and Legumes
Most of us know that beans and legumes are a good source of fiber and protein. But, beans are also rich in vitamin B, vitamin E, and flavonoids, that keep your colon protected and also reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels. All of these actions reduce your risk of colon cancer. Remember to include soybeans, kidney beans, lentils, peas, etc., in your diet.
Some studies show that including calcium in your diet lowers the risk of colon polyp and cancer. This is why consumption of calcium-rich dairy products is a must. You can also consult a doctor, ask them the ideal dosage for you, and take calcium supplements. Dairy products and milk fortified with vitamin D are much better options.
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