‘ An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’, so the proverb goes. So why wait to be cured of colon cancer when something as simple as your diet and proper care of the bowel can prevent it in the first place? Studies have proven that a vegetarian diet, and even more so a pescatarian diet can lower the risk of colon cancer. Studies have shown that those who eat a vegetarian diet have a 22%, and pescatarian’s a 43% lower risk of colon cancer, than those who eat red meat. That is to say that a vegetarian and pescatarian diet are associated with a lower risk of colon cancer, not that the diet causes the lower risk. However, prior evidence has connected the eating of red meat to a 40% higher risk of developing colon cancer. There is no evidence as of yet explaining why this is. As such, it is not yet known whether there is something in meat that is harmful or if there is something in vegetables or a vegetarian diet that is protective against colon cancer.
A vegetarian diet may decrease insulin and insulin-like growth factors, which are two hormones linked to colon cancer. Moreover, eating more plant-based food provides extra nutrients like calcium, folate, and fiber that may protect against colon cancer. In terms of a pescatarian diet, fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which may be anti-inflammatory. Fish is also one of the few natural dietary sources of vitamin D, a vitamin that has also been linked to a lower risk of colon cancer.
A Plant Based Approach to Diet and Colon Cancer
Should you decide to cut out red meat, it is best to do so gradually. Start by adding more plant-based proteins to your diet like legumes, seeds and nuts and lower your intake of red meat. Build your meals around plant-based proteins and a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables. If you find that you cannot cut out meat entirely, it is advised to restrict your weekly intake to a maximum of 85 grams. It is also advisable to consult a dietitian who can help you construct a sustainable vegetarian lifestyle for optimum nutrition.
As a starting point in preventing colon cancer, you should add certain foods to your diet. Firstly, antioxidants are important for combating potentially dangerous substances called free radicals, the by-product of oxygen used by every cell in the body. Free radicals are harmful as they damage cells through oxidization. The body is able to fight free radicals and repair the damage, and antioxidants reinforce this process. Foods that are good sources of antioxidants include certain teas, vegetables and fruit.
Secondly, links between folic acid and its necessity in forming new cells and tissues, as well as keeping red blood cells healthy already exist. More recently though, studies suggest that folic acid may help in the prevention of colon cancer. Green leafy vegetables and citrus fruits are good sources of folic acid.
Next, Calcium and Vitamin D have been proven to ward off colon cancer. Good sources of calcium include milk, cheese, yoghurt, dark green leafy vegetables and salmon. Vitamin D can be found in egg yolks, milk, and salmon as well as from the sun.
Lastly, fiber is thought to be a powerful weapon in the fight against colon cancer. Fiber can be found in whole-grain cereals or breads, legumes, brown rice, fresh fruit and vegetables, berries and prunes. In addition it is important to promotes bowel health by:
– reducing straining during elimination
– empty bowels completely by aligning the colon and rectum
In sum, it is important to choose most of the foods that you eat from plant sources, limit your intake of red and processed meant, limit your consumption of alcohol and maintain a healthy weight in order to prevent colon cancer with your diet and keep your bowel healthy by correctly eliminating.