Protecting yourself from colorectal cancer—the third most common cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined—starts on your plate.
Some risk factors for colorectal cancer, like our age and genetics, are outside of our control. But other risk factors are within our power to improve or change, says Anand Kishore, M.D., with Carilion Clinic Gastroenterology. This includes our everyday diet (as well as physical activity, weight, tobacco usage and alcohol consumption).
“A diet that’s heavy in red and processed meats is associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer,” notes Dr. Kishore. “High-fructose corn syrup may also be a risk factor.” He recommends limiting or eliminating these from your diet.
On the other hand, says Dr. Kishore, “Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, fiber, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products can help protect against colorectal cancer.”
Getting more food sources of vitamin D could help as well, since low blood levels of vitamin D may increase your risk, according to the American Cancer Society.
And since obesity is a risk factor, you can help keep your colon healthy by getting the nutrients you need within the calorie range that's right for you—and by starting a regular exercise habit. If you need help managing your weight, talk with your health care provider.
Putting It All Together
So, what does a colon-friendly menu look like in practice—and on your plate? It looks pretty tasty, if you ask us!
First, add these colon-friendly foods to your grocery list to get started:
- Colorful, high-fiber fruits (like apples, avocados, bananas, mangos and raspberries)
- Colorful, high-fiber vegetables (like broccoli, Brussel sprouts, carrots, celery and spinach)
- Legumes (like black beans, chickpeas, cannellini beans, kidney beans and lentils)
- Whole grains (like brown rice, oats, and whole wheat)
- Low-fat or non-fat dairy products (or other calcium-rich foods like almonds and tofu if you don't eat dairy)
- Chicken and turkey, and/or plant-based proteins like tofu (to replace red and processed meats)
- Wild-caught salmon and canned tuna (to replace red and processed meats; good food sources of vitamin D)
Then, get meal plan inspiration from these mix-and-matchable ideas (click or tap through for recipes):
A quick and refreshing way to get your daily dose of fruits and veggies.
Start your morning with something like this, instead of processed cereals with high-fructose corn syrups.
This simple (simply delicious) soup makes it easy to follow the Mediterranean diet, which can help protect against cancer.
Instead of processed deli meats, try this spicy tuna salad on your sandwich—it's anything but a basic lunch.
Incorporating more fish into your diet is easy with these no-grill-needed kebabs.
Meat-free and chock-full of fiber.
You won't miss red-meat burgers or processed hot dogs when you swap them out for something this fresh and flavorful—promise!
Solve the occasional sweets craving with a homemade dessert featuring whole wheat, fresh fruits and no high-fructose syrups.
*In moderation, of course!