Nutrition to Prevent Colorectal Cancer

Melina Conrad, Dietetic Intern

Nutrition affects cancer risk, and many people want to eat healthier because of this relationship. Colorectal cancers have strong relationships to dietary habits, so why should we be concerned with colorectal cancer? New diagnoses of colorectal cancer have been rising among adults under 55.

Dietitians are frequently asked “what foods should I eat and what foods should I avoid?” Honestly, everyone’s dietary habits are different and what one dietitian may suggest for one person may not work for you. Here is a list of proven habits to begin or kick to the curb to decrease the risk of developing colorectal cancer.

  1. Consume a diet that’s low in red meats (beef, pork, lamb, or liver) and processed meats (hot dogs, bacon, sausage, salami, luncheon meats, Spam, etc.). Try swapping out some red meat during the week with chicken or turkey, or try a plant based option, like a black bean burger.
  2. Avoid frying, broiling, or grilling meats as this creates chemicals (heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) that can cause changes in DNA, leading to increased cancer risk. Grilling vegetables does not generate the same chemicals that grilling meat does, so don’t throw away that grill.
  3. Limit alcohol consumption to the recommended 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women. An example of a recommended drink serving size is a 5 oz. glass of wine.
  4. Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is linked to increased colorectal cancer risk, as well as numerous other cancers. A healthy diet filled with fruits and vegetables, as well as increased physical activity, can aid in maintaining a healthy weight. So, try to get up off the couch and enjoy the warm summer weather by walking.
  5. Increase foods that contain dietary fiber (both soluble and insoluble), such as whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Brussel sprouts are an example of a vegetable high in fiber that can be prepared a variety of different ways, like on the grill as mentioned before.

With summer on the horizon start with one easy switch of red meat to white meat when you light up the grill. With these diet and lifestyle tips, colorectal cancer risks will decrease and you’ll maybe even find some new fun foods to enjoy with the whole family.


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