March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month, and one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself is to follow a diet that promotes good colon health. Fortunately, eating for colon health doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s what you should know.
Basic Nutrition for Colon Health
Body weight matters. Boosting your colon health starts with living an overall healthier lifestyle. According to Northwestern University’s Northwestern Medicine, 13 different cancers, including colon cancer, are linked to obesity. Reducing your body weight by as little as 5%, if appropriate for you, could have dramatic health benefits, including colon protection.
Regular exercise is also important. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise 5 days per week for average adults.
Do the math. Learn how many calories you should consume each day. For the average adult, a rough estimate is 2,000 calories. But you might need more or less depending on your age, height, weight, gender, and other factors. You can get personalized recommendations at the US Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate Plan website. Remember, to lose weight, you need to expend more calories than you consume. To gain weight, you need to consume more calories than you expend.
What you eat also matters. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends limiting your consumption of red meat to just 18 ounces per week and saving processed deli meats for occasional treats. You’ll also want to limit your alcohol intake, increase your fiber, and eat the rainbow of fruits and vegetables.
What to Eat?
If you’re not sure what to eat for colon health, try these tips:
Experiment with lean proteins such as eggs, legumes, chicken, and fish.
Aim for 38 grams of fiber per day (men) or 25 grams per day (women). Add fiber slowly to reduce the risk of such temporary side effects as gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
Drink plenty of water, which helps fiber move smoothly through your system, keeping your colon working properly.
Eat fermented foods such as yogurt and kimchi, which contain natural probiotics. Yogurt is also high in calcium and Vitamin D, which can help prevent colon polyps.
Get at least five servings per day of colorful fruits and vegetables.
Indulge in fatty fish such as salmon, packed with Omega-3s that are believed to lower the risk of colon cancer.
Substitute oatmeal instead of breakfast cereal to boost your calcium, fiber, and Vitamin D intake.
Cook with olive oil. This staple of the Mediterranean diet can help lower the risk of multiple cancers, including colon cancer.
Cut your alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per day (women) or two drinks per day (men).
Understand portion sizes, which vary according to the type of food. You might be surprised to learn that you’re eating way too much of certain foods and not nearly enough of others.
Eating for colon health is very similar to eating for other health benefits. The overall goal is to get plenty of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and healthy fats. You’ll also want to curb your consumption of processed foods, red meat, and other less-healthy options. But don’t be afraid to indulge in occasional treats. As long as you are mostly eating for colon health, there is nothing wrong with eating a hot dog now and then.