When it comes to our health, it can be easy to focus solely on our weight or cholesterol levels. However, we often overlook the importance of our colon health. Did you know that at least 18% of all cancers and about 16% of cancer deaths in the US are linked to excess body weight, physical inactivity, alcohol consumption, and poor nutrition, according to the American Cancer Society? This link is why it's important to recognize National Nutrition Month and Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, which occur in March and understand how we can achieve better colon health through nutrition.
The Best Types of Food to Support Good Colon Health
One of the most important things you can do to keep your colon healthy is to eat more fiber-rich foods. Fiber adds volume to your stool, making it easier to pass, and reduces the time that waste spends in the colon. Some of the best sources of fiber include:
- Fruits and vegetables - Try eating the skins if you don't already!
- Whole grains. Try to make at least half of your grain intake into whole grains—Quinoa, barley, farro, oats, brown rice or wild rice.
- Beans and Legumes - These are perfect additions to soups and casseroles.
- Probiotic-Rich Foods - Increase your intake of probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, tempeh, kefir and miso. Probiotic-rich foods foster the growth of gut flora in the colon and can be a tasty addition to many meals!
Remember to incorporate these fiber-rich foods into your diet to promote good colon health.
H2: Nutritional Tips for Your Colon Health
Limit Red Meat
While lean meats like chicken, turkey, and fish can be a healthy protein source, limiting your intake of red meat is essential. Studies have shown that a diet high in red meat can increase the risk of colon cancer. If you need help figuring out where to start with alternative protein sources, consider trying plant-based options like beans, legumes, tempeh, or tofu. A quick internet search or asking a friend for recipe recommendations can help you get started.
Drinking plenty of water can help prevent constipation, a common risk factor for colon cancer. If you're not a fan of plain water, try adding fresh fruit for flavor. On the other hand, limiting your consumption of alcohol can also reduce your risk of colon cancer.
Reduce Your Sugar Intake
Reducing your intake of sugar and sugar-sweetened beverages can ultimately help you make colon-friendly foods more of a priority. Sugary foods and drinks can lead to insulin resistance, increasing your risk of colon cancer over time.
In addition to maintaining a healthy diet, exercise can also help reduce your risk of colon cancer. Regular exercise can keep the bowels steady, relieve constipation, and lower the overall risk of colon cancer. Activities like hiking, running, biking, yoga, kickboxing, and dancing are all great options.
Create a Meal Plan with Nutrition in Mind
Finally, creating a meal plan for the week can help ensure that you're incorporating fiber-rich foods and plant-based proteins into your diet. Preparing meals in advance can also save time and reduce the likelihood of turning to less healthy options when pressed for time. Consider making extra portions for lunch the next day or prepping snacks like fresh fruit and vegetables with Greek yogurt dip for the week. And remember to find a cup or bottle you enjoy drinking your water from, whether it's a straw or a fun design.
Start Your Nutrition and Colon Health Journey
Maintaining a healthy diet high in fiber and low in sugar, red meat, and alcohol while incorporating exercise can go a long way in preventing colon cancer. By taking small steps like swapping red meat for lean protein sources, drinking plenty of water, and creating a meal plan with nutrition in mind, you can prioritize your colon health.
Talk with your primary care doctor about other recommendations for better colon health, including colon cancer screening options.