The Connection between Food and Colon Cancer How to decrease risk, increase health

Food matters — a lot. According to the American Cancer Society®, diets that are high in vegetables, fruits and whole grains (and low in red and processed meats) have been linked with lower colorectal cancer risk. Some studies suggest that fiber in the diet may also lower colorectal cancer risk. 

On the other hand, excess alcohol and a sedentary lifestyle may increase the risk for colorectal cancer and long-term smoking has already been linked to an increased risk in colorectal cancer. 

“The general recommendation is to avoid processed foods as much as possible,” says Registered Dietitian Rosalind Elemy, MA, RDN, CSO. “An intake of even two hot dogs a day can increase the risk of colorectal cancer by 16 percent.”

“The best bet is to follow a mostly plant-based diet with very lean sources of protein, probably the most protective from a dietary standpoint,” continues Elemy. “Studies are finding that obesity is a risk factor for many cancers, including colorectal cancer. A person’s body mass index should be 25 or less.”

Maintaining a healthy diet is key for maintaining good weight status. There is evidence that increased weight can be a risk factor for several cancers, particularly breast cancer in post-menopausal women. Colon, rectal, esophageal, prostate and kidney cancers can all be associated with increased body weight. According to the World Health Organization, at least one third of all cancer deaths are estimated to be related to lifestyle choices. 

Getting enough fiber in one’s diet is also very important. Most plant foods have soluble and/or insoluble fiber, both of which are important for maintaining optimal colon health. In general, women should consume 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day, and men, 30 to 35 grams. For more specific information about fiber intake, see Healthy Options on page XX.

What to eat
A general guideline for good nutrition includes:

*Two and a half cups (five to nine servings) of fresh fruits and vegetables each day
*Lean sources of protein, especially fish like wild salmon; avoid red meats and processed meats (nitrates may be a risk for gastric cancer)
*Lean sources of dairy: skim milk; non-fat, plain Greek yogurt
*Whole grains
*Nuts like almonds or walnuts, a handful as a serving size
*Oils such as olive oil 
*Avocados are an excellent source of healthy fat and fiber

For those with a sweet tooth, the recommendation is fresh fruit or dried fruit, such as figs or dates (two to four dried figs or dates per day). 

Write out a weekly menu
One strategy for maintaining good nutrition is to plan weekly menus. Keep a well-stocked pantry of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and legumes, as well as fresh and dried herbs and spices. 

Nutritional counseling
Nutrition counseling is available through the introductory cancer class at Eisenhower Lucy Curci Cancer Center. Individual counseling with a certified oncology Registered Dietitian is available with a physician’s referral, or patients already receiving treatment at the Cancer Center may self-refer. For more information, call 760.674.3602.


Banana Avocado Bran Muffin 

Make ahead for a quick breakfast or healthy snack.

Contributed by Rosalind Elemy, MA, RDN, CSO

Serves 12

Heat oven to 375 degrees F

1 cup flour, whole wheat 
1 cup wheat bran
1 teaspoon baking soda 
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup mashed banana — approximately 1to 2 large
1 small avocado, mashed
1 egg
¼ cup light brown sugar or sugar substitute
½ cup chopped walnuts or chopped dates, optional

Mix banana and avocado together before adding egg and sugar. Blend dry ingredients: flour, bran, baking soda and cinnamon. Combine dry ingredients with banana and avocado mixture, stirring lightly. Add nuts or chopped dates if desired.

Spoon batter into muffin tins coated with vegetable oil or into cupcake liners. Bake for 15 minutes or until muffin springs back when touched lightly.

Nutrition information per muffin
Calories: 133
Protein: 4 grams
Carbohydrates: 21 grams  
Added sugars: 4 grams
Fat: 6 grams
Dietary fiber: 5 grams