Many Americans are aware of which foods are heart-healthy, but they often don't think about cooking for their colons. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in men and women in the United States and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths. So it is just as important to understand how to choose colon-friendly foods. Lynn Goldstein, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., from the Jay Monahan Center at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, has assembled her key tips on the best food choices for a healthier colon:
Choose Non-Red, Non-Processed Meat Sources of Lean Protein
o Choose poultry, fish, eggs, soy products, beans, and whole grains for the healthiest protein sources.
o Limit your red meat intake to special occasions like the summer barbecue or a great steak restaurant.
Choose a Rainbow of Vegetables and Fruits
o Vegetables and fruits of all colors are loaded with anti-cancer, immune-system-strengthening properties. Eat a rainbow!
Increase Your Fiber Intake
o Fiber is found in plant foods only, and is needed for healthy gut function.
o Choose whole-grain breads, cereals, pasta and rice.
o Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables; Add beans, peas and lentils to salads.
o Be sure to increase your water intake when increasing fiber in your diet.
Calcium Is Not Just Important for Healthy Bones
o Calcium intake has been shown to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.
o Calcium can be found in a wide variety of foods including low-fat dairy products or skim milk, dark green vegetables, soy and tofu products, canned salmon and sardines, and fortified foods such as orange juice.
o Get more calcium by having almonds, cottage cheese, or yogurt as a snack.
o Talk with your doctor about whether a calcium supplement is right for you.
Vitamin D, the Sunshine Vitamin
o Vitamin D aids in the body's absorption of calcium, and has been shown to play a role in colorectal cancer prevention.
o Get outside! Vitamin D is derived mainly from sunlight, but can also be found in cooked salmon/mackerel/sardines, fortified milk, and eggs.
o Vitamin D may be obtained via vitamin D3 supplements; many calcium supplements also contain Vitamin D3.
o Folic acid (folate) is an essential B vitamin, and may reduce your risk of colorectal cancer.
o It's easy to incorporate folic acid into your diet. Try adding lentils, collard greens, chickpeas, asparagus, broccoli or peas to your meal, or try including strawberries, papaya or oranges in your dessert.
Drink Plenty of Water!
o Most people need at least 1 to 2 liters of water/day and more if you exercise.
o Check with your doctor if you have a condition, such as kidney disease or congestive heart failure, that may require a restriction in your fluid intake.
o Just 30 minutes most days the week of moderate to vigorous exercise will start you on your way to a healthier you!
o Check with your doctor to plan an activity program that is right for you.