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Foods You Should Eat to Avoid Colon Cancer

Sara Suchy Sep 27th, 2012 (updated Jun 16th, 2015)
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What you eat may play a role in preventing cancer. Research suggests diets low in fruit and vegetables and high in meat poses a risk for colon cancer. Eat plenty of greens and fruits to lower your risk. Here are some tips on what you should eat.

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Eat the rainbow
Eat the rainbow

Many studies have demonstrated the cancer-fighting effects of plant chemicals called phytochemicals. Fruits and vegetables that contain phytochemicals can often be identified by colors. Eat dark greens, red fruit, and berries.

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Dark greens
Dark greens

Dark green: broccoli, spinach, kale, collard greens, mustard greens. These vegetables contain chemicals called isothiocyanates, which have been associated with a lower risk for cancer in general.

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Red fruits
Red fruits

Red: red pepper, tomatoes, watermelon, raspberries, pink grapefruit. Lycopene is a chemical found in these foods that may have strong cancer-protective properties. Cooking tomatoes appears to increase their benefits.

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Yellow/orange fruits & veggies
Yellow/orange fruits & veggies

Yellow-orange: carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, oranges, tangerines. The colors in these foods are due to carotenoids. Carotenoids have been associated with health protection, although they may not have much effect on colon cancer itself.

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Berries
Berries

Blue-black: assorted berries. Dark berries appear to have potent chemicals that may be protective against cancer. In one animal study, extracts from black raspberries reduced colon cancer tumors in rats.

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Garlic
Garlic

Organosulfurs are important food chemicals that are part of the allium family. Studies have reported health benefits from foods containing them. These compounds are found in garlic, leeks, onions, chives, scallions, and shallots.

 

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Fiber
Fiber

 Studies have been mixed on whether fiber (found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains) protects from colon cancer. Major studies in 2002 and 2003 reported no difference in the development of cancer recurrence with high intake of fiber. But, other studies are positive. A 2003 study - the largest study ever conducted on the role of diet in the development of cancer - suggested fiber is protective.

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Healthy fats and oil
Healthy fats and oil

The role of fats in inflammatory bowel disease is complex and not fully known. A 2006 Women’s Health Initiative study found a low-fat diet did not reduce the risk for colorectal cancer. But, the study did not distinguish between types of fat. Monounsaturated (olive, peanut, canola oils; avocados, nuts) and omega-3 polyunsaturated (fish, flaxseed oil, walnuts) fats are the healthiest types.
 

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Coffee and tea
Coffee and tea

Studies conducted in several countries have found that drinking four or more cups of coffee a day is associated with a lower risk for colorectal cancer. Green tea may have beneficial properties, but more research is needed in both of these areas.

 

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Folate and vitamin B
Folate and vitamin B

There is evidence that the B vitamin folate (called folic acid) is protective. Both folate and vitamin B12 convert the amino acid homocysteine to methionine, a chemical that protects certain genes that help prevent cells from becoming cancerous. Folate is found in beans, citrus fruits, and green vegetables.

 

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Antioxidant supplements
Antioxidant supplements

Antioxidants are chemicals that help eliminate harmful particles called oxygen-free radicals that have been associated with cancerous changes. Some studies have associated supplements of the antioxidants selenium and vitamins A, C, D, and E with lower colon cancer risk, but most studies have found no protective effect.

 

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