From OHC

March 19, 2024

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both women and men in the U.S., excluding skin cancers.  While the rate of people being diagnosed has dropped each year, according to the American Cancer Society, individuals younger than 55 years of age are experiencing an increase.  In 2021, the recommended screening age changed from 50 to 45 years old due to this trend.

At OHC, we believe in the power of knowledge and its role in reducing your risk of cancer.  There are several things you can do to reduce your risk, including nutrition and lifestyle choices such as exercise, weight control, and minimizing alcohol consumption.  Multiple studies published by the National Institutes of Health suggest that foods included in the Mediterranean Diet have a direct impact on reducing colon cancer risk because of their richness in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, healthy fats, and plenty of fiber.  These attributes have been shown to reduce inflammation in the digestive system, as well as support heart health.

Whenever you are considering making big lifestyle changes, including diet, focus on small, sustainable steps that can gradually transform your life. Remember, even minor adjustments can have a positive impact.

What Should I Eat?

Because of the geographical layout of the Mediterranean Sea community, their diet is rich in seafood, vegetables, and healthy fats, while Westernized society tends to push a diet higher in red and processed meats, starchy sides, and sweet desserts.  Embracing the eating habits of this group of people could help reduce your risk of cancer and promote a healthy heart diet.

Imagine a vibrant plate bursting with the colors of the Mediterranean – tomatoes, green olives, and purple eggplant with fresh herbs and fish. This is a glimpse into the Mediterranean diet.

Here’s what makes the Mediterranean diet a good choice for overall health:

  • Abundant fruits and vegetables: Aim for a rainbow on your plate! These colorful gems are packed with antioxidants and fiber, both of which play a crucial role in colon health. Examples would include broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, carrots, sweet potatoes, and turnips, as well as apples, bananas, oranges, strawberries, and melons.
    • Tips: All fruits and veggies are safe but eat berries and other high-sugar fruits like bananas in moderation.
  • Whole grains: Swap refined carbs for whole-wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa, and barley. These complex carbohydrates provide sustained energy and keep you feeling fuller for longer.
    • Tips: Try keeping your intake of white bread, white pasta, tortillas, and chips to an absolute minimum. There are plenty of nutritional whole-grain replacements available if you have a craving.
  • Healthy fats: Olive oil, avocado oil, nuts, and seeds are rich in monounsaturated fats, which have anti-inflammatory properties and contribute to heart health. Not all nuts and seeds are the same, but some excellent examples would be almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
    • Tips: Swap out your corn oil, vegetable oil, and canola oil for olive oil. Try to limit the salt intake of the nuts you are eating.
  • Lean protein: Choose fish, poultry (chicken, duck, turkey), and beans (soybeans, dry beans) as your primary protein sources. Limit red meat and processed meats, which have been linked to an increased risk of colon cancer.
    • Tips: Limit your intake of beef, pork, processed meats (hot dogs, bacon, ham, deli meats), and eggs to very small amounts with low frequency.
  • Limited dairy: Enjoy yogurt and cheese in moderation, opting for low-fat options whenever possible.
    • Tips: Replace your high-sugar yogurt for Greek yogurt, seasoned with berries or granola. Avoid processed cheeses and butter and change out your cow’s milk for almond or oat milk.
  • Herbs and spices: Substitute the saltshaker with the aromatic world of herbs and spices. They add flavor without the sodium overload.
    • Tips: There are no herbs and spices to avoid, so experiment with what tastes good with different foods.
  • Water: Stay hydrated! Aim for eight glasses of water daily to keep things moving smoothly in your digestive system.
    • Tips: Try to eliminate high-sugar drinks like soda, Gatorade, energy drinks, and sweet tea from your diet. At the very least, limit them to once or twice a week.

How Do I Start?

It is hard to start anything new, and a new way of eating is no different.  Taking small, actionable steps is the best way to begin prioritizing your colon and overall health.  Here are our tips:

  • Start your day with a twist: Add berries and chopped nuts to yogurt or swap your morning toast for whole-wheat pita bread with hummus and sliced tomatoes.
  • Make lunch light and bright: Pack a salad with grilled chicken, quinoa, and a drizzle of olive oil for a refreshing midday meal. Packing your lunch limits the temptation for fast food convenience.
  • Snack smart: Replace the chips and cookies with a handful of almonds or walnuts, a piece of fresh fruit, or an avocado on whole wheat toast.
  • Strive for fish twice a week: Salmon, tuna, and mackerel are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, known for their anti-inflammatory benefits. Fresh is best, but frozen is typically more affordable.
  • Swap sugar for sweetness: Add a touch of honey to your yogurt, or snack on naturally sweet fruits instead of sugary treats.
  • Cook at home: This gives you control over ingredients and portion sizes. Experiment with Mediterranean recipes and discover exciting flavor combinations.

Remember, progress, not perfection, is key. Celebrate every small victory, be it incorporating an extra serving of vegetables or choosing lean protein over red meat. Each day, instead of your usual afternoon sweet treat, have strawberries or a seasonal fruit.  These small steps make a big difference in helping you create new habits.  OHC is here to support you on your journey towards a healthier, colon-friendly diet.

Together, let’s make positive changes, one delicious bite at a time. Your gut (and your health) will thank you for it.

To learn more about colon cancer, visit ohcare.com.

In you are interested in learning more about the Mediterranean diet, we recommend these resources:

https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/mediterranean-diet

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mediterranean-diet-meal-plan#menu-and-recipes

https://diet.mayoclinic.org/us/blog/2022/why-is-the-mediterranean-diet-so-good-for-you/

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