A healthy diet can help ward off colon cancer - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

A healthy diet can help ward off colon cancer

High fiber diets can help reduce the risk of colon cancer. High fiber diets can help reduce the risk of colon cancer.

March is Colon Cancer Awareness month.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the US.  About 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with it each year, and more than 50,000 will die from it. But what you eat can play a big factor in your risk for colon cancer.

You've heard the saying, you are what you eat, and what you eat may affect your risk of getting colon cancer.

"The evidence is clear that a healthy diet, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle really do prevent a lot of chronic disease, including colon cancer," says Allison Appletoft, a registered dietician at St. Luke's Regional Health System.

Appletoft has a few recommendations on what to eat and what not to eat.  She says start with a diet high in fiber.

"Diets that are high in fiber are shown to be inversely affected by colon cancer risk," says Appletoft.

That means stock up on whole grains, nuts, beans, seeds, fruits and veggies.  But that can be easier said than done for some of us.

"Make meals that have vegetables as part of them, like a casserole, or sneaking it in to pastas, lasagnas, or adding them to tacos, pizzas, or anything you have," says Appletoft.  "Just aim to add a little vegetable to it.  Fruit can be chopped on top of cereal, put it in your yogurt, make smoothies, or just eat it as a quick on the go snack."

Cut back on the bacon, sausage, and hot dogs.  Choose lean poultry, fish, and beans.

"Around here it is difficult for people to do and you don't have to give up red meat completely, but aiming to have it less often and trying to increase the intake of some of those other leaner protein sources can really do a lot for your health," says Appletoft.

Also, up your vitamin D intake.  That's found in fatty fish and fortified dairy products, like milk and yogurt.  A supplement can help, too.

"Vitamin D supplements are very safe and easy to find,"  says Appletoft.  "We do recommend it, especially for people living in the northern hemisphere, like we do, we probably aren't getting enough sun exposure to make enough, so it is a good idea to talk to your doctor."

And Appletoft say limit how much alcohol you drink.  Recommendations are one drink a day for women, and two drinks a day for men.

"We recommend knowing what's best for you," says Appletoft.  "Some people might abstain from alcohol, but if you do drink, drink in moderation."

Appletoft says start with small changes to improve your diet.  She says it's never too late to make those healthy lifestyle changes that can help reduce your risk for colon cancer.

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