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We've Got a Gut Feeling These Foods Will Help Your Colon

Want to help prevent colon cancer? It starts with your knife and fork.

You can’t avoid all your risk factors, such as age and family history. However, a healthy diet can strengthen your protection against these types of cancers. It’s a great defensive move and, in the long run, good nutrition will have many additional health benefits and you'll simply feel better and enjoy greater energy.

Here’s the “A List” for reducing colon cancer risk:

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are on just about every “healthy eating” honor roll, but many studies show they get five stars for colon health. These foods provide fiber, which is believed to help keep food moving through the colon and keep you regular. Their high nutrient count may also prevent inflammation and act as antioxidants, removing harmful substances in your colon and throughout the body. Additionally, fiber may reduce your risk of diverticulitis, a painful inflammation involving the large bowel wall. While some people swear by fiber supplements, it’s always best to get most of your nutrients through healthy food consumption, and it’s hard to go wrong with fruits and vegetables like cherries, blueberries, mangoes, kale, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower and spinach.

High Folate Foods

Beans, lentils and peas are fiber-rich (see above) and contain a lot of folate, a B vitamin that protects cell DNA from damage. Some studies suggest that high folate foods may play a role in the fight against cancer because they are essential for forming new cells and tissues as well as keeping red blood cells healthy. Also try spinach, oranges, green peas and asparagus for your daily intake.

Milk and Dairy Products

Yes, dairy products can do your body good when it comes to reducing your risk of colon cancer and other gastrointestinal ailments. A Harvard Medical School review of studies published in the July 2004 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that the calcium in milk appears to reduce the risk of colon cancer. Also, the active bacteria in cultured yogurt helps with gastrointestinal health by maintaining a balance of good bacteria and helping prevent the conversion of bile into bile acid, which could have carcinogenic properties. However, whole milk is high in saturated fat, so opt for low or non-fat products.

Garlic

Eating garlic may not help your social life, but it can help with colon cancer prevention. The protective effects from garlic may come from its antibacterial properties or from its ability to block the formation of cancer-causing substances, stop activation of cancer-causing substances, enhance DNA repair, reduce cell proliferation, and induce cell death. If you cook with garlic, crush cloves first, then let them stand for a few minutes to allow the therapeutic compounds to form. Also, onions have been found to have healthy effects similar to garlic.

Fish

Red meats which are rich in saturated fats are a “no go” when it comes to trying to prevent colon cancer. Studies show these foods may increase the growth of cancer cells and prevent cell death in cancer that has spread. If you can’t go full-on vegetarian or vegan, try fish. And not all fish are the same. Fatty fish such as salmon or mackerel provide more omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation in the gut.

Other studies show that turmeric, high-fiber whole grains and cruciferous vegetables are also great for colon health.

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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