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Guide to Preventing Colon Cancer   ( Home | Diet | Foods | Recipes )

20 Foods That Help Prevent Colon Cancer and Rectal Cancer

colon cancer preventing foods

This section of HealWithFood.org's Guide to Preventing Colon Cancer presents 20 superfoods for combating colon cancer and rectal cancer. For more general information on nutrition and colorectal cancer, visit the Guide's home page. For healthy recipes that combine some of the most potent colon cancer fighting foods, visit the Guide's recipe page.

#1: Ginger

Ginger, one of the oldest spices in the world, is well known for its cold treating powers, but research suggests that it may also help reduce the risk of colon cancer. In one study, laboratory animals who received gingerol were found to have significantly fewer tumors and smaller tumors than animals in the control group. Gingerol is the main active compound in ginger. Fresh ginger, which is said to be the most effective form of ginger, is available year round in the produce section of supermarkets.

#2: Barley

The dietary fiber in barley increases bulk, softens stool, and shortens the transit time of fecal matter, thereby decreasing the risk of colon cancer. In addition, barley's fiber feeds the friendly bacteria in the large intestine, helping these bacteria to produce a short chain fatty acid called butyric acid, which helps maintain a healthy gut and prevent colon cancer. What's more, barley is loaded with selenium, with a mere cup of cooked barley containing more than 50% of the daily value for this trace mineral. A sufficient intake of selenium can greatly reduce your risk of developing colon cancer. Whole grain or hulled barley, the most fiber-rich and nutrient-dense type, is still relatively difficult to find in regular shops, but it is readily available through online vendors, such as these ones.

Beets are rich in betacyanin, a potent colon cancer fighting phytochemical.

#3: Beets

Munching on red beets is a great way to reduce your risk of colon cancer. The fiber found in abundance in beetroots reduces the time the stool spends in the intestines, thereby limiting the colon's exposure to potential carcinogens. Also the green leafy tops of beets are edible and high in fiber, so don't throw them away — they can be cooked like spinach. In addition, several studies have shown that betacyanin, a phytochemical compound responsible for beets' intense purple color, is highly effective at fighting cancer, particularly colon cancer. To maximize beets' cancer-fighting properties, cook them only lightly. Research suggests their anti-cancer activity is reduced by heat.

#4: Organic Red Peppers

Red peppers contain plenty of carotenoids, including beta-carotene and lycopene, which may help reduce the risk of colon cancer. But that's hardly their only colon cancer fighting feature. Red peppers are also a good source of N-acetylcysteine (NAC), a natural compound that has been found to have anti-cancer properties. A preliminary double-blind, placebo-controlled study with 62 participants, each of whom had had a colon polyp removed, found that those invididuals who were given 800 mg NAC daily had more normal cells in the biopsied rectum tissue than those in the placebo group. In addition to carotenoids and NAC, bell peppers contain some folate. When buying peppers, it is important to choose organically grown produce as conventionally grown peppers are at the top of the list of vegetables that contain the highest levels of pesticides and other harmful chemicals.

#5: Blueberries

Blueberries contain pterostilbene, an extraordinary colon cancer combating compound.

Blueberries are one of the greatest health foods of all time and a great anti-cancer food. One animal study found that a compound called pterostilbene in blueberries can help prevent colon cancer. In this study, nine rats with colon cancer consumed a balanced diet including pterostilbene and another group of nine rats with colon cancer were fed a balanced diet with no pterostilbene. After the eight-week study period, the group who received the blueberry extract had 57% fewer pre-cancerous lesions in the colon compared to the control group. Also in vitro studies have found blueberries to be effective at inhibiting colon cancer cell proliferation and inducing cancer cell apoptosis.

#6: Papaya

Originally from Central America, the papaya plant is today cultivated in most tropical countries. Termed as the "fruit of the angels" by Christopher Columbus, papaya is a true nutritional powerhouse. It is one of the best fruit sources of vitamin C (even better than oranges), but it also contains carotenoids and folate. Further, the fiber in papaya has been found to bind carcinogens in the colon and keep them away from the healthy colon cells. As an additional bonus, papaya is typically low in pesticides.

The low incidence of colon cancer among Eskimos may be attributable to the high amount of salmon they eat.

#7: Salmon

Salmon is packed with omega-3 fatty acids which may provide protection against colon cancer. Eskimos, whose diet is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, have a low rate of colorectal cancer. Also laboratory studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids can prevent worsening of colon cancer. In addition to omega-3s, salmon contains another interesting anti-cancer nutrient: astaxanthin. Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to scavenge free radicals. To get the most astaxanthin, choose wild salmon which appears to have much higher levels of astaxanthin than farmed salmon. Furthermore, wild salmon contains only low levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), harmful chemicals that are often found in high quantities in farmed salmon. That said, moderation should be the key also in the consumption of wild salmon. Too frequent/high a consumption of salmon and other fish may predispose you to an excessive exposure to certain toxins (e.g. mercury and pesticides). The FDA recommends eating fish twice a week, but not more often.

#8: Carrots

Most people know that carrots are good for our eyes, but did you know that they are also an excellent anti-cancer vegetable? Carrots contain falcarinol — a compound that has been shown to inhibit the development of colon cancer. Researchers found that precancerous lesions were much smaller in rats that received carrots (or falcarinol) than in the control animals. Furthermore, rats that were fed carrots or falcarinol were much less likely to develop full-scale tumors. To get the most falcarinol, eat your carrots raw or steamed. If you steam or boil them, it is best to keep them whole during steaming and chop them only afterwards; this helps the vegetables retain nutrients such as falcarinol. One study found that carrots that were boiled before cutting contained 25% more falcarinol than carrots that were cut before cooking.

#9: Okra

Don't be put off by okra's somewhat slimy texture — this extraordinary plant native to West Africa is an amazing functional food for maintaining a healthy colon. The okra fiber reduces the time the stool spends in the intestines, thereby limiting the colon's exposure to potential carcinogens. It also binds existing carninogens in the intestines and absorbs bile acids which could trigger certain bacteria to produce cancer-causing subtances. The okra fiber also promotes the proliferation of healthy bacteria in the intestines, leaving less room for harmful bacteria that could create cancerous substances. What's more, okra's mucilage lubrificates and soothes the intestinal tract, further facilitating easy elimination of waste products and toxins from the body. On top of all that, okra contains carotenoids and folate. It is also packed with calcium, while being low in oxalic acid. When buying okra, look for fresh, firm, bright green pods that are no longer than 4 inches. To prepare okra, cut off both ends of the pods, wash them in cold water, and cook in a saucepan or a steamer. To retain most of okra's healthful nutrients and enzymes, it should be cooked as little as possible. Thin slices of raw okra added to a bowl of salad greens also make a healthy and delicious dish.

#10: Organic Celery

Celery provides vitamin C and vitamin E, a stellar nutrition combo for fighting colon cancer. But the colon cancer combating powers of celery do not end there: celery is known to contain at least eight families of cancer-combating compounds. It is a great source of phthalides, a class of bioactive chemical compounds that seem to act as effective chemopreventive agents. It also contains acetylenics and phenolic acids, which have been shown to inhibit the growth of tumor cells. When buying celery, it is important to opt for organically-grown produce because conventionally-grown celery typically contains very high levels of contaminants, including chlorothalonil which is believed to be carcinogenic.

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