Colorectal cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Canada and approximately 26,800 Canadians have been diagnosed with the disease in 2017. Your lifetyle plays an important role in your risk on developing colorectal cancer. In fact, according to the World Cancer Research Fund there is strong evidence that being physically active, adopting healthy eating and drinking habits, not smoking and maintaining a healthy body weight can decrease the risk of developing cancer.
You have the power to act and reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer. Let us help you with useful cancer prevention tips on :
Enjoy more fruits and vegetables
Statistics show that more than half of all Canadians eat less than 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. This is unfortunate knowing that they are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and many phytochemical compounds that have anticancer proprieties. Since all fruits and vegetables provide different benefits, the key is to eat a variety of different fruits and vegetables. As a bonus, they will all certainly add a lot of color and textures to your meals!
Did you know?
- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and brussels sprouts contain exceptional sources of anticancer molecules. Eating them on a regular basis can lower your risk of colorectal cancer by 20%.
- Berries are an excellent source of polyphenols that have great anticancer potential. Why not enjoy them as a snack?
- Citrus fruits like grapefruits, oranges and mandarins are packed with vitamins and they also have the ability to enhance the anticancer potential of other phytochemical compounds in your diet. It is preferable to consume the whole fruit instead of only the juice for less sugar and more fiber.
- At the grocery store, spend more time in the fresh fruits and vegetable section and try new ones.
- Add fruits to your breakfast cereals or yogurt (berries, pears, peaches…).
- Add a handful of spinach or kale to a fruit smoothie.
- Add frozen or dried fruits to your muffin recipes.
- End your lunch with a fresh fruit salad.
- Prepare veggies and fruits in the refrigerator, make them appealing and ready to eat. Bring them at work!
- Keep some vegetables in your freezer so you never run out of them.
- Start dinner with a salad of dark greens and colorful veggies or a vegetable soup.
- Fill half your plate with vegetables at dinner.
- Vary the ways that you prepare your vegetables, for example, try roasted asparagus and bell peppers in the oven, prepare mushrooms and bok choy in a wok, add lemon juice and coriander to your avocado, enjoy carrots with a Greek yogurt dip).
Reduce red meat and processed meat consumption
Research has made it clear, read meat (beef, lamb and pork) should be consumed in moderation (less than 500g/week) to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Vary your menu by using leaner meats like chicken and incorporate other good protein sources such as fish, eggs and legumes.
As for processed meat such as sausages, ham, bacon it is important to limit your consumption as they have clearly been linked to a higher risk of colorectal cancer.
Did you know?
- High consumption of red meat and processed meat increases your risk of developing colorectal cancer by 30%.
- Grilling meat on the BBQ produces toxic compounds called aromatic hydrocarbons that stick to the meat’s surface and can act as carcinogens (cancer-causing compounds).
- Fish like salmon and sardines contain Omega 3 fatty acids that play a role in promoting cardiovascular health and cancer prevention. Health Canada recommends eating at least 2 meals of fish containing omega 3 fatty acids each week.
- To reduce the carcinogens when you grill meat on the BBQ: Marinate meat using antioxidant ingredients such as lemon, olive oil and garlic. Trim the fat so it will not drip on an open flame. Don’t overcook and flip frequently. Clean your grill after using it. Try cooking veggie-burgers, they won’t produce carcinogens compounds.
- Establish Meat Free Monday at your home and vary your vegetarian recipes using different protein sources each week like beans and tofu.
- Try preparing salmon with an Asian sesame/ginger sauce and many vegetables for a colorful and tasty meal.
- In your spaghetti sauce, make it half meat and half lentils to help reduce your meat consumption and eventually make it completely vegetarian.
- Add legumes like chickpeas and lentils to your soups and salads.
- In you sandwiches, instead of using processed meat use cold pieces of chicken from the dinner you made the night before. Add lots of crispy vegetables.
Love whole grains
The Canadian Food Guide recommends that at least half of our cereal products should be whole grains. They are an excellent source of vitamin B, minerals and fiber. Fibre is a natural nondigestible component of all our edible plants, including grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, vegetables and fruits. It absorbs liquid and adds bulk to your stool so that your food waste passes through your intestines quickly, absorbing carcinogens and other toxins as it travels through your digestive system. It is key for digestive health!
Did you know?
- Studies show that a high intake of dietary fiber can help reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer
- At the grocery store compare the nutrition facts label on the packages of bread or breakfast cereals and choose the option that is a better source of fiber with the least sugar.
- Start your day with a bowl of warm oatmeal with raisins.
- Use whole grain bread or rolls for your sandwiches.
- Try quinoa, it can easily replace rice in some of your meals or you can eat it as a salad with vegetables.
- Add barley or brown rice to you soups.
- Substitute whole wheat flour for all or part of the white flour when baking.
- Choose whole grain crackers with hummus as a snack.
- Buy whole grain spaghetti and enjoy with your favorite Italian sauce.
Get enough calcium and vitamin D
Statistics show that 2/3 of Canadians don’t eat enough dairy products even though Health Canada recommends 2 servings per day for an adult, one serving being 250 ml of milk, 175g of yogurt or 50g of cheese. Milk products are part of a healthy diet and play an important role in helping to keep your bones strong. They provide up to 16 essential nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, protein and zinc, to only name a few. Fermented dairy products such as yogurt also have the added benefit of probiotic bacteria that contributes to a healthy microbiota in your intestinal tract.
Did you know?
- According to the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute of Cancer Research, there is evidence indicating that milk and other dairy products suchs as yogurt, may protect against colorectal cancer. The synergistic effect of calcium, vitamin D and other milk components may be involved in this action. More specifically, it seems that the calcium in milk helps prevent the growth of benign polyps in your colon, one of the early signs of colorectal cancer.
- Add milk to your coffee.
- Bring a few small cheese cubes along with whole grain crackers to work for a quick nutritious snack.
- Add some vanilla, cinnamon and fresh fruits to a glass of milk that you can blend for a delicious spicy milkshake.
- Eat yogurt when you get hungry after work.
Choose your fats wisely
When it comes to fat, you need to keep in mind that the quality is as important as the quantity. Our body needs fatty acids that play different role in our systems, but if you eat too much fat on a regular basis it can contribute to weight gain, high blood cholesterol levels and triglycerides levels that can lead to serious health problems. Not all fats are equal and some have more to offer than others. For example, omega-3 fatty acids found in some fish (salmon, trout), seeds (flax, chia, walnuts and canola oil) are essential, meaning that they are not produced by the human body so it must come from the food that we eat.
Studies have demonstrated that the worst fats of all are trans fats. Trans fats are produced industrially and found in shortening, many snack foods, bakery products and fried fast food. They have been linked with increased risk of heart disease and they certainly have no protective effect against cancer. It is better to avoid and choose healthier options.
Also, when selecting your groceries don’t only consider the fat content of a product, take into consideration what else the food has to offer (vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber…). Sometimes, low fat and fat free products contain more sugar than regular products and therefore they are not always the best choice. Moderation remains the key!
Did you know?
- Virgin or extra-virgin olive oil is concentrated with antioxidants and polyphenols from the olives. Research has shown that those molecules have anticancer and anti-inflammatory properties.
- The health benefits of omega-3 are not limited to heart disease. According to some studies, high consumption of fish like salmon, trout and sardines can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by 37% .
- Nuts contain unsaturated fats that are great options for healthy eating.
- Read the nutrition facts table on the packages of your food to choose options that have no trans fat.
- Try a little mashed avocado on sandwiches instead of mayonnaise that is high in saturated fats.
- Bring nuts to work for a healthy snack. Prefer unsalted nuts and try different kinds like almonds, walnuts, pistachios and pecans.
- When you eat potato chips, try to limit the quantities by putting some in a bowl instead of eating directly out of the bag. You will certainly eat a lot less.
- Use some olive oil to cook your food instead of butter.
- Eat at least 2 meals of fish during the week to increase your intake of omega 3 essential fatty acids. Salmon,trout and sardines have more omega 3 than other fish.
Drink alcohol in moderation, hydrate in a smart way
Regular consumption of alcohol in excess has been shown to increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer. The recommendation for a woman is to limit consumption to one drink per day and for a man not to exceed 2 drinks per day and not to drink every day. A drink is defined as 12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. of wine, and 1.5 oz. of spirits.
Smart hydration not only means to avoid drinking alcohol in excess, but also to make sure to drink enough water (at least 2L per day). Also, be careful with sweet drinks, one can of soda contains 8 teaspoons of sugar, you must imagine the amount of sugar contained in a large size drink at the movies.
Did you know?
- The resveratrol in red wine has a powerful anticancer action that appears to be responsible for the beneficial effects of wine preventing the development of certain cancers. Still, moderation is the key, because excess alcohol consumption increases your risk of developing colorectal cancer.
- According to some studies, drinking green tea on a regular basis can reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer. It contains large amounts of catechins, molecules that have anticancer properties.
- Drink freshly brewed green tea in the afternoon with your healthy snack.
- Add half water to your orange juice in the morning to make it less sweet.
- Add lemon and mint leaves to your water for a fresh boost.
- Carry a reusable bottle of water with you, choose one that you like, so it encourages you to drink throughout the day.
- Drink a glass of water when you drink wine.
Careful with the salt
Canadians consume an average of 3500 mg of sodium each day, which is almost 60% more than the maximum recommended intake (1500 mg). That is a lot! Most of the salt that we eat is hidden in transformed package food such as frozen meals, soups, sauce, snacks and processed meat. But you might be surprised to learn that products that taste sweet can also hide a large amount of sodium, like breakfast cereals and cookies. To make better choices, take the time to read the nutrition facts table on the packaging, compare the different products and try avoiding the options that have the much salt.
Did you know?
- Freshly crushed garlic adds taste to your recipes so you can add less salt. Some studies have shown that garlic contains molecules that can hinder cancer cell growth.
- The World Health Organization actually recommands to use more spices like turmeric, pepper, ginger, cumin and herbs like parsley, thyme, oregano and rosemary. They also contain molecules with anticancer properties.
Listen to your signals
Staying connected to our hunger and satiety signals (feeling of fullness) means to eat when you are hungry and to know when to stop! For most people, it is not as easy as it sounds. It is unfortunately common to intentionally avoid eating even when we feel hungry signals. As a result, we are starving for the next meal, often overeating and not knowing when it is the time to stop. Finishing the entire plate is not the best indicator of your needs, your feeling of fullness is a better indicator. Once you feel full, you have likely had enough! Of course, our needs can vary from a day to another depending on factors such as physical activity.
Slow down, enjoy what you eat and stay connected to your signals!
Variety is the key
No one food contains all the anticancer molecules that can prevent cancer, therefore it is important to incorporate a wide variety of healthy foods into your eating habit to increase the protective effect. The easiest way to know what you eat is to choose carefully the ingredients that you cook with!
Also, remember that all the different food groups contain specific good nutrients that are important for your health. The Canadian Food Guide helps you balance your diet by guiding you on the amount of servings you should eat from the different food groups:
Foods That Fight Cancer program
1 in 2 Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetime, but research has shown that more than 50% of cancers could be prevented with a healthy lifestyle. The World Cancer Research Fund has strong evidence that being physically active, adopting healthy eating and drinking habits, not smoking and maintaining a healthy body weight can decrease the risks of developing cancer.
Foods That Fight Cancer program comes from the conviction that it is imperative to empower Canadians to eat less highly transformed foods and cook more healthy recipes to reduce their risk of developing not only colorectal cancer, but other cancers as well.
There is a need to communicate efficiently and clearly the credible scientific-based recommendations when it comes to food and cancer prevention. Most importantly, we believe that we need to influence positively towards a long-lasting behavior change.
To learn more about and to join the Foods that Fight Cancer community, visit our website and follow us on social media!
Richard Béliveau, Denis Gingras. Foods That Fight Cancer, Preventing Cancer Through Diet. Revised edition, 2016. Les Éditions du Trécarré, Groupe Librex inc. 278 pages.
Bradbury, K. et coll. "Fruit, vegetable, and fiber intake in relation to cancer risk: findings from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC.) American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. June 11, 2014.
Brooke, C. Vital Signs: Trends in Incidence of Cancers Associated with Overweight and Obesity — United States, 2005–2014. Centers for Diseaese Control and Prevention October 3, 2017.
Chan, D. et coll. ?Red and Processed Meat and Colorectal Cancer Incidence: Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies?. PLoS One. 2011; 6(6): e20456.
Hall, M. et coll. A 22-year Prospective Study of Fish, n-3 Fatty Acid Intake, and Colorectal Cancer Risk in Men?. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. 2008 May; 17(5): 1136–1143.
Yang, G. Prospective Cohort Study of Green Tea Consumption and Colorectal Cancer Risk in Women?. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkaers & Prevention. June 2007, Volume 16, Issue 6.
Wu, Q. et coll. "Cruciferous vegetables intake and the risk of colorectal cancer: a meta-analysis of observational studies?. BAnnals of Oncology, Volume 24, Issue 4, 1 April 2013, pages 1079–1087.
Living an active life has many confirmed health benefits, such as prevention of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and certain cancers. On top of that, it has been shown to improve overall gastrointestinal health, help reduce constipation, make you sleep better and affect your mood positively.
The World Health Organization recommends that adults have a minimum of 150 minutes of activity every week. Try to break in down rather than doing it all at one time, it is more beneficial that way. For example, you can do 30-minute blocks of physical activity, 5 times a week. To be active doesn’t necessarily mean to join to a gym, there are many activities that can suit your preferences and lifestyle, you just need to find what brings you joy! You can also adapt your routine to make it more active by sitting less and moving more. Do you have children? Keep in mind that they need to be active at least 60 minutes a day, so get out there, move and have fun!
Did you know?
- Studies have shown that those who engage in regular, moderate exercise such as brisk walking, dancing or skating are at lower risk of developing colorectal cancer (25% risk reduction). The risk is reduced even more with regular vigorous activities like running, cycling and cross-country skiing.
- Choose a distant parking spot to walk further.
- When possible, take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Go out for a walk after lunch or during your break at work.
- Play outside with your children or your pets.
- Join to the gym with friends or organize a badminton or tennis match.
- Don’t stay too long on your couch, move and stretch as you watch tv.
- Take dance lessons or spinning classes.
- Go swimming for half an hour before dinner.
Wolin, K. "Physical activity and colon cancer prevention: a meta-analysis?. British Journal of Cancer. 2009 Feb 24; 100(4): 611–616.
There is strong evidence that demonstrates that being overweight or obese increases the risk of 11 cancers, including colorectal cancer. Waist circumference is also important to consider, knowing that too much excess fat in the abdominal area is also known to be a risk factor for many health problems. Eating habits and physical activity play key roles in managing a healthy body weight. The previous sections on Healthy Eating and Physical Activity provide many tips on how to make better food choices and remain active.
Be careful, very restrictive diets that are too low in calories and are not well balanced should be avoided. Those weight loss diets are often impossible to follow indefinitely, especially if you feel hungry all the time and are told to avoid certain foods at all costs. It can lead to eating disorders caused by obsessions and uncontrollable cravings for the forbidden foods and often results in long term weight gain. To seek a healthy diet to lose weight, it is recommended to ask the help of a dietitian whose expertise is to help you change your eating behaviors one step at a time for long lasting results.
Did you know?
- Obesity increases the risk of developing cancer by more than 40%
Blomain, ES., Dirhan, DA et coll. Mechanisms of weight regain following weight loss. ISRN Obesity, 2013; 210524.
Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do to improve your life and health. Smoking is a notorious risk factor for cancer in organs where there is direct contact with tobacco-related carcinogens, such as lung, oropharynx, larynx and upper digestive tract, but also in organs where exposure to tobacco degradation products is indirect, such as in the colon. Smoking is significantly associated with colorectal cancer incidence. A wide range of toxic substances produced by tobacco smoke can enter the body through the saliva or blood stream and make their way down to lining of the bowel where they can damage the cellular DNA and lead to cancer formation.
This resource from Health Canada can help you quit smoking: On the road to quitting: guide to becoming a non-smoker.