Getting to the meat of the problem
Juicy steaks and other red-meat dishes are culinary signatures in many western nations, including Canada. However, our appetite for beef and other fatty foods may be one of the reasons colorectal cancer has become so common.
Researchers have found that red and processed meat may elevate the amount of compounds people have in their large bowel, which in turn mutates DNA, thereby boosting the risk of cancer.
In fact, one study found that people who ate a lot of red and processed meat – more than two portions a day – were much more likely to develop colorectal cancer than were people who ate less than one portion of these foods in a week.
On the other hand, fish and white meat, such as chicken breast, do not appear to increase the risk of colorectal cancer. Researchers examining people with a history of colon polyps found that those patients who ate a fair amount of chicken appeared to have a slightly lower risk for developing new polyps.
Other foods for thought
While different forms of meat seem to have differing contributions to colorectal cancer, most studies wouldn’t point to meat in general to help lower the risk. The kinds of foods that have been tied to lowering the risk are fruits, vegetables, healthy fats (avocadoes, olive oil, nuts), and whole grains. Include plenty of water in your daily diet, as it helps with digestion and prevents constipation. Also, reducing consumption of foods high in sugar, thereby reducing blood sugar levels, has recently been found to decrease the risk of colorectal cancer.
Low-fat, high-fibre diets are also associated with a variety of other health benefits. So forget a bologna sandwich on white bread – instead, opt for a tasty low-fat cheese sandwich on whole wheat.
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