March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month. We don't talk about colorectal cancer as much as we do other cancers. Given that it's one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in BC, we shouldn’t only talk about it; we should do something about it. Did you know that 50% of colorectal cancers can be prevented with healthy diet and lifestyle choices?
So, what can you do? When it comes to diet, focus on eating cancer-fighting foods – vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds - while decreasing red and processed meats which are linked to an increased colorectal cancer risk.
Look through the following ideas. You might already be doing some of these things. Way to go! Which could you do more often? Which can you start doing? There's no limit to the creative ways we can enjoy cancer fighting foods.
- Start your day with whole grains. Try oatmeal or quinoa porridge, homemade granola or a cold breakfast cereal that provides as least 5 grams of fibre per serving. Add in toasted wheat germ, dried, canned or fresh fruit, or defrosted frozen berries.
- Fill up on vegetables. Keep a vegetable plate ready for kids who are starving before dinner is on the table. Include: snow peas, cucumber, cherry tomato, cauliflower, broccoli, radishes, carrots, peppers, and celery. Serve with hummus or a yogurt dip. If your kids are old enough, get them involved with preparing the food.
- Avoid processed meats including ham, bacon, sausage, pepperoni, cold cuts and hot dogs. Enjoy roasted chicken, turkey breast, roast beef, tuna, salmon, sardines, hummus with vegetables instead of processed deli meats in sandwiches.
- Make meat the garnish rather than the centre piece of a meal. Fill ¾ of your plate with foods that come from a plant and ¼ or less of your plate with meat.
- Eat more beans and lentils. Try your favourite chili recipe with ½ the beef and double the beans. Use a mixture of kidney beans, chickpeas and black beans. Substitute red lentils for ½ the meat in a tomato based pasta sauce.
Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is a time to think about what we can do today to lower future cancer risk. It's also a reminder to get screened for colon cancer if you're 50-74 years old or to encourage your loved ones to discuss screening with their primary care provider. Colon cancer screening is available throughout BC and can save lives by detecting pre-cancer and cancer early. Click here for more information about colon cancer screening.
If you have questions about cancer and nutrition or would like more food ideas, call HealthLink BC at
8-1-1. One of our Registered Dietitians would be happy to help.
Andrea Holmes is a registered dietitian at HealthLink BC. Her practice focuses on diet to prevent and cope with cancer. Here she shares information on cancer-fighting food choices to reduce the chance of colorectal cancer.
Canadian Cancer Society
American Institute for Cancer Research
Healthy Kids today – Prevent Cancer Tomorrow
HealthyFamilies BC: What Makes Vegetables and Fruit so Special?
HealthyFamilies BC: The Produce Section – Colour Your World