Eating for a Healthy Colon

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By Recipe Team on February 25, 2021

Protecting yourself from colorectal cancer—the third most common cancer in the United States and the  second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined—starts on your plate. 

Some risk factors for colorectal cancer, like our age and genetics, are outside of our control. But other risk factors are within our power to improve or change, says Anand Kishore, M.D., with Carilion Clinic Gastroenterology. This includes our everyday diet (as well as physical activity, weight, tobacco usage and alcohol consumption). 

“A diet that’s heavy in red and processed meats is associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer,” notes Dr. Kishore. “High-fructose corn syrup may also be a risk factor.” He recommends limiting or eliminating these from your diet.

On the other hand, says Dr. Kishore, “Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, fiber, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products can help protect against colorectal cancer.”

Getting more food sources of vitamin D could help as well, since low blood levels of vitamin D may increase your risk, according to the American Cancer Society.

And since obesity is a risk factor, you can help keep your colon healthy by getting the nutrients you need within the calorie range that's right for you—and by starting a regular exercise habit. If you need help managing your weight, talk with your health care provider.

Putting It All Together

So, what does a colon-friendly menu look like in practice—and on your plate? It looks pretty tasty, if you ask us!

First, add these colon-friendly foods to your grocery list to get started:

  • Colorful, high-fiber fruits (like apples, avocados, bananas, mangos and raspberries)
  • Colorful, high-fiber vegetables (like broccoli, Brussel sprouts, carrots, celery and spinach)
  • Legumes (like black beans, chickpeas, cannellini beans, kidney beans and lentils)
  • Whole grains (like brown rice, oats, and whole wheat)
  • Low-fat or non-fat dairy products (or other calcium-rich foods like almonds and tofu if you don't eat dairy)
  • Chicken and turkey, and/or plant-based proteins like tofu (to replace red and processed meats)
  • Wild-caught salmon and canned tuna (to replace red and processed meats; good food sources of vitamin D)

Then, get meal plan inspiration from these mix-and-matchable ideas (click or tap through for recipes):

Mango Carrot Ginger Smoothie

A quick and refreshing way to get your daily dose of fruits and veggies.

Mason jar of mango smoothie, with scored mango beside it.

Oats and Quinoa Porridge with Fresh Fruit

Start your morning with something like this, instead of processed cereals with high-fructose corn syrups. 

Bowl of oats and quinoa porridge topped with fresh fruit.

Tuscan White Bean and Spinach Soup

This simple (simply delicious) soup makes it easy to follow the Mediterranean diet, which can help protect against cancer. 

Bowls of Tuscan White Bean Spinach Soup.

Fiesta Tuna Salad

Instead of processed deli meats, try this spicy tuna salad on your sandwich—it's anything but a basic lunch. 

Bowl of tuna salad and smaller bowl of salsa with chips.

Salmon and Vegetable Oven Kebabs

Incorporating more fish into your diet is easy with these no-grill-needed kebabs. 

Salmon and vegetable kebabs on a wooden plank table.

Beans and Greens Burritos

Meat-free and chock-full of fiber. 

Burrito made of collard greens, with rice and beans filling, on a decorative plate.

Sheet Pan Mediterranean Chicken

You won't miss red-meat burgers or processed hot dogs when you swap them out for something this fresh and flavorful—promise!

Overhead view of a pan of roasted chicken with olives, artichokes, grape tomatoes, fresh herbs and lemon slices.

Nectarine Raspberry Cobbler*

Solve the occasional sweets craving with a homemade dessert featuring whole wheat, fresh fruits and no high-fructose syrups. 

Closeup view of nectarine raspberry cobbler in a glass cobbler dish.

*In moderation, of course!

And remember: No matter how healthy your diet, make sure you're talking with your provider about whether and when you'll need a colon cancer screening, says Dr. Kishore. Screenings save lives! 

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