While no cancer is completely preventable, you can lower your risk of bowel cancer by eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods:
- Eat plenty of vegetables, legumes (dried beans, peas or lentils), fruits & cereals (breads, rice, pasta & noodles), preferably wholegrain.
- Include lean meat, fish and poultry.
- Include milks, yoghurts and cheeses. Reduced fat varieties should be chosen where possible.
- Drink plenty of water.
Take care to:
- Limit saturated fat and moderate total fat intake.
- Limit your intake of red meat and processed meat.
- Choose foods low in salt.
- Limit your alcohol intake if you choose to drink.
- Consume only moderate amounts of sugars and foods containing added sugars.
- Quit Smoking.
‘Healthy Eating After Colorectal Cancer’
2 serves of fruit & 5 serves of vegetables – every day
Why are fruit and vegetables protective?
The reason why fruit and vegetables have so many benefits is that they contain a wide variety of substances known to have health benefits including carotenoids, vitamin C, vitamin E and dietary fibre. They also contain many complex plant components – phytochemicals – such as flavonoids. Some of the vitamins and phytochemicals are also antioxidants, destroying harmful free radicals in the body.
The benefits of fruit and vegetables stem not only from the rich cocktail of individual components, but also the interactions between these components. This is why dietary supplements containing isolated vitamins or minerals do not appear to have the same beneficial effects as fruit and vegetables themselves.
How do fruit and vegetables fit into a healthy diet?
Health authorities recommend that consumers eat a varied, balanced diet low in fat, salt and added sugar. This means a diet which contains plenty of fruit, vegetables and starchy foods such as rice, pasta and potatoes, moderate amounts of milk and dairy foods and meat and alternatives, and only small amounts of foods which contain a lot of fat or added sugars or salt. This should provide all the nutrients that most people require.
How much is 1 serve of fruit?
One serve of fruit (150 grams) is, for example, 1 medium-sized apple, or 2 small apricots, or 1 cup canned or chopped fruit, or ½ cup (125mL) 100% fruit juice, or 4 dried apricot halves.
A glass of 100% fruit juice only counts once a day, irrespective of how much you drink. One serve of dried fruit counts, but other types of fruit and vegetables should be eaten to meet the rest of the five-a-day target.
How much is 1 serve of vegetables?
One serve of vegetables (75 grams) is, for example, 1 medium potato, or 1 cup salad vegetables, or ½ cup of cooked vegetables, ½ cup cooked legumes (dried beans, peas or lentils).
Beans and other pulse vegetables, such as kidney beans, lentils and chick peas only count once a day, however much you eat.
Can’t I just get the same benefits from supplements?
No. Dietary supplements do not have the same benefits as eating more fruit and vegetables, as fruit and vegetables contain additional beneficial substances, such as fibre. Some people are advised to take a supplement, in addition to eating a varied, balanced diet.
Does it matter if I eat the same fruit and veg every day?
Different fruits and vegetables contain different combinations of fibre, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. So you should aim to include a variety of fruit and vegetables to get the most benefit.
Pulses contain fibre, but they don’t give the same mixture of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients as fruit and vegetables. So in order to get a healthy balance, it is important to ensure that you get a variety of fruit and vegetables.
A high fibre diet is particularly recognised for reducing the risk of constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and for helping combat bowel cancer.
What is fibre?
Fibre is indigestible plant material such as cellulose, lignin and pectin, found in fruits, vegetables, grains
and beans. There are two types of fibre – soluble and insoluble.
The soluble fibre in foods such as apples, citrus fruits, oats, dried peas, beans and lentils, dissolves in water, forming a thick gel in your stomach, slowing the rate of digestion and absorption. In moderation, these fibres feed the intestinal bacteria and nourish the cells of the large intestine, which is believed to stimulate healing and reduce the development of cancer.
Insoluble fibre from foods such as wheat bran, whole grains and some vegetables does not feed bacteria well. However, it is believed to deactivate intestinal toxins and a high intake may decrease the risk of bowel cancer.
Fibre provides bulk to your food, helps it pass easily through the gut, and retains water so it makes you feel full and eat less.
How much fibre is enough?
Reports suggest women should be eating 25g of fibre each day and men 30g of fibre each day, yet most of us probably eat around 10-12g. A banana contains 1.8g of fibre, as does 1 slice of wholemeal bread.
How do you build fibre into your diet?
- Replace lower fibre foods with high fibre foods.
- Eat vegetables and fruit raw, whenever possible. Boiling too long can cause up to one half of the fibre to be lost in the water. Steam or stir-fry them, if you cook them.
- Replace fruit or vegetable juice with the whole fruit – fruit skins and membranes are a particularly good source of fibre.
- Always start your day with a bowl of high-fibre cereal – one that has five or more grams per serving.
- Add fresh fruit to your cereal for an extra fibre dose. Sprinkle wheat germ or bran on top of cold cereals. Mix wheat germ or bran with hot cereals while they are cooking.
- Add bran cereal to muffins, breads and casseroles.
- Buy and eat only whole grains.
Eating more fibre
Try substituting the lower fibre foods in your diet for the high fibre alternatives to the left.
Higher fibre foods
- Foods made with whole grain flours – e.g., whole wheat, rye, graham (e.g. biscuits, muffins, cookies).
- Whole grain pastas, brown rice or wild rice.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables (especially if eaten with the skin and membranes when appropriate).
- Salads made from a variety of raw vegetables.
- Baked beans, cooked lentils and split peas.
- Nuts, popcorn, seeds, dried fruit.
Lower fibre foods
- White bread.
- Refined cereals.
- Foods made with white flower
- Refined pastas, instant or polished rice.
- Fruit juice.
- Plain lettuce salads.
- Meat, fish, poultry.
- Crisps and similar snacks.
Physical Activity for Protection
It is recommended that to help reduce the risk of cancer, you should aim to engage in physical activity everyday, in any way, for 30 minutes or more.
It is also evident that being obese can significantly increase your chances of developing bowel cancer. Irrespective of your height or build, if your waistline is getting bigger it could mean you are at increased risk of chronic diseases.
There are tremendous benefits to getting even a small amount of physical activity each day, both mentally and physically. Being active gives you more energy, helps you sleep better, reduces the risk of depression and can help to prevent a range of chronic diseases.
You don’t have to exercise to the point of collapse in order to get health benefits. Start out by making small changes, and as you get used to them, gradually add more changes or activities. Aim to build up to 30 minutes (or more) of moderate-intensity physical activity every day.
A good example of moderate-intensity activity is brisk walking; that is, at a pace where you are able to talk comfortably, but not sing.
If you’re worried you don’t have the time, keep in mind that you don’t have to do it all at once – you can accumulate your 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity activity by combining a few shorter sessions of about 10 to 15 minutes each throughout the day. Research has shown that accumulated short bouts of moderate-intensity activity are just as effective at improving health factors such as blood pressure and blood cholesterol.
Getting motivated and keeping momentum:
- Schedule 30-minutes of physical activity as part of your daily activities – don’t let anything else take priority.
- Use exercise as a stress management technique – walk to clear your head and help you make decisions about work and home.
- Exercise with a friend or family member. It’s sometimes easier when you have someone else encouraging you, and is easier to keep the “exercise habit” going because you’ve made a commitment.
- Be a role model for your kids. Involving children in your physical activity regime is a great way to instil healthy habits and prevent childhood obesity.
- Track your progress by keeping an exercise log and recording your weekly activity.
- Motivate yourself by remembering how good you feel after you’ve completed a workout and how good you feel knowing that you are taking care of yourself.
The 30-Minute Exercise Guide
Exercising doesn’t have to mean expensive gym membership and treadmills, alternatives can include:
- Washing your car.
- Washing windows or floors.
- Walking or jogging to work.
- Walking the dog.
- Running up and down stairs.
- Cycling with the kids.
- Swimming or water aerobics.
- Aerobics or keep fit classes.