Foods That Can Help Prevent Colon Cancer

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
March 16, 2015
foods that prevent colon cancer

Did you know that colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and cause of cancer-related deaths in men and women in the U.S.? It’s true, but the good news is that better diagnostic tests and treatments continue improving early detection and survival rates. Further, studies have revealed several ways you can try to help prevent this disease.

Although some risk factors cannot be changed, like being older than age 50 and having a family and/or personal history of diabetes, polyps, colorectal cancer or inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s and colitis, there are many lifestyle factors, like a sedentary lifestyle, excessive alcohol consumption and smoking, that increase the risk of colorectal cancer. Studies also indicate that some simple food-related changes may help prevent this disease.

Diet is an important factor that can help you guard against colon cancer. March is both National Colorectal Cancer Awareness and National Nutrition Month, so it is a great time to discuss how specific foods can affect your risk of this illness. To get you started, below is a list of foods that contain key nutrients linked to colon cancer prevention. These foods contain phytochemicals (compounds that give color to fruits and vegetables), phytates (antioxidants naturally found in whole grains, nuts and legumes), fiber, calcium or omega-3 fatty acids.

Healthy Food Choices


  • Blueberries provide phytochemicals as do blackberries, black raspberries and strawberries.
  • Brazil nuts and almonds are good sources of phytates and calcium. Due to the fat and calorie content of nuts, it is best to limit your daily intake to one serving.
  • Brown rice is a good low-fat source of phytates and fiber, reducing the body’s exposure to toxins.
  • Spinach and kale are recognized as superfoods because of the amount of nutrients they contain, including calcium and phytochemicals.
  • Carrots and sweet potatoes contain fiber and carotenoids, a group of phytochemicals believed to have colon cancer-prevention properties. Learn more about carotenes and colon cancer here.
  • Tomatoes contain high levels of lutein, a phytochemical in the carotenoid family that is found in red fruits and vegetables. Lutein’s powerful anti-cancer properties are also linked to prostate cancer-prevention.
  • Wild Alaskan salmon, Arctic char and Atlantic mackerel are significant sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Get recipes high in omega-3 fatty acids from MDVIP Connect.

What additional foods are linked to colorectal cancer prevention?  Newer studies suggest that grape seed oil and grape seed oil extract may help prevent colon cancer. As with any supplement, be sure to discuss using grape seed oil extract with your MDVIP-affiliated physician. Learn more about grape seed and colon cancer.

Adding protective foods to your diet is important, but eliminating foods or additives that can increase your risk of disease is equally as important. Although research on nitrates is not conclusive, they should be addressed. Nitrates are a group of synthetic preservatives used to color meat red and may raise the risk of colorectal cancer. Since many foods that contain nitrates, like hot dogs and deli meats, are highly processed, it is in your best interest to limit or even avoid them; they have been linked to heart disease and several other types of cancer. Additionally, experts recommend limiting foods high in salt and unhealthy sources of saturated fat.

Cooking temperatures can also potentially impact the food we eat. Until more research is available, it’s best to avoid cooking meat at high temperatures. When meat, poultry, fish and pork are cooked at high temperatures, chemicals are formed. Some of these chemicals are carcinogenic; for instance, the chemical, heterocyclic amines (HCA), has been linked to colon cancer. Researchers have identified as many as 17 types of HCAs in meat cooked at high temperatures.

Remember that your MDVIP-affiliated physician is your best resource to guide your through prevention strategies for any illness for which you may be at risk. He or she has the time and tools to customize a plan for your colorectal health, including important screenings like colonoscopies, and if indicated, Cologuard. Don’t have an MDVIP-affiliated doctor? Find one near you by clicking here

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About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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