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Best food to prevent colon cancer: no, it’s not vegetables or fruits

For a long time, people thought that eating fruits and vegetables and supplementing with dietary fiber could prevent colorectal cancer (colon cancer).

But did you know? Eating whole grains may be more effective in preventing colorectal cancer than eating fruits or vegetables.

There are 2 types of fiber, both of which can help prevent colorectal cancer

Compared to other cancers, colorectal cancer is very common. In 2020, colorectal cancer was the third leading cause of new cancer cases and the second leading cause of cancer death.

Diet is a major factor in cancer. For example, eating too few fruits or vegetables, foods high in oil and/or calories, red and processed meats, and alcoholic beverages can all contribute to the cause of cancer. Poor dietary habits have a 30-50% impact on the incidence of colorectal cancer worldwide. Among them, too little dietary fiber intake, such as less than 10 grams per day, can increase the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.

Dietary fiber is divided into insoluble fiber and water-soluble fiber, which have different functions. Insoluble fiber can increase stool bulk, combine with carcinogens and toxins that are consumed or produced after digestion, shorten the time stool stays in the intestines, and reduce contact between carcinogens and the intestinal wall .

Water-soluble fiber can be fermented and broken down by intestinal bacteria into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) such as butyrate, propionate and acetate. Short-chain fatty acids promote immunity, prevent inflammatory diseases and improve intestinal barrier function. Among them, butyrate has anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory properties and can be used as an energy source for intestinal epithelial cells (lining).

So which type of fiber is most effective at preventing colorectal cancer? A meta-analysis in 2021 found that both types of fiber are beneficial in colorectal cancer prevention and provide almost equal protection.

In fact, most whole foods contain both types of dietary fiber, but in varying proportions. Therefore, eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts can provide these two gut-protecting nutrients.

Cereal fiber and colon cancer prevention

There are so many foods with fiber, so which one is the most effective in preventing colon cancer? A large study conducted by the National Cancer Institute found that whole grains and cereal fiber are most effective in preventing colorectal cancer, especially cancer of the last section of the colon, the rectum.

The study, published in 2020 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed that people who ate the most whole grains had a 16% lower risk of colorectal cancer than those who ate the least whole grains.

Additionally, whole grain consumption was associated with prevention of colorectal cancer at all cancer sites (eg, proximal colon, distal colon, and rectum). In particular, the risk of rectal cancer was reduced by 24%. The fiber in the grains also helps reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by 11% and is effective in preventing cancers of the distal colon and rectum.

The British Medical Journal published a meta-analysis of dietary fiber from vegetables, fruits, legumes and other foods. The study found that of all foods, whole grain consumption had the clearest association with colorectal cancer risk. In particular, eating three servings of whole grains (90 g) a day can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by about 20%. Additionally, a daily intake of 10 grams of total dietary fiber and grain fiber is also beneficial in preventing colorectal cancer.

Why does eating whole grains have significant benefits for colon cancer prevention? National Cancer Institute researchers believe that whole grains contain bran, germ, and endosperm, which retain all soluble and insoluble fiber. Plus, they contain a slew of other nutrients, such as B vitamins, minerals, phenols, antioxidants, and phytoestrogens, all of which can help prevent colon cancer.

Whole grains include brown rice, millet, corn, oats, buckwheat, barley, wheat, quinoa, rye, and sorghum.

The ratio of vegetables

In fact, in the traditional oriental diet, there is the concept of maintaining health with cereals as staple foods and vegetables as supplements. However, people today eat a lot of vegetables and fruits, which are beneficial, and pay less and less attention to cereals.

According to his many years of clinical experience, Dr. Ting-Ming Huang, attending physician of the Colorectal Surgery Division of Hanming Christian Hospital in Taiwan, said that a grain and vegetable diet is very beneficial in prevention of colorectal cancer.

His patients always ask him, “I ate a lot of vegetables, but how come I got colon cancer again?

In fact, there are two other problems with overeating vegetables and fruits.

1. Eat ugly vegetables

Huang pointed out that people often like to choose beautiful fruits and vegetables when shopping. However, the more beautiful the agricultural products, the more pesticides they contain. And if they haven’t been thoroughly cleaned, people will ingest those toxins.

2. Don’t eat so many vegetables that you overload your gut

Eating too many vegetables, i.e. excessive intake of insoluble fiber, will also increase the load on the intestines, so the intestines will be overworked. Consuming too much insoluble fiber will increase the amount of stool in the intestines, which can easily cause constipation, one of the risk factors for colon cancer.

Types of rice

When eating rice as a staple, most people eat gluten-free, germ-free white rice because it tastes better. This ends up reducing its nutritional benefits.

Brown rice, which retains these parts, is harder. But you can compromise and mix your rice brain with white rice.

However, for people with poor gastrointestinal digestion, it is recommended to use white rice as a staple food. White rice is easy to digest and also contains a certain amount of micronutrients and fiber.

According to Huang, in addition to starch, rice also contains soluble fiber, which can help with defecation. “Eating rice can lead to loose stools, and the intestines will become even healthier.”

Eating grains with vegetables is also consistent with the principles of the traditional Chinese medicine health preservation diet. As the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon says, “The five grains act as nourishment; the five fruits serve to increase; the five pets provide additional benefits; and the five vegetables complete the food.

Eating grains and cereals can nourish the body, help strengthen the spleen and stomach, improve yang energy, and allow food to be fully converted into energy. According to Dr. Jonathan Liu, a professor of traditional Chinese medicine at a Canadian public college, traditional Chinese medicine believes that the fundamental problem with colon cancer is the lack of yang energy.

Liu explained that 93% of colorectal cancer patients are over the age of 45, at a turning point in life when the body’s yang energy shifts from prosperity to decline. Improper diet will lead to internal disorders in the body and will also harm the yang energy. On the contrary, a balanced diet, including a normal intake of cereals, can better protect yang energy and give the body stronger immunity against cancers.

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