Colorectal cancer is the third leading cancer killer among both men and women in the United States. According to the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, approximately 50,000 people die from it each year. If you find that this type of cancer runs in your family, or if you are just looking at your overall health, a diet change may just decrease your risk. Sound appealing? Pass the veggies.
What the Research Says
Recent studies have found that colorectal cancer risk decreases with a vegetarian or pesco-vegetarian (vegetarian plus fish) diet. A study published JAMA Intern Med looked the diets of over 77,000 men and women. The conclusion showed that those with a vegetarian lifestyle had a 22 percent lower risk of this type of cancer. Even more fascinating was the fact that people who ate a plant-based diet along with fish had an even more substantial decrease in colorectal cancer risk — 43 percent. These numbers are certainly striking, but they prove that there is a way to actively substantially reduce your cancer risk — so they’re encouraging, too.
Tips for Making the Switch
If you’re an omnivore, ditching the meat on your plate may seem overwhelming or unappealing. Eating a plant-based diet is certainly a lifestyle change, but you can do it gradually and without too much trauma to your taste buds. For extra incentive, keep in mind that switching to a vegetarian diet may not just decrease your colorectal cancer risk; you may notice a difference in your waistline, as well.
Eat Veggies First
Moving into a plant-based diet might be more successful if you do so slowly. Concentrate on adding more vegetables and legumes to your plate. If the sight is daunting when you start, try eating your veggies first with each meal. Then, cut out different types of meat one at a time. For example, eliminate red meat first, followed by chicken and then turkey. Slow and steady wins the race and makes the lifestyle change seem less intimidating.
Adjust Your Cooking
You’ll need to change your cooking habits, so don’t be afraid to experiment in the kitchen. Download or check out some vegetarian cookbooks, or find a few vegetarian cooking websites or social media groups for inspiration. Vegetables are delicious and versatile; soon enough, you will notice that roasting an onion produces a different taste than sauteing.
Explore New Finds
While you’re in the mood for experimenting, hit your local health food store to see the meatless options available to you. Soy, other plant-based and wheat-based meat substitutes might not sound appealing, but are often quite delicious, and very adaptable. Even better, these healthy options have a texture that can trick your brain into thinking you are eating meat, which can go a long way during your conversion.
Finally, be sure to talk to your doctor about your diet switch. He will likely have dietitians, nutritionists and other resources to refer you to for recipes, more tips and inspiration. Adjusting your diet may seem daunting, but with your healthcare team behind you, you can easily transition to healthy foods to reduce your colorectal risk.