Here’s a scary thought: The American Cancer Society expects there to be over a million and a half new cases of cancer just this year. And while we learn more and more about the disease over time, the ultimate cure remains a mystery. The good news is there’s a lot you can do to lower your risk. And some cancers, like colon, are completely preventable.
Colon cancer kills about 50,000 people in the U.S. every year
This type of cancer is totally preventable — but many people who develop it have no idea. It’s the third most common cancer diagnosed in the U.S., after all. And because it can be difficult to detect in its early stages, this also makes colon cancer one of the most deadly.
The good news is the death rate has been dropping, which is most likely due to more people getting screened for colorectal polyps and having them removed. But if you’re worried about developing this disease, new research suggests there’s one food you must have in your diet.
You need to start eating purple potatoes
It’s time to ditch the white potatoes and go for the prettier variety. Researchers from Pennsylvania State University found purple-fleshed potatoes have anti-inflammatory compounds that may be particularly beneficial in warding away colon cancer.
For this study, Health explains the researchers used three groups of pigs. One group was fed a high-calorie diet, another group a high-calorie diet with purple potatoes, and the final group a different controlled diet altogether. The purple potato group had much healthier colon tissue.
Why not just white potatoes?
It’s important to keep in mind that this study was done on pigs, so we can’t say for sure if results on humans would be the same — but the evidence is hopeful. So, what’s the secret of the purple potato? Medical News Today notes white potatoes have some compounds that can help combat cancer, but purple varieties have higher concentrations of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds. They’re also a great source of dietary fiber, which is helpful in keeping your digestive system healthy.
Brightly colored fruits and veggies may be the answer
Can’t get your hands on some purple potatoes? Don’t fret too much — just go for brightly colored produce in general. Today’s Dietician explains fruits and veggies get their vibrant color from phytochemicals. These are naturally-occurring substances that work together with vitamins and minerals to promote good health and longevity. Blue and purple hues in particular, are known for their benefits, but green and red produce are also key in cancer prevention.
Here’s what else you should be eating
WebMD says whether or not fiber protects against cancer is up for debate, but there’s no doubt it helps with your overall health and digestive system. Aim to eat plenty of whole grains, berries, kidney beans, and fresh produce to up your intake.
Fiber aside, there’s also research to suggest calcium and vitamin D can fight colon cancer. Salmon and dark leafy greens are surprisingly good sources of calcium, and you can find vitamin D in egg yolks and sardines, and of course, the sun.
Your typical Western diet is heavily increasing your risk
Sorry meat and processed food lovers, but your diet is seriously increasing your colon cancer risk. Eating a lot of fats from red and processed meats can promote tumor growth near the colon. And if you’re eating these meats charred, your risk is even higher. Aim to cut down on your meat consumption and replace it with other protein sources, like fish, beans, or grains such as quinoa.
Think you may have colon cancer? Here are the signs
Remember — colon cancer is treatable, but only if you catch it early. Today reminds us rectal bleeding is a huge sign you should never ignore. Anemia is another sign, as colon cancer tumors bleed, causing you to lose iron without you realizing it. And unexplained abdominal pain, either sharp or dull, is another huge sign to look out for.
For preventative measures, you should start screening for colon cancer once you hit 50. If it runs in your family, you should aim to get the procedure done even earlier.