May 2001
Oh, Beans! Diet and Colorectal Cancer in the 21st Century

Oh, Beans! Diet and Colorectal Cancer in the 21st Century Have you been eating lots of high-fiber foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, cereals, and beans to keep your digestive system moving? Then you may have been dismayed at newspaper stories about new studies that have updated and refined our understanding of the role of diet in cancer prevention. These studies show that fiber may not reduce your risk of colorectal cancer.

If you have a family or personal history of the disease, you might be saying, "Oh, beans," feeling that you've lost one method of controlling your risk. But the newspapers left out an important part of the story: Though fiber may not be the final answer for colorectal cancer, it still has many benefits. And there is still a lot you can do with your diet to prevent colorectal cancer, says Sheree Smith, RD, registered dietitian for The Norma F. Pfriem Cancer Center at Bridgeport Hospital.

  • You can avoid meat products. Animal fat in the diet encourages the growth of gastrointestinal bacteria that can produce carcinogens (cancer-causing substances).
  • You can make sure to get plenty of calcium. Calcium appears to slow your body's absorption of potentially harmful bile acids and fatty acids that may contribute to cancer. Good sources of calcium: skim milk, cheese, yogurt, dark-green leafy vegetables, calcium-fortified foods such as orange juice.
  • You can make sure to include folic acid (a part of the Vitamin B complex) in your diet. High dietary folic acid intake, especially when vitamin supplements are taken on top of lots of fruits and vegetables, is associated with decreased incidence of colorectal cancer. Going hand in hand with that fact: low folic acid intake is associated with increased risk of colorectal cancer and other colon problems. Good dietary sources of folic acid: fruits, dark-green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, dried beans and peas, and folic acid-fortified grain products and breakfast cereals.

And meanwhile, rest assured that dietary fiber is healthy in a number of other ways—including reducing your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Bridgeport Hospital's Registered Dietitians can help plan a personalized diet for you that will meet all your medical and lifestyle needs. Many insurance plans will cover the cost of consultation; check with your insurer. Call Outpatient Nutrition Counseling, 203-384-3799, for more information.