Yet another reason to consume a diet based on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains! Learn how your food choices may influence your risk for colorectal cancer. . .
The Colorectal Cancer – Nutrition Connection: A Follow-Up
Tip of the Week: If colorectal cancer is a part of your family history, consider a diet high in folic acid AND supplement with 400 micrograms (mcg.) of this necessary nutrient. The additional supplement (400 mcg. is the amount found in most multivitamin/mineral supplements) is recommended because folic acid’s bioavailability from food varies widely—averaging only 50% overall.
Note: If you are already taking a multivitamin containing 400 mcg. of folic acid, you need not increase your supplemental intake unless directed to do so by your health care provider. Pregnant or lactating women will require additional supplementation beyond the 400 mcg. level.
How to Incorporate This Tip Into Your Lifestyle: Consider adding an 8-ounce glass of orange or grapefruit juice on a daily basis as an enhancement to your healthy diet. In addition to the antioxidant power of vitamin C (as well as a host of beneficial phytonutrients) citrus juices are also good sources of folic acid. And if you choose the calcium-fortified varieties, all the better!
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Not long after posting last week’s article on colorectal cancer screening, I came across a recent study regarding the nutritional benefits of folic acid for those individuals with a family history of this curable cancer. In this study (the famed Nurses’ Health Study which has followed the health habits of 90,000 female nurses since 1976) it was found that in participants with an adequate folic acid intake (400mcg. in this case) the presence of immediate relatives with colon cancer did not increase the participants’ risk for the disease. This is in direct contrast to individuals who took in less than the desired amount of folic acid. In this group, those participants having relatives with colon cancer were 2.5 times more likely to contract the disease than those individuals with relatives who did not have colon cancer. In essence, adequate folic acid neutralized the negative effect of the family history for this type of cancer in this study!
The exact mechanism of this neutralizing effect may be uncertain; however, we do know that folic acid is involved in DNA and RNA synthesis. Numerous studies have demonstrated that in the absence of folic acid, normally healthy cells can transform to a pre-cancerous state. These cells have the ability to become malignant, causing cancer. Speculation is that folic acid presents a roadblock in that process.
In addition to citrus foods, legumes (“beans” such as kidney, black, northern, garbanzo, pinto, etc.) green leafy vegetables, and fortified grains are good sources of folic acid. If you’re looking for a folic acid power meal, sit down to a bowl of tomato and bean chili, a green salad (leaf and romaine lettuce will be higher in folic acid than iceberg) a whole-grain roll, and grapefruit sorbet. Don’t forget a healthy beverage—perhaps OJ or green tea?
Not a chili fan? How about a bean tostada or bean burrito topped with lots of shredded greens and accompanied by a citrus smoothie? Challenge your imagination and come up with some ideas of your own!
The Internet offers many recipe sites–some offering search engines that will find recipes based upon product ingredients. Take a look. Invest a few minutes now to improve your lifestyle–you may be rewarded with more years to your life (and more life to your years) down the road.