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Australia's second deadliest killer

Bowel cancer is one of the most treatable types of cancer if found early. There are also a few really simple things you can do today, to decrease your risk of bowel cancer.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that Australians consume 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables every day. They are a fabulous source of vitamins, minerals and fibre. But they can also decrease inflammation and help repair DNA damage.

There is no shortage of research showing that if you increase your fruit and veg intake can reduce your risk of obesity, cancer, diabetes, stroke, heart attack and even depression and neurodegenerative diseases like dementia (just to name a few). That also includes bowel cancer. Unfortunately the Australian Heath Survey revealed that less than 4% of Australians are eating the recommended daily 5 serves of vegetables. Its a shame really, because it is such an easy way to improve your health and stay healthy.

To put it in perspective, 1 serve of vegetables is about a cup of salad, or 1/2 a cup of raw veggies or legumes. As well as providing a whole host of vital nutrients, our veggies provide food for our gut bacteria. The balance of bacteria in our bodies can have a big impact on our health, particularly considering we have over 1kg of bacteria in our digestive system. So if we look after, and feed, our health-promoting good bacteria by giving them the food they need, they will be in there looking after us. This is an essential part of our diet for protecting us from bowel cancer.

So, how can you improve your diet to protect you from bowel cancer?

  1. Eat a rainbow. Choose a variety of fruit and veg each day, in all the colours of the rainbow. Different fruit and veggies contain different nutrients. So make sure you each a variety each week which will, in turn, ensure you are eating a variety of nutrients. 
  2. Put them everywhere. Whether you beef up your sauces by adding some grated veggies, add a vegetable to your snacks or make the occasional green smoothie, it doesn't matter. But look for ways in each of your meals to increase the veggie content.
  3. Eat lots of probiotic rich foods. Think yoghurts, fermented veg, kombucha if its your thing. In doing so you will make sure you are constantly introducing good bacteria to your digestive tract and maintaining bacteria variety.
  4. Limit processed foods. There is plenty of research that shows processed foods don't help the balance of good bacteria in our gut. So as much as possible - aim for fresh, whole foods. For example, swap butter for avocado or hummus or use choose wholegrain crackers and breads in place of low fibre options like white bread or jatz style crackers.
  5. Mix it up and experiment. We used to be baby spinach, tomato and bocconcini salad for dinner every night. There's nothing wrong with those, but there sure wasn't a lot of variety until we started experimenting a bit more. So if you're stuck in your ways, branch out and commit to trying something new each week!

My take home is, you can't eat too much veg - and the more you eat, and the more variety there is in your diet, the healthier you will be. In fact, research shows that eating as much as 800g of veggies a day a day lowered risk of:

  • heart disease by 24%
  • stroke by 33%
  • cardiovascular disease by 28%
  • cancer by 13%; and
  • premature death by 31%

 So what veggies are you going to fill your plate with today?

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