It’s All Related - March is both National Nutrition Month and Colon Cancer Awareness Month. So, what do eating healthy and cancer have to do with one another? More than you might think. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, “About half of all Americans have one or more preventable chronic diseases, many of which are related to poor eating patterns and physical inactivity.” Good nutrition can help reduce the risk of various diseases, including some cancers, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and poor bone health among others.
Preventable and Curable - Colorectal cancer (cancer found in the rectum and colon) is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women and men combined. Ninety percent of colorectal cancers are found in people over age 50. That said, it is preventable through early screenings. In fact, everyone 50 and older is encouraged to have a colonoscopy as well as anyone with a family history of certain cancers. While even the (otherwise) healthiest person can get colorectal cancer, there are ways to reduce one’s risk, including: not smoking, staying physically active, consuming less red meat or processed meats, drinking alcohol in moderation and keeping down overall body fat. The Lancaster County Crusade Against Colon Cancer during March and April works to increase awareness and screening across the county, offering coupons for free screening kits from March 1-31. For more information, visit lincoln.ne.gov, keyword: colon cancer.
March is also National Nutrition Month. Prevention is key to lowering the risk of colon cancer -- and good nutrition is an important element in the prevention strategy. The National Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition provides these great tips on how to eat healthy:
• Include a variety of healthful foods from all of the food groups on a regular basis (especially fresh fruits and vegetables).
• Select healthier options when eating away from home.
• Be mindful of portion sizes. Eat and drink the amount that's right for you. MyPlate (choosemyplate.gov) is a helpful guide.
• Choose healthy fats. A nutritious eating plan doesn't mean cutting out all fat, just focusing on healthier varieties like salmon, nuts, avocados and flaxseed. More at: eatright.org
Rethink Your Drink - Sugar essentially feeds tumors and encourages cancer growth. Cancer cells uptake sugar at 10-12 times the rate of healthy cells. Regular soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, fruit-flavored drinks and even 100 percent fruit juice are significant sources of sugar and empty calories in our diet. Swap out a daily sugar-sweetened drink for water and an apple, add a daily walk, and you’ll save thousands of calories a year and be healthier.
Access to Healthy Food: Some of Lincoln’s Latest Efforts - Various community organizations around Lincoln are working to supply healthier food options where there is limited access, and in some cases, providing education on healthier cooking at home. Matt Talbott Kitchen & Outreach (mtko.org) is known for supplying meals for those most in need, but few people are aware that they also provide nutrition education, cooking classes for children and adults, and a community garden. WeCook (4h.unl.edu/wecook) is a program developed by Nebraska 4-H, and supported by Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln, that teaches youth in grades 3-5 basic and nutritious food preparation and incorporates physical activity. It is currently being offered at several after-school programs around Lincoln and through the Nebraska Extension. As part of its 20th anniversary, the Community Health Endowment is supporting the Healthy Food Access Project, including a commercial kitchen to be used to prepare healthy meals for the Summer Food Program, Head Start Programs and child-care providers around Lincoln. They will also provide a healthy food access vehicle in collaboration with the Food Bank of Lincoln and Community Action Partnership of Lancaster and Saunders Counties that will deliver free fresh produce to high-poverty neighborhoods. More at:chelincoln.org.
For more information on the topics highlighted in this month’s article, go to the “Health & the City” playlist at YouTube.com/LNKTVhealth.
Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln (HealthyLincoln.org) and LNKTV Health (LNKTV.lincoln.ne.gov) bring you Health and the City, a monthly column that examines relevant community health issues and spotlights the local organizations that impact community wellness. Direct questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org