The food you eat is more powerful than you think. Need proof? About 30 to 40 percent of all cancers can be prevented by healthy eating.
In America, cancer is the leading cause of death.1 It kills 171.2 per 100,000 men and women each year, with the rates being higher in men. Plus, according to the National Cancer Institute, about 39.6 percent of people will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives.2 Needless to say, prevention should be a priority.3
Since cancer can be of several types, there’s an endless list of possible causes. Biological factors – like genetics and age – are uncontrollable, and exposure to carcinogenic chemicals is unavoidable. And then, there are lifestyle factors. Habits like smoking, alcohol use, and exercise can increase your cancer risk.4 As for eating habits? Do yourself a favor and avoid these 7 foods.
7 Foods That Could Cause Cancer
1. Red And Processed Meats
The typical Western diet is riddled with red and processed meats – think burgers, cold cuts, and hot dogs. Unfortunately, according to a 2005 European study, a high intake of this meat is associated with colorectal cancer.
Fish has the opposite effect. Eating more fish actually lowers the risk, proving that protein quality matters most. However, no relationship was found with poultry.5 If you cannot avoid including meat in your diet, try to limit red and processed meat. A daily serving of these meats may increase cancer death by 10 and 16 percent, respectively.6 It’s a great reason to cook a fillet!
2. Smoked Foods
Smoking meat may add flavor to the food, but it also creates carcinogens called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These compounds alter the DNA and cause cancer. To put it into perspective, PAHs are also found in cigarettes smoke and car exhaust fumes.7 Why should they be in your food, too?
According to a 2017 study, smoked meats increase the risk of breast cancer, especially in obese and overweight women.8 In breast cancer survivors, smoked food can increase mortality.9 Consumption of smoked food is also linked to gastric cancer, emphasizing the dangers of smoked meat.10.
3. Refined And Artificial Sugars
Sugary treats are known to increase the risk of diabetes. However, food rich in sugar could cause pancreatic cancer. In a 2006 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found a relationship between sugar and pancreatic cancer. Specifically, high-sugar foods were to blame, like packaged desserts and candy.11
If you have a sweet tooth, learn how to make healthy desserts. Blend frozen banana slices for a nutritious ice cream. Use dates, figs, and honey to naturally sweeten recipes.
4. Soda And Fruit Juice
The dangers of sugar don’t stop at dessert. In the United States, sugar-sweetened beverages are the top sources of added sugar.12 This includes soda and “fruit” juice, which are both flavored with artificial ingredients.
As these drinks bring on the pounds, weight gain and obesity are more likely. This heightens the risk of cancer, especially of the breast, endometrium, colon, prostate, and pancreas.13 14 To make things worse, diabetes, heart disease, and depression are also likely.15
5. Deep-Fried Foods
Like red meat, deep-fried food is an American staple. Examples include fried chicken, mozzarella sticks, and chicken nuggets – it’s fast food in a nutshell. Yet, fried food is associated with cancer.
In 2015, a study found out that a high intake increases prostate cancer risk by 35 percent.16 It’s also related to cancers of the breast, kidney, pancreas, rectum, and colon.17 Opt for other cooking methods instead. Healthier options include baking, steaming, and poaching.
6. Fried Potatoes
Fried potatoes are especially harmful. It doesn’t help that French fries and potato chips are everywhere! Potatoes contain high levels of asparagine, an amino acid. When fried, asparagine creates acrylamide, a potential carcinogen. Studies have found a correlational relationship between fried food and acrylamide, with the consumption of fried food being linked to cancer of the esophagus, kidney, breast, and ovaries. Compared to other foods, french fries and potato chips have highest levels of acrylamide.18
7. Refined White Flour
When refined grains are processed, the fiber-rich layers are removed. These layers also contain plant chemicals that may protect against various cancers.19
For instance, a 2007 study found a link between refined white flour products and colon cancer.20 Another 2015 experiment saw a relationship with esophageal cancer. In fact, refined grains were right up there with smoking cigarettes and firewood cooking.21
Instead of products like white pasta and bread, go for whole grains. Their high level of plant chemicals can do wonders for cancer prevention.22
Foods That Ward Off Cancer
- Fruits and vegetables (especially cruciferous veggies)
- Broccoli sprouts
- Whole grains
These foods may lower the risk of breast, colon, and prostate cancers by 60 to 70 percent. The likelihood of lung cancer can also decrease by 40 to 50 percent. It just goes to show that food is medicine!23
Overcoming cancer isn’t easy, but preventing it is! Avoid these 7 foods in your diet, and reduce your risk of developing cancer.
|↑1||Leading Causes of Death. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑2||Cancer Statistics. National Cancer Institute.|
|↑3, ↑23||Donaldson, Michael S. “Nutrition and cancer: a review of the evidence for an anti-cancer diet.” Nutrition journal 3, no. 1 (2004): 19.|
|↑4||Risk Factors for Cancer. National Cancer Institute.|
|↑5||Norat, Teresa, Sheila Bingham, Pietro Ferrari, Nadia Slimani, Mazda Jenab, Mathieu Mazuir, Kim Overvad et al. “Meat, fish, and colorectal cancer risk: the European Prospective Investigation into cancer and nutrition.” Journal of the national cancer institute 97, no. 12 (2005): 906-916.|
|↑6||Protein. Harvard T.H. Chan, School of Public Health.|
|↑7||Chemicals in Meat Cooked at High Temperatures and Cancer Risk. National Cancer Institute.|
|↑8||Niehoff, Nicole, Alexandra J. White, Lauren E. McCullough, Susan E. Steck, Jan Beyea, Irina Mordukhovich, Jing Shen et al. “Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and postmenopausal breast cancer: An evaluation of effect measure modification by body mass index and weight change.” Environmental research 152 (2017): 17-25.|
|↑9||Parada Jr, Humberto, Susan E. Steck, Patrick T. Bradshaw, Lawrence S. Engel, Kathleen Conway, Susan L. Teitelbaum, Alfred I. Neugut, Regina M. Santella, and Marilie D. Gammon. “Grilled, Barbecued, and Smoked Meat Intake and Survival Following Breast Cancer.” JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute 109, no. 6 (2017): djw299.|
|↑10||Cheng, Xiao Jiao, Jia Cheng Lin, and Shui Ping Tu. “Etiology and prevention of gastric cancer.” Gastrointestinal tumors 3, no. 1 (2016): 25-36.|
|↑11||Larsson, Susanna C., Leif Bergkvist, and Alicja Wolk. “Consumption of sugar and sugar-sweetened foods and the risk of pancreatic cancer in a prospective study.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 84, no. 5 (2006): 1171-1176.|
|↑12||Kumar, Gayathri S., Liping Pan, Sohyun Park, Seung Hee Lee-Kwan, Stephen Onufrak, and Heidi M. Blanck. “Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among adults—18 states, 2012.” MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 63, no. 32 (2014): 686-90.|
|↑13||Mueller, Noel T., Andrew Odegaard, Kristin Anderson, Jian-Min Yuan, Myron Gross, Woon-Puay Koh, and Mark A. Pereira. “Soft drink and juice consumption and risk of pancreatic cancer: the Singapore Chinese Health Study.” Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Biomarkers 19, no. 2 (2010): 447-455.|
|↑14, ↑15||Malik, Vasanti S., Matthias B. Schulze, and Frank B. Hu. “Intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain: a systematic review.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 84, no. 2 (2006): 274-288.|
|↑16||Lippi, Giuseppe, and Camilla Mattiuzzi. “Fried food and prostate cancer risk: systematic review and meta-analysis.” International journal of food sciences and nutrition 66, no. 5 (2015): 587-589.|
|↑17||Gonzales, Joseph F., Neal D. Barnard, David JA Jenkins, Amy J. Lanou, Brenda Davis, Gordon Saxe, and Susan Levin. “Applying the precautionary principle to nutrition and cancer.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 33, no. 3 (2014): 239-246.|
|↑18||Acrylamide in Food and Cancer Risk. National Cancer Institute.|
|↑19||Whole Grains. Harvard T.H. Chan, School of Public Health.|
|↑20||Ströhle, A., W. Maike, and A. Hahn. “Nutrition and colorectal cancer.” Medizinische Monatsschrift fur Pharmazeuten 30, no. 1 (2007): 25-32.|
|↑21||Mlombe, Y. B., N. E. Rosenberg, L. L. Wolf, C. P. Dzamalala, K. Challulu, J. Chisi, N. J. Shaheen, M. C. Hosseinipour, and C. G. Shores. “Environmental risk factors for oesophageal cancer in Malawi: A case-control study.” Malawi Medical Journal 27, no. 3 (2015): 88-92.|
|↑22||Whole Grains. American Institute for Cancer Research.|