Top 12 Foods That Will Maximize Your Cancer Risk
Cancer is one of the leading causes of deaths worldwide, claiming millions of lives every year. It is estimated that more than 8 million died of cancer in 2012 alone – and it’s not going to get better. The number of people diagnosed with this fatal disease is expected to rise by 70 percent in the next 20 years.
You’d be surprised to know that 30 percent of all cancers are preventable. It only takes a few lifestyle modifications to decrease your cancer risks, with food being a major contributor. Research has shown that 1 out of 10 cancers are related to diet. Just as there are foods that prevent cancer, so are there foods that maximize your cancer risks. Here’s a list of the top 12 cancer-causing foods – and ones you should be avoiding:
1. Non-organic produce
Eating fruits and vegetables is highly encouraged by nutritionists because of their cancer-fighting ingredients which include vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, and antioxidants. What they forget to mention is how you should be careful with what you pick. Most of the produce sold in the market is non-organic, meaning they were grown witch chemical fertilizers and treated with toxic pesticides. For these reasons, non-organic produce is not only unsafe for human consumption but could also maximize your cancer risk.
Nitrogen, atrazine, thiodicarb, and organophosphates are some of the harmful components of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Studies show that they contaminate fruits and vegetables by either sticking on their surface or leeching into them. According to a survey conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), about 98 percent of sold produce is contaminated with cancer-causing fertilizers and pesticides, with apples as the biggest offender. Other fruits that had increased levels of pesticides include grapes, strawberries, and oranges.
Minimize your cancer risk: Experts say that rinsing contaminated produce before eating or cooking doesn’t completely wash off the toxins. You should consider switching to organically grown fruits and vegetables.
2. Potato snacks
Doctors have always warned about French fries and potato chips due to their unhealthy trans fats. It only takes a small serving of these babies to see your cholesterol levels skyrocket. But there’s new reason to believe that they are more dangerous than originally thought. Recent studies show they may contain acrylamide, a chemical with industrial applications and a known carcinogen.
The National Cancer Institute states that food is one of the top sources of acrylamide that both the World Health Organization and United Nations consider it a “major concern”. Acrylamide is often produced when food is exposed to high-temperature cooking methods such as baking, frying, and broiling. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) adds that cooking French fries to a crisp increases their acrylamide content.
Minimize your cancer risk: There’s no need to avoid potato snacks altogether, but it would be better if you made them yourself. When cooking potatoes, you should blanch them before frying, maintain cooking temperatures below 120 degrees Celsius, decrease overall cooking time, and dry them in a hot air oven after frying.
3. Microwave popcorn
We love popcorn so much that we’ve taken it from theatres and ballparks into our homes. While preparing it normally took minutes, food scientists made it possible to have them in a minute! Microwave popcorn is so convenient that you only have to place a bag of it in a microwave and watch the magic happen. Add to that the buttery smell it gives off as soon as you pop it open – it’s simply divine. Too bad it causes cancer.
The bags used to contain microwave popcorn are lined with a carcinogen known as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). According to studies, PFOA exposure is linked to an increased risk for various cancers affecting the liver, pancreas, kidneys, bladder, and testicles. Besides an increased risk for cancer, microwave popcorn may cause lung problems because of a chemical called diacetyl.
Factory workers exposed to diacetyl have been found to develop bronchiolitis obliterans or “popcorn lung”. Microwave popcorn emits dangerous levels of diacetyl fumes straight out of a microwave, so it’s not advisable to inhale it.
Minimize your cancer risk: Prepare popcorn the old-fashioned way by placing popcorn kernels into a large pot over medium-high heat.
4. Farmed Salmon
Fish is a healthy option. It is a good source of protein and fatty acids which are excellent for the heart. Salmon in particular is beneficial for joint cartilage, tissue repair, and bone strength. Farmed salmon, on the other hand, will only increase your risk for cancer.
Farmed salmon live off an unnatural diet contaminated with carcinogens. They are fed chemicals to make their meat turn into a reddish pink color similar to that of wild salmon. A scientific study suggests they contain too many pollutants that it is only safe to eat them three times each year. 14 toxins including dioxins, toxaphene, PCBs, and dieldrin were found to be significantly higher in farmed salmon than wild salmon. And it just so happens that these chemicals cause cancer.
Minimize your cancer risk: About 60 percent of the salmon sold in U.S. markets are farm-bred. You want to buy wild salmon, which is not only safer to eat but also contains high amounts of vitamin E and Omega-3 fatty acids. Other farmed fish can be equally bad for your health so you should avoid them just as much.
5. Canned tomatoes
Tomatoes are among the healthiest foods you can eat. They contain a chockfull of antioxidants such as lycopene, lutein, beta-carotene, and choline. Tomatoes are also a rich source of vitamins A, C, and folic acid. Together, these nutrients give tomatoes the capacity to prevent certain cancers. Unfortunately, canning them undoes this health benefit.
Canned tomatoes, like all canned goods, are lined with bisphenol-A (BPA). BPA is the same toxic component found in plastic bottles. Exposure to bisphenol-A disrupts the hormones and maximizes a person’s risk for breast cancer and prostate cancer. Because tomatoes are highly acidic, they tend to contain higher amounts of BPA compared to most canned goods – the acidity causes the carcinogenic compound to leech into the contents.
Minimize your cancer risk: Why buy canned tomatoes when you can get them fresh? Tomatoes packed in glass jars are also a good choice. These are much healthier choices since they retain the nutritional value of tomatoes without the cancer-causing BPA.
6. Processed meats
Bacon, sliced ham, hotdog, salami, bologna, meat loaf, and sausage… we just have to have our fill of processed meats! For a lot of people, they are part of their everyday lives. While processed meats are undeniably delicious, they are also among the top foods that will maximize your cancer risk and should therefore be avoided.
Processed meats are loaded with preservatives such as sodium nitrate to extend their shelf life, as well as chemicals to keep them looking fresh. But the very same preservatives and chemicals, scientists say, are carcinogenic and have been known to increase a person’s risk for colorectal cancer in several studies. Nitrates, when ingested, turn into N-nitroso, a cancer-causing chemical compound. Smoked meats pose the highest risk for cancer because when they are cooked at high heat, the nitrates are converted to nitrites which are more dangerous.
Minimize your cancer risk: Reduce your risk for colorectal cancer by limiting your consumption of processed meats. While cooking smoked meats, try not to set the temperature too high to prevent the formation of nitrites.
7. Pickled, smoked, and heavily salted foods
Processed meats aren’t the only foods on this list with elevated amounts of preservatives; so is everything else that’s been pickled, smoked, or salted. Like processed meats, these foods contain chemicals and nitrates in order to prolong their shelf life and maintain their freshness. Much like anything with food additives, they too can cause cancer. Moreover, smoked foods tend to have considerable amounts of tar similar to the one cigarette produces. Tar is a known carcinogen.
A study in Japan revealed that eating pickled, smoked, and salted foods raised people’s risks for colorectal and stomach cancer. The incidence of stomach cancer was found to be higher in towns where their diet comprised mainly of smoked or highly salted foods.
Minimize your cancer risk: It would be best to avoid eating foods that are pickled, smoked, or heavily salted. If it can’t be helped, you can at least set restrictions on how much you should eat. They contain a myriad of preservatives that will later cause cancer and other health problems.
8. Refined grains
Breads, pastries, white rice, and pasta are wonderful stomach-fillers. A small serving of these refined grains leaves you feeling full until the next meal. These foods are also good sources of energy because they are easily converted into sugar and distributed across the bloodstream for use by the body’s cells. But normal healthy cells are not the only ones able to take advantage of the elevated blood sugar levels. So do cancer cells.
Refined grains are the top perpetrators behind obesity and diabetes, but certainly not cancer. While they do not contain carcinogens, they can still maximize your risk for cancer by helping “feed” cancerous cells and encouraging their growth and proliferation throughout the body. Cancer cells, especially tumors, get their nourishment from sugars in the bloodstream. Refined grains pose even greater threat to your health because they contain chlorine gas, a toxic chemical which mills used to bleach the flour. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers chlorine gas as unsafe for human consumption.
Minimize your cancer risk: Avoid feasting on refined grains and limit your portions based on the recommended daily servings. Opt for whole grains instead. Whole grains are still good sources of energy but they won’t maximize your cancer risk. They are also rich in fiber which helps prevent colorectal cancer.
Chugging down a cold bottle of soda is refreshing, especially on a hot summer day. Its sweet taste and unmistakable fizzle makes it all the more satisfying. But the sodas we’ve come to love ever since we were kids are not just thirst-quenchers. They are also cancers-in-a-bottle.
Soda is no different from most sweet beverages in that they are full of artificial sweeteners like aspartame, although with good reason. Aspartame is 200 times sweeter than sugar but contains fewer calories and therefore less likely to cause weight increase and diabetes. But aspartame is also a known carcinogenic. One study has shown that it can increase your risk for developing cancerous tumors in the brain. A more recent scientific investigation of 125,000 people revealed a link between soda intake and increased risk for leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma in men – all variants of cancer.
Besides artificial sugar, soda also contains chemicals and food coloring that can maximize your cancer risk. Its caramel color, derived from 4-methylimidazole (4-MI), is thought to be a cancer-causing agent.
Minimize your cancer risk: Steer clear from soda and other artificially sweetened beverages. Always choose healthier drinks like all-natural fruit juices and unsweetened teas.
10. Red meats
Beef, lamb, pork, and all other red meats are part of a well-balanced diet. They are among the primary sources of protein and other essential nutrients not found in fruits and vegetables. Eating too much red meat is not good for your body though, as it raises your risk for cancer. The World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research have found that people whose diets consisted mainly of red meats were more likely to develop pancreatic, stomach, lung, esophageal, breast, and endometrial cancers.
The way red meat is cooked influences its cancer-causing effects. When exposed to high temperatures such as in charring, it creates heterocyclic amines (HCAs) – 17 of which are carcinogenic. Red meats also tend to have saturated fats which can increase your risk for breast and colon cancer. A more recent study published in Discover Magazine suggests that red meat contains Neu5Gc, a sugar molecule that speeds up the development of cancer.
Minimize your cancer risk: Skipping red meats is not necessary, though you shouldn’t eat them if they are charred or well-done. Controlling your consumption of red meat is the best way to reduce your cancer risk.
11. Diet food
Being overweight or obese puts you at risk for certain cancers and various other health problems like heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes. That said, resorting to diet food is not the solution. These are foods with labels like “diet,” “fat-free,” “zero calorie,” and “low-calorie.” While they can certainly help you with weight loss, they also tend to contain aspartame, the cancerous artificial sweetener.
Besides aspartame, diet foods often have artificial coloring, chemicals, and GMOs which can further increase your risk for cancer. Not to mention, they are usually heavily salted, contain carcinogenic preservatives, and are made of overly-refined ingredients that promote the development of cancer cells.
Minimize your cancer risk: If you’re trying to lose weight, don’t eat “diet” food. Consider switching to a diet with a healthy balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Adopt a more active lifestyle to better your chances of losing weight and reduce your overall risk for cancer.
Drinking beer and wine can be beneficial to one’s health. Low to moderate alcohol consumption has been associated with decreased incidences of heart disease. Yay beer! What may come as a shock to many “occasional” drinkers is that excessive drinking actually maximizes your cancer risk. In fact, about 3 percent or 19,500 of all cancer deaths in the United States every year is due to alcohol consumption.
Alcohol causes cancer by damaging healthy cells in the body and replacing them with cancerous cells. It also breaks down into carcinogenic chemicals when digested. In women, it alters the hormones in a way that raises their stakes for breast cancer. Both heavy drinking and long-term alcohol consumption have been linked to various types of cancer including colorectal, pancreatic, and liver cancer.
Minimize your cancer risk: Regulate your alcohol ingestion. Women are only allowed 1 drink per day, whereas men can have as much as 2 drinks. Anything in excess of these recommendations will significantly increase your risk for cancer.