You know that a healthy diet is one of the most important things you can do to minimize your risk of developing cancer.
But honestly, that is way easier said than done, even if you can bear the insanely powerful cravings for baked goods and the social pressure to overeat at family gatherings.
To protect your health, work on eliminating the most common carcinogens from your diet. The following 11 items should be avoided at all costs. Luckily, some of them simply need alternate preparation in order to be safe.
Others, sadly, have no redeeming health value and just need to be kicked to the curb. It won’t be easy, but we know you can do it. We’ll start with the biggest blows and work down to the minor adjustments.
1. Diet Foods
Surprise! The very foods that are marketed as healthy are actually a cancer-causing nightmare. See, once naturally occurring fat is removed, the “food” doesn’t taste very good. Manufacturers then replace the fat with artificial sweeteners and sodium. It doesn’t help anyone to eat a low fat product that instead delivers a huge serving of carcinogens.
In fact, most packaged foods contain additives that range from addictive to downright deadly. Whole foods like fruit and vegetables are way better for weight loss than fake diet foods. You’ll also enjoy a nice healthy ratio of sugar and fat – both necessary elements of our diets, but in the right balance.
Yep, soda just needs to go. It has zero nutritional value and more than a full day’s worth of sugar in just one can. Worse, the type of sugar typically found in soda is high fructose corn syrup. This is a highly concentrated form of the most difficult type of sugar for the body to process. It strains the liver and leads to a higher risk of cancer.
Cola is an especially dangerous soda because it has all that sugar plus artificial coloring that contains the carcinogenic chemical 4-MEI. Stop drinking sodas ASAP and instead rely on black tea flavored with a little bit of honey or fruit juice. This can be enjoyed hot or cold.
3. Refined White Flour
Okay, this is a tough one. It’s not simply a matter of not buying white flour anymore. The stuff is in all sorts of packaged foods, from pasta and bread to cakes and brownies. The problem is that refined white flour has removed every bit of health value from the original grain through processing, and it finishes up with a huge blast of chlorine gas to make the product nice and white.
Eating a lot of refined white flours bumps your cancer risk because sugar in cancer’s favorite food. Make the switch to whole grain wheat bread and skip pasta in favor of brown rice or quinoa. You may also want to start baking at home so that you can make healthier substitutes.
4. Potato Chips
Yeah, this one is going to hurt. Chips are so tasty but are loaded with trans fats, salt, and preservatives, plus a known carcinogen called acrylamide. This is found in all foods that are heated to a high temperature, and a lot ends up in chips because they are fried in scalding hot oil.
Thankfully there are healthier choices available for a salty, crunchy bite. Pretzels are better because they are baked instead of fried. Air popped popcorn represents a whole grain that’s actually pretty good for you as long as you don’t drench it in butter. You can even dip whole grain baked pita chips in hummus or guacamole.
5. Hydrogenated Oils
Vegetable oil sounds like it should be healthy, right? But in reality these oils cannot be extracted naturally and are instead chemically produced in a process called hydrogenation. Hydrogenated oils are full of omega-6 fatty acids, too many of which are linked to an increased risk of cancer. Most commercially baked products use hydrogenated oils, including snack foods like crackers.
At home, stick with olive, soy, or canola oil. It’s way healthier to bake your cookies, cakes, and even breads at home as well, or else get very good at reading labels at the grocery store.
In yet another example of a failed “healthy” alternative, margarine is way worse for you than butter. Because it is made from vegetable oils, it is simply loaded with trans fats.
Margarine ups your risk of cancer because the manufacturing process heats the oils to such a high temperature that the dangerous chemicals lycidol and 3-MCPD are produced. When these chemicals are digested, they release harmful toxins into the body. Stick to butter, just don’t go overboard.
7. Grilled Or Preserved Red Meat
Red meat is a good source of protein, but also pretty high in saturated fat. Servings should be limited and when you do eat it, be careful about the preparation. Turns out, those beautiful char marks on grilled meat are a clear sign of acrylamide, that nasty cancer-causing byproduct of high heat. By some reports, charred meat ups your risk of deadly pancreatic cancer by 60%!
Preserved meats like bacon, hot dogs, and lunch meat, are especially dangerous because of the way they are processed. Carcinogenic chemicals like nitrite and nitrate are used to make the meat last longer, but do your body no favors. Even natural smoking is a dangerous method of preservation, as the meat takes on tar during the process.
8. Microwave Popcorn
Microwave popcorn is so easy to make, but the cook-in bags are seriously toxic. They’re lined with a chemical called PFOA that is known to cause cancer. The butter flavoring on some varieties is also quite dangerous. It contains a chemical called diacetyl, or else a close cousin of diacetyl that was meant to be safer but really isn’t.
Add in the fact that 93% of corn grown in the United States is genetically modified, and the once healthy snack of popcorn becomes pure junk. Luckily, you can still buy organic kernels to air pop and dress with a combination of olive or avocado oil and your favorite dried herbs.
9. Canned Food, Especially Tomatoes
Canned vegetables are often way less nutritious than fresh or frozen because a ton of sodium is added in the preservation process. Canned fruits may be packed in high fructose corn syrup. But that’s not even why canned food makes our list! The real problem lies in the cans themselves. They are lined with a chemical called bisphenol A, or BPA.
BPA is a known hormone disrupter that has also been linked to cancer. There is no way to stop it from leaching into food that it touches, but the effect is greater with foods that are acidic, like tomatoes. It’s best to avoid canned food unless it is specifically labeled as BPA free.
10. Farmed Salmon
Wild salmon live mostly happy lives where they are able to enjoy the diet they prefer, which includes zooplankton and small invertebrates when they’re young, and larger fish like herring and krill when they get a bit bigger. Farmed salmon are typically fed a ground up mixture of random fish, vegetable matter, and antibiotics.
While wild salmon are naturally pink as a result of their diet, farmers add pink dye to the food of farmed salmon to make them look right. The end result is fish that’s full of carcinogenic PCBs, dioxins, and mercury. It also has less heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Always buy wild-caught if you indulge in salmon – it is both tasty and nutritious in this form.
11. Non-organic Fruits & Vegetables
It’s a tough situation, because organic produce is quite a bit more expensive than conventionally grown stuff. But farmers in the U.S. routinely use chemical pesticides so dangerous that they have been banned in other countries. One scary example is atrazine, which has been linked to tumor growth and reproductive disorders.
Buy organic to minimize your consumption of cancer-causing chemicals, which typically don’t break down in the body but instead grow in concentration over your lifetime.