Know that saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?” Not when it comes to carcinogens.
They’re those substances that play a direct role in humans and other animals developing cancer: Asbestos, tobacco, plutonium, to name a few. However, many common, innocuous-seeming food items have also been linked to a wide range of cancers—like processed meats, for example. Just this week the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed their most recent study findings that have officially moved processed meats, such as hot dogs and bacon, to the “carcinogenic to humans” category. The study also shed light on a causal association between red meat and colorectal cancer.
But jerky and burgers aren’t the only foods you need to watch out for. In light of this news, the Editors of Eat This, Not That! took a closer look at additional supermarket items you should avoid at all costs:
The lining of almost all canned foods are made with a chemical called bisphenol-A, or BPA. Even minuscule exposures to BPA increase the risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer, infertility, early puberty, metabolic disorders and type-2 diabetes, according to the Breast Cancer Fund. But tomatoes are exceptionally dangerous because of their high acidity, which causes BPA to leach from the lining of the can into the fruit. You’re better off using fresh tomatoes when you cook a meal or, if you prepare them ahead of time, storing them in glass jars.
More than 60 percent of the salmon consumed in the USA is farm raised, and that’s bad. Why? Studies have shown that farmed salmon contain high levels of PCBs, mercury and dioxins — three cancer-causing chemicals. Hardly surprising when you consider that these fish are fattened up with feed that’s contaminated with chemicals, antibiotics and pesticides. And their pinkish hue? It’s dye. On top of all that, farmed salmon has much less of the stuff that makes eating wild salmon a healthy choice. They’re lower in the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids that abound in wild specimens. Your move? Go wild when it comes to buying salmon.
Hydrogenated oils are used to preserve processed foods, to give them an appealing look for a long as possible. The ugly truth: Those oils can influence cell membranes’ structure and flexibility, which can lead to cancer. Vegetable oils also contain high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, which can cause heart disease and increase the risk of various malignancies, particularly skin cancer. The body needs some omega-6s, but they should be balanced with omega-3s; wild salmon, mackerel and grass-fed meats are very good sources. When it comes to oil, your best bet is to use olive and coconut oils which are naturally, not chemically, extracted.
Sausages, bacon, hot dogs, bologna, pimento loaf, prosciutto—these processed meats contain numerous chemicals and preservatives, including sodium nitrates, which make them look appealing and fresh but are well-known carcinogens. Smoked meats are particularly dangerous, as the meat picks up tar from the smoking process. (You might remember tar as the deadly ingredient contained in cigarettes.) In a study published in the Journal of BMC Medicine, researchers wrote that the excessive salts and chemicals used to make processed meats are dangerous to health. Study participants who ate 160 grams or more of processed meats increased their risk of early death as much as 44 percent within 12 years, as opposed to those who ate 20 grams or less. (Just one of the reasons why processed meats are one of the Most Dangerous Foods in the World.) And when it comes to conventionally prepared red meat, for every 100 gram portion of the stuff eaten daily, the risk of colorectal cancer could increase by 17%, according to the WHO researchers. To enjoy meat safely, go for grass-fed, organic and hormone-free varieties and consume less than 100 grams daily.
Unnerving news from the Environmental Working Group: Eighty-six breads, baked goods and starchy supermarket products have been identified as being laced with potassium bromate. The chemical, which is sometimes referred to as brominated flour, speeds up the manufacturing process and helps whiten and add bulk to bread and grain-based products. But that comes at a serious cost to the consumer: The additive has been linked to nervous-system disorders and has been identified as a potential human carcinogen by a number of health organizations. For this reason, the European Union, U.K., Canada, and Brazil don’t allow potassium bromate to be used. In the States, the FDA has urged manufacturers to stop using it, but they have yet to make that mandatory. Take a look at the the ingredients list of the next bread you buy. If it includes brominated flour, consider choosing something else.
Tumors use sugars to “feed” themselves and increase in size. This unsettling fact was discovered in 1931 by Otto Warburg, a Nobel laureate in medicine. Warburg figured out that in order to proliferate, cancer cells thrive on fructose-rich sweeteners such as high-fructose corn syrup. HFCS is metabolized by cancer cells more quickly and easily than other sweeteners; check for it on nutrition labels and avoid it.
After tobacco use, alcohol abuse is the leading cause of cancer. Although it’s true that a moderate or low amount of alcohol can actually reduce heart-disease risk, overindulgence can result in heart failure and stroke. And cancer. In a meta-study, experts working for the World Health Organization concluded that excessive alcohol use is the main cause of mouth, esophagus, liver, colon, mouth, rectum and female breast cancers. Stick with one glass of wine per day for women, two for men. Go with one of these best wines for weight loss.
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