Carcinogens are substances that have been proven to cause cancer, or that have been strongly linked to cancer — such as tobacco, asbestos, and pesticides. Carcinogens are also often found in everyday foods that you and your loved ones may be eating on a regular basis. Alcohol, blackened meats, and processed meats like hot dogs and pepperoni are among the most common foods linked to cancer, though there are many more that may be lurking in your refrigerator and pantry.
Here are seven foods that have been linked to a number of cancers. Avoid these foods and benefit from improved overall health and a lower cancer risk.
1. Bread, pastry dough, and other baked goods
Many breads and baked goods sold in grocery stores contain a chemical called potassium bromate, which helps whiten the color of bread and firm up the dough. Potassium bromate has been linked to nervous system dysfunction and cancer, and has been found to promote kidney tumors. Potassium bromate is banned in Canada, the U.K., and the European Union, but is allowed for use in the U.S. Make sure to always read the ingredient labels and avoid buying breads that contain this toxic chemical.
2. Burnt and barbecued foods
Barbecued foods and foods that are burnt to a crisp often contain more than 100 chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. These free radicals are formed when meat is cooked over high temperatures, and have been shown to increase inflammation, along with the risk for cancer. When barbecuing, take care to cook foods without burning them. Whenever possible, use healthier, safer cooking methods such as steaming, baking, and roasting.
Drinking alcohol in moderation may lower the risk for heart disease, but alcohol abuse can increase the risk for a heart attack, stroke, and cancer. Alcohol consumption has been linked to cancers of the oropharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum, and breast. If you drink regularly, cut back on your current alcohol intake, and ask your doctor whether moderate drinking is ideal for you based on your goals surrounding nutrition and weight loss.
4. Hot drinks
Consuming drinks like coffee and tea that are hotter than 149° Fahrenheit can trigger inflammation in the esophagus, and increase the risk for esophageal cancer. Considering the boiling point of water is 212° Fahrenheit, your favorite hot beverages may be far too hot to drink safely if you make them with boiling water. Allow them to cool down substantially before drinking them to avoid irritating your esophagus.
5. Processed meats
Processed meats are often packed with chemicals and nitrates that can turn cancerous and deadly when exposed to high temperatures. Meats such as bacon, hot dogs, salami, sausages, and prosciutto are examples of processed meats that can lead to various cancers. If you must consume red meat, aim for less than 100 grams per day of organic, hormone-free red meat to lower your cancer risk.
6. Canned foods
Bisphenol-A, or BPA is a cancer-causing chemical found in the linings of most cans of food. Canned tomatoes are often more dangerous than other canned foods due to tomatoes’ high acidity levels, which pulls BPA from the linings of cans and into the food. Avoid buying canned goods whenever possible, and stick to buying fresh fruits and vegetables instead, which are high in antioxidants that fight cancer.
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