Eating Habits that can Cause Cancer: What you need to be Aware of and the Bad Habits you need to Break
One of the scariest six letter words in the English language, cancer, is a word that makes most of us cringe when uttered.
We know that there are different types of cancers. But what is cancer? Simply put, cancer is a disease caused by an uncontrolled division of abnormal cells within the body. And with all the research constantly surfacing about cancer, it sometimes feels like everything causes cancer.
Fortunately, not everything causes cancer. But there are definite eating habits that have been linked to cancer. Read below to learn what they are and how you can change them.
Bad Eating Habits that Cause Cancer
Red and Processed Meats
Eating red meat, like beef, goat, lamb and pork, have been linked to cancer. Processed meats, like bacon, sausage, lunch meat and hot dogs, have also been linked to cancer, especially colon cancer.
While eating these types of meat have been linked to colon cancer, the cancer-causing factors from these foods are still up for debate. They include:
Charred or burned meat – one commonly held view is that when red meat is burned or charred, it increases your risk of colon cancer. Although there is a fair amount of evidence that supports this view, there is evidence to support that burning and charring your meat doesn’t contribute to cancer risk at all. When white meat, like chicken, is burned, it produces near identical chemicals as burned red meat. Yet white meat isn’t linked with increased cancer risk.
Fat content – fat from red and processed meats have also been suspected as a potential culprit for increased risk of colon cancer. But research has suggested that it may not be the dietary fat from these foods that increases cancer risk. Individuals who are heavier are more likely to get certain types of cancer while thinner individuals are at a reduced risk for cancer. But individuals who aren’t necessarily thin, but eat less fat, tend not to have reduced cancer risk. This suggests that having less body fat, and not necessarily eating less fat, reduces the risk for cancer.
Nitrate and nitrate preservatives – the nitrate and nitrite preservatives found in processed meats have been suspected as increasing cancer risk. But the evidence supporting this claim is limited, spotty, and often contradictory.
Heme – heme is a possible culprit in the link between red and processed meats and cancer. Heme is a protein in the blood that’s made from iron. It helps carry oxygen throughout the body and is responsible for the pigment of red meat.
Scientists discovered that when heme is broken down in the gut, it forms chemicals called ‘N-nitroso compounds’. These compounds damage DNA. As a result, when the lining of the gut senses the damage, the existing cells begin to divide more rapidly to make new cells. It’s this additional division that could increase cancer risk since every time a cell divides, there’s risk for DNA errors to occur. Although this is a likely culprit, there’s no evidence that proves that people with high N-nitroso compounds in their stools actually have higher colon cancer risk.
Fried foods have been linked to cancer. This is because fried foods contain a chemical known as acrylamide. Acrylamide is used primarily as a building block in making polyacrylamide and acrylamide copolymers used in many industrial processes including paper production, dyes, and plastics. And while this is a chemical that is used in industrial processes, it can also be created in food.
Asparagine is an amino acid found in many vegetables. And some vegetables, like potatoes, have higher asparagine concentrations. When these vegetables are heated to a high temperature in the presence of certain sugars, asparagine is converted into acrylamide. Cooking methods such as frying, baking, and even broiling produce acrylamide in these foods whereas microwaving and boiling are less likely to do so. Long cooking times can also increase acrylamide production when the cooking temperature is above 120ºC.
Research indicates that the more alcohol a person drinks, the higher their risk is of developing an alcohol associated cancer. Patterns have emerged between alcohol consumption and the development of certain types of cancer such as head and neck cancer, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer, and colon cancer.
Good Eating Habits that Prevent Cancer
Eat High Fiber Foods like Fruits, Vegetables, and Whole Grains
Research clearly demonstrates that a high fiber diet can help you stay at a healthy weight since it makes you feel fuller faster thereby resulting in less caloric intake. Fiber also moves toxic substances from the body faster. It dilutes potential carcinogens and because it’s a prebiotic, fiber promotes the growth of good bacteria in the gut.
Fruits and vegetables are also full of antioxidants which fight against free radicals. Free radicals are substances that damage your DNA. They’re constantly formed in the body as a result of environmental exposure, sun exposure, dietary intake, and a variety of other factors. Antioxidants help fight and prevent such damage. There is also some evidence that points to the fact that chlorophyll, found in fruits and vegetables, may block the breakdown of heme in the gut. It does this by binding with, and sequestering, carcinogens within the gastrointestinal tract until they are eliminated from the body.
Whole grains are linked to reduced cancer risk for many of the same reasons as fiber. And like fiber, whole grains help with weight control by making you feel full. Plus some whole grains, like brown rice and oatmeal, contain selenium – a mineral that has antioxidant properties.
Eat Less Red and Processed Meats
If you eat red meat, choose leaner cuts and eat smaller portions. Bake, broil or poach your meat instead of grilling it. Finally, reduce your intake of these types of meat.
Avoid Fried Foods
Rather than frying your food, prepare it by baking, broiling, or poaching.
Reduce Alcohol Intake
Reducing how much alcohol you consume will lower your risk of developing alcohol-related cancers.
Do you have any tips to prevent or cure cancer? Please share in the comments below.
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