We can begin identifying cancer-causing foods once we recognize which ingredients in our food cause cancer. Some of these ingredients are food additives and chemicals used to enhance taste, while others are used strictly for appearance or to increase product shelf life.
Cancer tumors develop, in part, by feeding on sugar in the bloodstream. If you eat lots of sugary snacks loaded with simple carbs, you’re loading your bloodstream with the chemical energy needed for cancer cells (and tumors) to proliferate. No biological system can live without fuel for its chemical processes, including cancer cells. Thus, one of the strategies to pursue for any anti-cancer diet is to eat low-glycemic diet. That means no refined sugars, no refined grains (white flour, for example), no heavy use of sweeteners and the lifetime avoidance of sugary soda pop.
Look to avoid ingredients such as, high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, sucrose, enriched bleached flour, white rice, white pastas, white breads and other white foods.
Moreover, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils — another danger — are developed from otherwise harmless, natural elements. To make them hydrogenated, oils are heated in the presence of hydrogen and metal catalysts. This process helps prolong shelf life but simultaneously creates trans fats, which only have to be disclosed on the label if the food contains more than 0.5 grams per serving. To avoid listing trans fats, or to claim “trans fat free” on their label, food manufacturers simply adjust the serving size until the trans fat content falls under 0.5 grams per serving. This is how you get modern food labels with serving sizes that essentially equate to a single bite of food. Not exactly a serving of food, is it?
Besides being a cancer factor, trans fats promote heart disease, interrupt metabolic processes, and cause belly fat that crowd the organs and strain the heart. The essential fatty acids that the hydrogenation process removes are responsible for a number of processes in your body. When trans fats replace these essential fatty acids, they occupy the same space without doing the same job. The “anchor” portion of the fatty acid is in place (which is how the body recognizes the fatty acid and puts it to work) but the chemically active part of the fatty acid is twisted, distorted, and missing vital parts.
After the hydrogenation process, the fatty acid can’t biochemically function in the same way. Things like brain cell function, hormones, gland function, oxygen transport, cell wall function (keeping things in or out of your cells) and digestive tract operation (putting together nutrients and blocking allergens) are adversely affected.
Food manufacturers don’t tell you this on the product label, of course. Your body needs essential fatty acids and you are programmed to keep eating until you get them. If you’re only eating trans fats, you’ll never feel fully satiated, because your body will never get the fatty acids it needs for essential function. Since cancer needs high blood sugar and low oxygen levels, a person with lots of belly fat who just can’t seem to put down those trans fat cookies or crackers (also loaded with flour and simple sugars) presents the ideal environment for the development of cancer.
Furthermore, Acrylamides are not added into food; they are created during the frying process. When starchy foods are subjected to high heat, acrylamides form. A Swedish study found that acrylamides cause cancer in rats, and more studies are under way to confirm the understanding that acrylamides also cause cancer in humans.
Additionally, sodium nitrite is added to processed meats, hot dogs, bacon, and any other meat that needs a reddish color to look “fresh.” Decades ago when meats were preserved, it was done with salt. But in the mid 20th century, food manufacturers started using sodium nitrite in commercial preservation. This chemical is responsible for the pinkish color in meat to which consumers have grown accustomed. Although today the use of refrigeration is largely what protects consumers from botulism and bacteria, manufacturers still add sodium nitrite to make the meat look pinkish and fresh.
The nitrites themselves are not the problem. People get more nitrites from vegetables than they do from meat, according to research by the University of Minnesota. During the digestion process, however, sodium nitrite is converted to nitrosamine, and that’s where the cancer problems begin. Nitrosamine is a carcinogen, but since it is not technically an ingredient, its presence can be easily overlooked on the packaging. Nitrosamines are also found in food items that are pickled, fried, or smoked; in things such as beer, cheese, fish byproducts, and tobacco smoke.
The Cancer Prevention Coalition recommends that children should not eat more than 12 hot dogs per month because of the risk of cancer. If you must have your hot dog fix, look for those without sodium nitrite listed among the ingredients.
Processed meats and bacon almost always contain the same sodium nitrite found in hot dogs. You can find some without nitrites, but you’ll have to look for them in natural grocers or health food stores. Bacon is also high in saturated fat, which contributes to the risk of cancers, including breast cancer. Limiting your consumption of processed meats and saturated fats also benefits the heart.
Doughnuts contain hydrogenated oils, white flour, sugar, and acrylamide. Essentially, they’re one of the worst cancer foods you can possibly eat. Reader’s Digest calls doughnuts “disastrous” as a breakfast food, and many experts agree it’s probably one of the worst ways to start the day.
Fries are made with hydrogenated oil and fried at high temperatures. Some chains even add sugar to their fry recipe to make them even more irresistible. Not only do they clog your arteries with saturated fat and trans fat, they also contain acrylamides. They should be called “cancer fries,” not French fries.
Snacks such as chips, crackers, and cookies generally contain white flour and sugar as well as trans fats, but it’s not enough to simply look for these ingredients on the label; you have to actually “decode” the ingredients list that food manufacturers use to deceive consumers. They do this by hiding ingredients (such as hiding MSG in yeast extract, or by fiddling with serving sizes so they can claim the food is trans fat free, even when it contains trans fats