When you think about what you're going to make for dinner, you're probably mostly concerned with how long your meal will take to prepare and the ingredients you already have in your kitchen. But, experts say it's a good idea to be mindful of what we're putting in our bodies, and the potential health risks of certain foods. What you eat affects more than just your energy levels and how you feel in the short-term, and there are a number of foods that can potentially increase your risk of cancer. If you're trying to live the healthiest, longest life possible, you may want to err on the side of caution, and see which foods are best suited for your lifestyle.
While foods themselves are rarely the direct cause of cancer, experts say lifestyle habits that do not favor nutritious foods may contribute to overall risk of cancer. Although many risk factors contribute to an eventual cancer diagnosis, experts suggest incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your daily routine may decrease your chances.
While certain unhealthy foods may already be suspected culprits for increasing risk of cancer, there are some other more unsuspecting foods that may not be the best for you as well. Here are seven of the more surprising foods that may cause cancer, according to experts.
There is some evidence that suggests certain deli meats may not be the best for you. "Some studies have shown a link between eating large amounts of processed meat and an increased risk for colorectal and stomach cancers," Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD tells Bustle. "Scientists believe this link is because of the nitrites, which are added to many lunch meats, hams, and hot dogs to maintain color and to prevent bacterial growth."
Although drinking small amounts of alcohol can have some health benefits, alcohol in excess may not. "Drinking anymore than the standard 1 drink/day for women or 2 drinks/day for men can increase your risk of developing mouth, pharynx (throat), larynx (voice box), esophagus, liver, breast, color and rectum cancer, according to the American Cancer Society," says Rizzo. So feel free to drink in moderation.
According to experts, fresh desserts may be a better option than packaged. "Processed sweets also contain trans fat, which have been shown to increase your risk of developing heart disease," says Rizzo. "The relationship between trans fat and cancer risk in still unknown, but it’s best to avoid eating these types of fats."
Next time you want to enjoy some popcorn for an at-home movie, check the labels. "Microwave popcorns made with the toxic compound diacytel have been associated with lung cancers," Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN tells Bustle. "Many food manufacturers have removed it from the ingredient list, but always check if it’s present, and opt for a different brand without it or pop your own at home."
Food charred on the grill tastes delicious, but studies say it's not so great for our bodies. "Charring causes the formation of Heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAAs), which has been linked to cancer in animal studies," says Amidor. Additionally, cooking meats, fish, or chicken over open flames where fat can drip and produce smoke can lead to the formation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which have also been linked to cancer formation, she says. But that doesn't mean you have to stop grilling all together. Research is still inconclusive about the quantity that makes these chemicals carcinogenic, so eating grilled foods in moderation may be your best option.
Fish is supposed to be one of the healthiest foods out there — but not if it's raised on a polluted farm, says scientific studies. Research published in the journal Science found that farm-raised salmon is higher in cancer-causing pollutants. The researchers believe this could slightly increase the risk of getting cancer later in life, although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration told the Associated Press that the levels of pollutants in farm-raised salmon are not high enough to raise serious concerns, urging Americans not to change their diets just based on that study.
When looking to incorporate nutritious foods that will benefit your health long-term into your daily routine, it never hurts to do research on what experts recommend.