Many people worry about getting cancer, but they don’t realize how much difference their food choices can make in whether they get cancer or not. When it comes to cancer, your diet can make all the difference.
The connection between the food we eat and cancer is anything but new. Scientists have long noticed the association with eating meat and cancer. For instance, Scientific American stated all the way back in January 1892 that “cancer is most frequent among those branches of the human race where carnivorous habits prevail.”
Studies have shown again and again that those following a plant-based diet have a lower risk of several kinds of cancer such as stomach, colon, prostate and pancreatic. Even smokers (and of course smoking is not recommended) can cut their risk of lung cancer by half if they eat a plant-food rich diet. Now, in the 21st century, scientists are discovering many of the ways plant foods help protect us from getting cancer. Read more
The World Health Organization (WHO) has finally said what many already knew: red meat causes colon cancer. They say the evidence for processed meat is “strong,” classifying it as “carcinogenic [cancer causing] to humans.” The evidence for ordinary red meat was almost as high. They also found evidence linking meat to other cancers including cancer of the stomach, pancreas and prostate.
This comes as no surprise. Scientists have long noticed the association with eating meat and cancer. For instance, Scientific American stated all the way back in January 1892 that “cancer is most frequent among those branches of the human race where carnivorous habits prevail.”
Processed meat is any meat that has been preserved by smoking, curing, salting or adding chemical preservatives. This puts most of the cold cuts at the supermarket deli counter — such as ham, pastrami, turkey and bologna — into this category, along with bacon, sausage, hot dogs, corned beef, pepperoni, beef jerky as well as canned meat, like Spam.
The WHO report identified several kinds of carcinogens found in meat that are produced either by processing or cooking. In addition to these, many scientists have found that carcinogenic chemicals used in agriculture such as pesticides and herbicides, along with industrial pollutants such PCB’s and dioxin, tend to greatly concentrate in the meat tissues of livestock and make their way onto our dinner plate.
Although this study didn’t focus on other meats such as poultry, it should be noticed that they often have levels even higher than in red meat. For instance chicken has even higher levels of HCAs, the carcinogens produced by cooking meat, than beef does.
As we reported recently, much research has also been done into the relationship between breast cancer and diet, with the conclusion that a plant-based diet helps reduce the risk in several important ways.
While we’re grateful that the relationship between meat and cancer is finally being acknowledged publicly, we hope that it’s not too much longer before they also point out the risks of certain cancers from consuming other animal products too.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so it’s a good time to remind women and the men who love them that a plant-based diet is the best diet for both avoiding and battling the disease.
Breast cancer is a very complicated disease but here are just a few of the ways that a veg diet helps. Cancer, including breast cancer, can be caused by toxic chemicals found in the environment, called carcinogens, that greatly concentrate in animal tissue and then get transferred to us when we eat animal-derived foods. Also, other carcinogens called heterocyclic amines, or HCA’s for short, form when meat is cooked. By consuming a plant based diet you can avoid almost all of these dangerous carcinogens. Read more
The Fourth of July is the most popular outdoor cooking holiday of the year, according to the Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association. Yet as Americans prepare to celebrate Independence Day, many are not aware that grilling some food items produces cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). HCAs, a family of carcinogenic (cancer-causing) compounds, are produced when meats, including chicken, beef, pork, and fish, are grilled, pan-fried, or broiled.
Meat naturally contains amino acids and a protein called creatine that is found in muscle tissue. When meat is grilled, this combination of amino acids and creatine form HCAs. Creatine is found only in muscle tissue, not in plant-based foods, so vegetarian foods do not produce detectable levels of HCAs when they are grilled. At least 24 studies have now implicated HCAs in breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, and cancer of the larynx, stomach, and prostate gland. In January 2005, the federal government officially added HCAs to its list of known carcinogens. Studies have shown that exposure to PhIP, one type of HCA, at levels as low as 10 to 20 nanograms per day is associated with roughly a doubling of breast cancer risk.
The Five Worst Foods to Grill
HCAs: nanograms per 100 grams
Chicken breast, skinless, boneless, grilled, well done
14,000 nanograms/100 grams
Steak, grilled, well done
810 nanograms/100 grams
470 nanograms/100 grams
Salmon, grilled with skin
166 nanograms/100 grams
Hamburger, grilled, well done
130 nanograms/100 grams
Veggieburger, grilled, well done
Corn, grilled, well done
Another problem comes from meat products that have preservatives, such as the nitrates and nitrites often found in hot dogs and preserved meats. These chemicals react to form nitrosamines after they are eaten. Nitrosamines are highly carcinogenic compounds and have been implicated in several forms of cancer. So skip the dogs and the salami. Add to all this the fact that animals store up and concentrate the carcinogenic chemicals they encounter such as pesticides, herbicides, PCBs and Dioxin in their tissue to levels much higher than in plant foods, and you have many good reasons to avoid meat altogether on July 4th (and every other day for that matter!)
Avid grillers need not throw away the barbecue: Grilling can provide healthful meals. Reducing exposure to carcinogens is as simple as grilling a veggie burger instead of a hamburger, or a thick portabella mushroom instead of a steak. Cooks can marinade and prepare most of these veggie options just as they would with meats.
Here are five grilling ideas for this year’s Fourth of July barbecue:
Vegetarian chicken patties
Vegetable kabobs (sweet onions, pineapple, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, zucchini and button mushrooms—cooks should choose their favorite veggies and use their best-tasting marinade)
Marinated portabella mushrooms (serve on bun as a sandwich or slice and eat as fajitas)
Barbecue tofu or tempeh (place tofu in barbecue sauce and allow to marinate for two to three hours, grill, and serve with baked beans, corn, and a salad)