Do you long for the days when you could lift your fork to your mouth without worrying about what possible harmful chemicals the food might contain? It seems those days have long been forgotten, and today we must not only worry about what fats cause heart disease, but what foods may be promoting cancer. Unfortunately, there is a growing list of such foods, and mounting evidence to support caution in their intake, no matter how tasty they might be. Here are five foods that you may want to think twice about eating.
Soft Drinks – whether you call these fizzy treats pop, Coke, or soda pop, all their fizz does not make up for the carcinogens lurking within. Although there may certainly be more than one ingredient of concern, the primary one of interest here is the caramel coloring that gives certain soft drinks their trademark brown color. Caramel coloring, while rather innocuous sounding, is actually produced by a reaction of certain sugars and ammonia, a process which produces 2-methylimidazole and 4 methylimidazole. 4 MI is on the list of carcinogens, and has been shown to cause a number of cancers in laboratory animals, including leukemia and lung, thyroid, or liver cancers. 4MI is listed on California’s Proposition 65 as a potential cancer-causing substance, and recommended in only limited amounts, which are less than is contained in twenty ounces of a normal, caramel colored soft drink.
Certain (non-organic) Vegetables -even though the big chemical companies would like to convince you otherwise, pesticides do have carcinogens. Although you may not be able to afford to switch your entire diet over to organic foods that have not been sprayed with pesticides, there are certain produce items that contain higher levels of residual pesticides. The Environmental Working Group evaluates government data of residual pesticides, and estimates that switching to organic produce for just the top 12 items may reduce pesticide exposure by up to 80% for the average consumer. The current top produce items to buy organic include: apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, and hot peppers. Also, keep in mind that produce that does not have a thick peel that you discard tend to be more likely to send pesticides into your body than those that do.
Farmed Salmon – fish is fish, right? Studies show that not all fish is created equal, especially when it comes to farmed versus wild-caught. While many people are trying to include more fish, particularly salmon, into their diets for health reasons, research reveals that farmed salmon contains much higher levels of the known carcinogens toxaphene, PCBs, dieldrin, and dioxins than its wild-caught alternative. This information has led the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to recommend limiting farmed-fish intake to once per month.
Processed Meats – research shows that people consuming these meats may be at higher risk for developing cancer, particularly pancreatic cancer. The risk could be as high as 67% more than non-processed meat eaters. The culprit: sodium nitrites, a key ingredient in many cured, smoked, or otherwise processed meats such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs, ham, pastrami, and salami. The best solution: eat natural, organic meats as much as possible.
Diet Drinks and Eats – while aspartame seems to be the perfect solution to avoid large amounts of sugar, scientists may have uncovered some not so good news: aspartame may lead to greater cancer risk. While countries like the UK are investigating this issue, so far the U.S. government is touting the artificial sweetener’s safety. However, several pieces of research suggest that aspartame is, indeed a concern when it comes to cancer. While the jury is still out on this one, it may be time to reconsider your choice of sweeteners in the name of caution.
Although we all live as the beneficiaries of many amazing scientific advances, the constant growth of knowledge also shows us that some of those scientific advances may actually be detrimental to our health. Rather than blindly shoveling potential carcinogens into our mouths on a daily basis, simply because we love what we eat (or drink), perhaps it is time to cut our losses on our appetite, and make choices that are healthy for our sakes as well as the benefit of those we love.
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