It seems every year, a dozen new things are discovered that either cause cancer or cure it. Yet some food ingredients actually do pose a significantly increased risk of cancer and should be avoided at all costs. Unfortunately, this is often a difficult sea of items to navigate.
For every ounce of data supporting it, there is often another tidbit negating it. The trick is eating everything in moderation and being as careful as possible about what you put into your body.
While no single dose of anything (short of radioactive plutonium) is likely to give you cancer, eating too much of these items will indeed raise your risk level significantly. If you cannot afford to eat an all natural or organic diet, or simply wish not to, then at the very least attempt to not overdo it on the following ingredients or foods.
List of Carcinogens in Foods: Additives
Food additives have a long history of nutritional controversy. Often times they are created and widely used for the sole reason that they are cheaper than their natural alternatives. Sadly, this often results in disaster (Olestra, for example).
This is because additives are quickly and covertly developed (for “competitive” reasons) and then rushed to market often long before any research can be performed on their health effects.
Perhaps the best example is that of artificial sweeteners, which now have a strong stigma because of early versions such as Saccharine. There seem to be safe versions such as Stevia (though it is relatively new and still needs further research) but many have been linked to various cancers. These include Aspartame and Saccharine.
Hydrogenated Oils, which are the number one source of artificial Trans-Fats, have been linked to a wide variety of cardiovascular diseases including cancer. They should be avoided at all costs and have been called one of the deadliest food ingredients in the past century.
Other additives include a wide variety of food dyes (Red #40, Blue #2) and preservatives such as Sodium Nitrate and Sodium Nitrite. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), also, has been linked to cancer and other health problems such as headaches and nausea.
List of Carcinogens in Foods: Items
A good rule of thumb is that if it is found in nature, it will not pose a significant cancer risk. This does not seem to be the case, however, for red meat. While much of this is because red meat is often charred to a crisp (the char is a carcinogen), it can also be attributed to the high fat content also.
This is because livestock is now fed a grain diet rather than grass, causing them to both become much larger and also contain far more saturated fat.
Vegetables, fruit, and Omega 3 fatty acids are recommended for reducing your cancer risk.
List of Carcinogens in Foods: Conclusion
As always, the rule of thumb here is moderation. You can eat a large dose of MSG, for example, in one day and likely be fine. If you eat it on a daily basis, you will likely encounter some health problems. Avoid foods where the ingredient list reads like a chemical plant, and try to eat organic whenever possible.