Natural health expert Dr. Joseph Mercola strongly believes that many of the chronic diseases plaguing the United States could simply disappear if greater attention is given to proper nutrition. The modern Western diet, which is mostly composed of processed foods high in fructose, grains, and pesticides, has contributed to the rising rates of diseases.
Statistics show that millions of Americans now suffer from diseases that were once considered rare, including cancer. According to statistics presented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cancer has become one of the leading causes of death in Americans, with over 500,000 lives claimed per year.
Protecting your health is a conscious effort, as such Dr. Mercola advises spending your hard-earned money on organic whole foods, while drastically reducing (and eventually, eliminating) processed foods from your diet. Part of building a balanced diet plan is knowing what you shouldn’t buy. Below are some of the most common cancer-causing foods you must avoid at all costs.
Processed Meats and Cooking Byproducts
Processed meats, such as bacon, salami, ham, and roast beef, are made with factory-farmed meats. Animals raised in factory farms or confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are fed with synthetic growth hormones, antibiotics, and other drugs, and are raised in unsanitary conditions.
Processed meats are filled with sodium nitrate, a chemical used as a preservative and to add flavor and color. Nitrates are converted into nitrosamines inside your body, and are linked to colorectal, stomach, and pancreatic cancer. To make matters even worse, processed meats, when cooked, produce even more dangerous carcinogens, such as:
- Heterocyclic amines (HCAs): These are produced when meats are cooked using heat, and are associated with stomach, colon, and breast cancer.
- Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs): These form when fat drips onto the heat source and leaches to your food through smoke.
- Advanced glycation end products (AGEs): They form when food is cooked, pasteurized, or sterilized. AGEs accumulate in your body and increase your risk of heart and kidney problems.
Be wary of false health claims made about soy. Soy milk, tofu, soy protein isolate, and other unfermented soy products are packed with numerous anti-nutrients that increase your risk of digestive stress, cancer, heart disease, and reproductive problems.
At the same time, 90 to 95 percent of soy crops grown in the United States are genetically engineered (GE). Studies link genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to hormonal imbalance and female reproductive problems. GE residue has been detected in the placenta of pregnant women and in the blood of developing fetus.
Dr. Mercola recommends consuming only fermented soy. It is through the long fermentation process that the phytates and anti-nutrient contents of soy are removed. Fermentation also makes the beneficial compounds of soy available to your digestive system.
Potato Chips and Other Carbohydrate-Rich Foods Cooked at High Temperatures
While potato chip manufacturers vow to create healthier varieties of their products by using more healthful ingredients, the dangers of such products lies in the processing itself. Acrylamide, a carcinogenic compound, is formed when carbohydrate-rich foods are baked, fried, roasted, toasted, or cooked at high temperatures.
Potato chips and French fries are known to contain acrylamide, as well as foods processed at temperatures above 212 degrees Fahrenheit or 100 degrees Celsius. These include:
- Grains – Bread (crust, toast, or crisp bread), roasted cereals, and other processed grain snacks
- Coffee – Roasted coffee beans, ground coffee powder, and chicory-containing coffee substitutes (which contains two to three times more acrylamide). However, the beneficial antioxidants in organic coffee may far outweigh its acrylamide content. The best thing you can do is to consume high-quality, organic coffee in moderation – limit your consumption to a maximum of two to three cups per day.
Dr. Mercola says that, as a general rule, acrylamide is formed when food is heated to produce a fairly brown or yellow surface.
Canned Foods and Foods in Plastic Containers
Plastic containers, food packaging, and linings of cans contain the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA). Hundreds of studies report that exposure to this chemical can lead to an increased risk of developing breast and prostate cancers, diabetes, heart disease, and other detrimental health problems.
BPA also resides in plastic cups, baby bottles, bottled water, and other plastic containers. Even if you consume the healthiest of foods, BPA can still leach into your food. Make sure you avoid such containers. Dr. Mercola advises using glass or ceramic containers instead.
Margarine, Shortenings, and Spreads
With the shunning of raw butter and other healthful fats, margarine, shortenings, and spreads have been released into the market. Unfortunately, these alternatives only promote poor health. Some of the unhealthy components found in them include:
- Trans fats – These are byproducts during the process of hydrogenation, which turns liquid vegetables into solid fat. Trans fats are found to cause heart disease, cancer, bone problems, infertility, and hormonal imbalance.
- Oxidation – The processing of these spreads leads to the formation of free radicals that can damage your cells. When you are chronically exposed to free radicals, you are prone to cancer and heart disease.
- Preservatives and emulsifiers – These chemical additives are often added to margarines, spreads, and even vegetable shortenings.
- Hexane and other solvents – These industrial chemicals have toxic effects during the extraction process.
Nutrition Advice from Dr. Mercola
Now that you have an idea of what foods to avoid, you need to know what foods you should eat. Dr. Mercola recommends purchasing organic or locally grown whole foods, such as organic fruits and vegetables, raw dairy, and grass-fed meats. The best place to obtain them is a farmers markets, where you can personally interact with the farmers to determine how they cultivate their produce.
Sustainable farmers grow organic foods without chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. They also keep in mind the laws of nature, and let livestock roam freely and eat their native diets. Supporting these farmers not only means you eat the healthiest of foods, but that you also support the environment.
Focusing on eating beneficial fats should be a priority as well. Coconut oil, olive oil, avocados, and raw nuts and seeds contain healthy saturated fats that can benefit your heart, brain, and overall health. Remember, eating the right foods will help prevent cancer, heart disease, or any other chronic illness from occurring.
For more information on healthy diet tips, check out Dr. Mercola’s comprehensive nutrition plan.