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Take a Bite Out of Cancer: Foods that Fail

Eating well and living an active lifestyle are important. If we want to live our best lives, and if we’re looking to take a proactive approach to preventing a cancer diagnosis, then how and what we eat is of great importance.  In this iteration of Take a Bite Out of Cancer, we highlight foods and elements in foods that fail to get us to our goal: a clean, cancer-free, bill of health.

Where the Rubber “Meats” the Road:

Bacon: The mere mention is enough to send even a toddler into a rapturous bliss. Be that as it may, bacon is not on our list of to do’s for everyday consumption. Bacon, along with deli meats, and char grilled meats contain pronounced amounts of chemicals, preservatives and nitrates. In bacon and cold cuts, these preserve the foods, but in our bodies they create a more hospitable environment for cancer cell production and growth.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the linkages between cancer diagnoses and the consumption of red and processed meats is becoming more pronounced.  In fact, WHO ranks red and processed meats in the same category as smoking, and asbestos!!! Grilling fans be warned, the charring on the meats can also  be carcinogen rich. True, these are tasty, convenient and enjoyable, but if you’re serious about avoiding a cancer diagnosis, these foods are best consumed in moderation.

  • Avoid: Bacon, sausages, hot dogs, ham, salami and pepperoni, ribs; if you do choose red meat, choose something lean – at least 93%
  • Linkages: High intake of these foods are seen as proven contributors to bowel and colorectal cancers.
  • Limit red meat: Eating too much red meat, like pork, beef, lamb, deer and buffalo, can increase your cancer risks. Try to limit red meat to 18 oz. or less each week to keep your cancer risks low.
  • Alternatives: Eat like a Greek!! Much of the Mediterranean fare is in line with a cancer-busting diet! Here are some great ideas and recipes. Veggies, olive oils, legumes, lean meats, spices, fruit and, yes, dessert! Opah!
  • Grilling: Choose veggies to grill and eat grilled meat in moderation

Something Fishy

No one doubts the goodness derived from the Omega-3 fatty acids present in fish like salmon. I remember growing up hearing our own mothers refer to fish as “brain food.” So how did it end up on the naughty list? Well, not all fish, farmed fish. Fish not caught in the wild are farmed in environments treated with antibiotics, pesticides and other carcinogenic chemicals used to kill viruses that thrive therein. These elements concentrate in the fish’s meat and are passed on to the consumer.  Moreover, because they are farmed in large numbers they don’t have the same room to run and grow, and therefore, the fish may not develop the same high levels of Omega-3s and contain up to 20% less protein.

  • Avoid: All farmed fish, swordfish, tilefish, shark, king mackerel, marlin, and ahi tuna; they are higher in mercury which repeated exposure may cause brain, kidney and developmental problems. This is especially true for pregnant and nursing women and young children.
  • Linkages: Carcinogens in farm raised fish may contribute toward general cancer diagnoses.
  • Alternatives: Wild caught fish is best! Farm-raised and “Atlantic” do not qualify.
  • The best: Wild caught fresh or canned salmon, cod and others fish not listed above.
  • Guidelines: Eat 2 servings a week (about 8 ounces total) of a variety of fish and seafood – recommendation from the USDA.
  • TIP: Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium for information on best choices of fish and in your state. A convenient mobile App is available. Or visit the Environmental Protection Agency.

Bubble Trouble
Sodas and carbonated beverages are a no-go if your goal is to prevent cancer. Chemicals, dyes and the ever vilified high-fructose corn syrup all contain properties that research shows may be cancer-causing. This is because they, too, help make our bodies more susceptible and a better host environment for cancer.  More specifically, research indicates cancer cells treat sugar like an accelerant. If you think about our blood stream like a highway, fructose creates an ez-pass lane for cancer cells to divide and grow! No good news for the “diet” cola drinkers either. Experts show that diet soft drinks are chemically poisonous to our systems, they contain no nutrients and ironically have been proven to contribute to weight gain!

  • Avoid: Colas, sodas, diet sodas
  • Linkages: Research has shown the compounds in High Fructose Corn Syrup may be linked to pancreatic cancer
  • Alternatives: If you really need bubbles, go with seltzer but be picky. There are “zero calorie” flavored waters which contain artificial sweeteners. A better alternative is to drink seltzers with real fruit essences, and in moderation; remember, 8 cups of water a day is best. Infuse water with fruit, citrus, basil, cucumber, mint and more for other great benefits.

Potato Chips, Fries & Microwave Popcorn

These yummy treats unfortunately come with some rather insidious “extra” ingredients.  Microwave popcorn contains a carcinogen called PFOA, (perfluorooctanoic acid) and the artificial butter contains diacetyl which has been proven to damage your lungs when inhaled. Recently the popcorn companies lost a landmark case to the tune of $7 million in relation to PFOA. Unfortunately they aren’t scheduled to remove these chemicals until 2018. Potato chips and French fries are comfort food. But the side-effects of the hydrogenated oils they are fried in, serve up a dose of unhealthy trans fats of which no “safe amount” exists. Trans fats, paired with the extreme amounts of salt with which they’re usually served, increase blood pressure and inflammation in the body – a cancer-causing concern. It’s also worth noting that potatoes are one of the “dirty dozen” most pesticide-treated veggies on the farm – so choosing an organic grown potato is a wise alternative.

  • Avoid: chips, fries and other foods cooked in hydrogenated oils, microwave popcorn
  • Linkages: microwave popcorn can cause “popcorn lung,” trans fats are linked to multiple cancers & heart disease and generally weakens the immune system.
  • Alternatives: Popcorn – pop your own, add flavors! French fries – buy organic and bake your own, Potato chips – bake or fry your own. Opt for organic butter, olive or vegetable oil.

Great alternatives for all these taboo goodies are readily available at the local mega-mart or online. Here’s to putting our 21st century know-how to work and cutting cancer off at the dinner table. To your good health!

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Taste the Cancer-Fighting Power of Brazil Nuts

NFCR-sponsored researchers have been investigating the links between nutrition and cancer prevention for decades. The latest research from Dr. Helmut Sies focuses specifically on the role of selenium, a nutrient that may play a critical role in reducing the risk of certain cancers. So what can we eat to add selenium to our diets? Brazil nuts.

Brazil nuts contain the richest source of natural selenium. They also make a great pesto.  Add a dollop to some roasted broccoli, whole-grain pasta or salmon and voila! You now have a delicious, nutritious, cancer-fighting meal for dinner tonight. Try it…. And let us know what you think. Post your comments below.

Brazil-Nut Pestopesto
(from Food & Wine Magazine)


1/2 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup Brazil nuts, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp chopped tarragon
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
5 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper


In a mini food processor, combine the parsley with the Brazil nuts, water, tarragon, garlic and lemon zest and pulse to a coarse paste. Add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and the Parmesan and process to a slightly smooth paste.  Season with salt and pepper.


This pesto can be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before using.

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