Before you lead your grocery cart down that aisle, you may want to think twice. Believe it or not, cancer-causing foods are lurking in many corners of your local grocery store. Some foods you already know you should avoid for other reasons (like high fat content), others are often recommended as part of a healthy diet. You may be surprised just what foods have been linked to cancer. You may never grocery shop the same way again.



The Meat Section

A number of your main protein choices may contain carcinogenic (cancer-causing) substances. Even healthy choices like fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids can expose you to potentially harmful compounds.

Processed Meat

Processed meats are any meats not sold fresh, but have been cured, salted, flavored or preserved in some way. This includes sausage, ham, salami, pepperoni, bacon, and hot dogs. Studies show people who eat processed meats on a regular basis are 18% more likely to develop colorectal cancer. The reason for this is likely carcinogenic compounds like heterocyclic amines that form during the commercial processing of meat.

Grilled Red Meat

Red meat is already linked to cancer because of the high amounts of animal protein and fat it contains, but grilling red meat increases its carcinogenic properties. When meat is grilled, fat drips from the meat onto the heat source and lifts smoke back onto the meat. This smoke contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and other carcinogenic compounds that attach back onto the meat and are then consumed during eating.

Farmed Fish

Fish pick up all manner of pollutants from their surroundings. Fatty fish, even those high in “good fats” like omega-3s, are more likely to hold onto these pollutants. Farmed fish are typically exposed to more carcinogenic substances in their environment, which means they have higher amounts of carcinogens in their system than fresh-caught fish.


The Canned Foods Aisle

Cooking meals from scratch at home is one of the best ways to ensure you are eating healthy. Yet many of the ingredients you cook with could be carcinogenic, so it may be time to switch out these staples for alternatives not associated with cancer risks.


Canned foods are potentially carcinogenic because of the cancer-causing BPA most cans are lined with. Unfortunately, BPA easily leaches into the food it touches, especially highly acidic foods like canned tomatoes.


The Baking Aisle

Although the grocery aisle full of cake mixes and baking ingredients may be tempting, many of these treats can lead to dangerous health problems, including cancer.

Refined Sugar

Sugar consumption increases your risk of cancer for this simple reason: cancerous cells grow more rapidly when they feed on sugar. Refined sugars are the most readily available once eaten and therefore serve as a potent fuel source of cancerous growths in the body.

White Flour

White flour is easily processed into a sugar by the body once consumed. As a converted sugar, white flour poses the same cancer risks as refined sugar. The chlorine used to bleach white flour can release free-radicals that damage cells and make them more prone to cancer.

Artificial Sweeteners

Although there is some debate over what kind of cancer risk artificial sweeteners pose, some studies indicate these sugar alternatives are linked to cancer. Artificial sweeteners suspected of causing cancer in lab rats contain saccharin, sucralose, aspartame, Acesulfame potassium, neotame, and cyclamate.

Hydrogenated Oils

Hydrogenated oils include margarine, shortening, and any other oil processed with hydrogen to prolong its shelf life or make it thicker. These oils are linked to cancer because of the way they compromise cell health. When hydrogenated oil is used by the body to make cell walls, the cell becomes weak and is more prone to developing cancer.


The Snack Aisle

Next time you reach for a bag of chips or heat up popcorn, consider what research reveals about these indulgences and their connection to cancer.

Potato Chips

Like other starchy foods heated to a high temperature, potato chips typically contain the compound acrylamide. Acrylamide is associated with higher instances of cancer. People with high acrylamide diets are more likely to develop cancer at some point in their lives.

Microwave Popcorn

Like canned food, the cancer risk isn’t in the popcorn but in the packaging. The bags microwave popcorn are heated in are lined with several chemicals, including PFOA. Similar to BPA, PFOA is used to line containers and is linked in animal testing to pancreatic, liver, and testicular cancer. Diacetyl, an ingredient in fake popcorn butter, is also associated with increase in cancer risk.

Smoked and Pickled Foods

The substantial amount of salt, preservatives, or smoke tar present in highly preserved snack foods makes them more carcinogenic. Processed oils and smoke both contain carcinogenic compounds, and high salt diets are associated with higher rates of stomach cancer.

The Beverages Aisle: Alcohol & Carbonated Drinks

When alcohol is broken down by the body, several carcinogenic substances (e.g. acetaldehyde) are potentially released into the body. Both alcohol and carbonated drinks are high in sugar, which can feed cancerous cells. Overconsumption of these beverages can damage cell health and make you more prone to developing cancer.


How To Prevent Cancer in Your Diet

Keep your diet as free of cancer-causing foods as possible by eating natural, whole, and organic foods when possible. Switch out the above foods and drinks above for carcinogen-free alternatives or only eat them in moderation. Many of these foods increase your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and weight gain along with cancer, so you’ll do your body a double favor by reducing them in your diet.