In the first part of this discussion on Diet or Food and Cancer Prevention, we introduced the broad subject, then looked into what to do and what to use in preparing food for healthy living. In this second part, we shall deal with the actions and items to avoid, to minimise the risk of cancer development to ourselves, our loved ones and our communities. This article is in no way exhaustive, and therefore ongoing research and learning is essential, especially because there is ongoing, extensive research on Cancer and on Nutrition and Dietetics throughout the world.
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WHAT TO AVOID IN THE KITCHEN
There are some general rules that can be made for all cancers. And then there are items to avoid in order to prevent specific cancers or groups of cancers. In this section, we will deal with the general rules, and then we will tackle some important cancers, starting from the head down.
It has been stated already that refined carbohydrates, which appear white or very white, are bad for our bodies. It is unfortunate that there still exist in this new millennium, advertising campaigns promoting highly refined carbohydrates like maize meal and rice, which are dubbed “extra-white” or “super-white”. This is a Public Health issue that probably needs to be addressed through thoughtful legislation.
An ever increasing body of evidence is coming out, pointing to the danger of sugar. Sugar feeds cancer cells and weakens the body’s ability to deal with them. Drastically cutting down on sugar intake is vital. Salt consumption should also be reduced (to 4 grams daily, or less).
Saturated fats should also be minimised in the food we eat, as they cause various types of cancer. This is more true of animal fats than plant fats. Red meat intake should be minimised.
Alcohol, especially in excess, causes various cancers such as liver (hepatocellular) and breast cancer.
Reusing plastic bottles such as sipper bottles that are not intended for multiple use, is dangerous as bits of the plastic end up in the water, and end up in the body, with the potential to cause cancer. Plastic ware should also not be used to store water in the fridge, or to warn up food in a microwave oven. Plastic bottles have (in the ideal world) a sign that indicates whether they can be reused, and whether they are suitable for the microwave oven.
Microwaves themselves MAY not be much of a cancer risk, as the Radio Frequency (RF) they emit, does not cause cancer in the same way as ionising radiation does. To read up more about microwaves and other RF: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/radiation-exposure/radiofrequency-radiation.html
COMING TO SPECIFIC CANCERS …
An artificial sweetener used in “diet drinks”, aspartame, was shown to be linked to tumours of the brain. Indeed, many foods that are dubbed “sugar-free” or “fat-free”, have potentially harmful additives.
Cancers of the mouth and oesophagus are caused by both deficiencies and harsh foodstuffs. Eating a balanced diet as discussed previously, can prevent oral cancers. Very hot food and beverages like tea and coffee, damage epithelial cells in the mouth and oesophagus and cause cancer changes. Hot spices are also associated with mouth cancers, as is the chewing of “betel nut”.
Cancer of the breast, apart from being associated with general factors like obesity and lack of exercise, has been found to have an association with consumption of braaid meat more than twice a week.
Cancer of the stomach is caused by a host of factors. But among them is Nitrites and Nitrates, the preservatives used in e.g. corned meat, viennas, russian sausages, and which give the meats a pink colour. These types of meats should be avoided. Where possible, the best way to keep meat and other foods fresh is to use a refrigerator (fridge) (link provided above).
Cancer of the large bowel (colorectal cancer), as mentioned earlier, is caused by foods lacking in roughage. Refined carbohydrates like white bread or its flour, and polished rice, must be avoided in the cancer conscious Kitchen.
SOME COMMON KITCHEN MISTAKES THAT INCREASE THE RISK OF CANCER
In baking food, effort must be made to avoid turning the food brown. Black (charred) food is far worse than brown. This is because in baking food to the degree of brown or blackness, compounds are formed that cause cancer. Indeed, cooking or steaming food such as bread, maize and meat, is safer than baking, roasting or grilling / braaing (respectively).
Metal spoons should not be used to stir hot food while it is being cooked. Doing so promotes the onset of cancer (carcinogenesis). Wooden spoons should be used instead (link provided above).
There is a tendency, especially in the Developing World, to prefer diets consisting mostly of carbohydrates and meat, and deficient of fruits and vegetables. This type of diet is, ironically, seen as a status symbol, a symbol of wealth!
Cooking-oil used for frying should not be left overnight and reused. This is a common practice in businesses that sell fat cakes, potato chips and other fast foods. In standing for many hours as in overnight, the hot oil forms cancer-causing compounds.
Diet is vital for life. And we take it into our bodies everyday of our lives. Diet has a strong connection with Cancer, which is one of the two biggest killer diseases globally.
Through a healthy diet, a significant reduction in the likelihood of developing cancer, can be achieved. And through unhealthy foods, methods of food storage and food preparation, the likelihood and incidence of cancer can be increased.
Even well-prepared food can still have a contribution in the onset of cancer. An example is if the food is deficient in certain nutrients and / or micronutrients (like molybdenum). This could be because of poor soil quality where the food is grown.
Observing standard recommendations on
- balancing our diets,
- preparing food hygienically and
- not burning or charring it, and
- limiting our calorie intake so as to prevent obesity,
can have a dramatic effect in reducing the scourge of CANCER.
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