Healthy food has the magical power to heal us when we fall ill and act as a shield against some of the worst diseases known to humankind. Cancer is no exception. But eating foods that are known for their incredible cancer-fighting properties isn’t enough; one must also be careful to avoid certain food that have proven to cause cancer as welll. Though none of us are impermeable to the development of any disease, more and more research surfaces daily that tells us how a whole foods, plant-based diet is the way to go to fight almost all forms of disease.

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The American Cancer Society now recognizes plant-based (vegetarian) diets as one of the best ways to prevent multiple types of disease, including cancer. They also stress that a balanced diet rich in nutrients (whole foods versus processed foods) should also be followed to obtain enough nutrition. Whole foods have amazing nutrient profiles that work to provide our cells with exactly what they need to give us better health through every bite we take. Our bodies recognize whole foods, and can easily put them to work to fuel our metabolism and keep our bodies functioning properly at a cellular level. Since cancer is defined as the multiplication of abnormal cells, it’s important that we consider not just calories in a food, but also how our foods will affect our cells once they’re digested.

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In addition to what we should eat, we also need to be aware of what we shouldn’t eat. Below are some of the top offenders that are widely recognized as foods to avoid for cancer concerns because they either come with such high risks for cancer development, or can cause progression in cancer if someone is already affected by the disease.

1. Red Meat

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One of the worst offenders for the development of cancer is red meat. Even if it’s grass fed and organic, red meat still poses a large problem for our health. Animal proteins have been found to trigger a response within our bodies that contribute to cancer cell replication and progression. Meat also contains natural properties that our bodies aren’t able to digest properly. This triggers our immune system to react and studies have found that it can leads to tumor cell development. Instead of meat, have a veggie burger, tempeh, or some beans, legumes, nuts and seeds to get your protein. 

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2. Processed Meats

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Processed meats (such as bacon, lunch meats, cured meats, smoked meats, etc.) contain preservatives, mainly nitrates, that pose a threat to our health. Nitrates have been linked to several forms of stomach and other cancers. In addition to cancer, these preservatives may also lead to neurological changes, Type 2 diabetes, digestive upset, and are very high in sodium that can increase high blood pressure. Processed meats can easily be replaced by using plant-protein options on sandwiches or any other place you would normally used processed animal meat.

3. Excessive Alcohol

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Avoiding alcohol, especially excessive alcohol consumption (more than one serving), is also highly recommended when it comes to cancer prevention. It has been linked to breast, mouth and esophageal cancer. Remember, you want to take care of your liver as much as possible to ensure good health, and excessive alcohol consumption doesn’t exactly benefit the liver. Eat more of these foods that enhance liver function and overall health, and try our alcohol-free version of champagne for a delicious alternative to regular champagne.

4. Charred, Grilled or Other Forms of Highly Heated Animal Meat 

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Charred foods (those that are grilled or highly heated) produce carcinogens during the cooking process. Carcinogens have been linked to multiple types of cancer in humans and animals in lab testings, and are mainly found in foods like grilled or fried meats, smoked foods, and any meat that has been heated at especially high temperatures. Veggies are fine to grill because they only need to cook a few minutes, reducing their exposure time to high temps of heat from the grill. Plant-based foods also come with no cancer risks, unlike meat that has to be cooked for much longer to be considered safe to eat. Try these delicious ways to use the grill after you ditch the meat!

5. Dairy

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Dr. T. Colin Campbell is one of the most well-recognized medical doctors specializing in a plant-based diet and consistently recommends we avoid dairy due to the proteins it contains. He explains that the proteins in dairy (primarily casein) act as a carcinogen in the body and have been shown to cause cancer cell growth and tumor development. Dr. Neal Barnard, Joel Furhman, and Dr. Michael Greger also advise staying away from dairy however possible due to all the health risks associated with cow’s milk products. To be safe for the long-haul, try working easy dairy-free replacements into your meals instead of choosing cow’s milk products; we promise, they taste great!

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It’s also highly advisable that you avoid tobacco, which has been tied to every type of cancer that exists. Exercise and a heart-healthy diet are also very important to prevent obesity that can often accompany cancer (along with diabetes and heart disease).

Try some of our vegan recipes to help keep you healthy and prove just how easy it is to replace some of the unhealthier options above!

Lead Image Source: Christopher Aloi/Flickr