Today we hear much about proper nutrition and its importance for cancer prevention. But what does it mean that a food is carcinogenic?
The Most Common Mistakes In Terms Of Nutrition
We need to go back to the Mediterranean diet! People believe they follow a Mediterranean diet, but that is not true. The real problem is that the ingredients to which the “real” Mediterranean diet referred are not used; today, ultra-refined products are used, fiber-free cereals, white rice, 00 flour and many others, thus multiplying the risk of oncological pathologies. If, on the one hand, there are the ingredients that are unsuitable for maintaining good health, on the other, there are the quantities consistently too high compared to the needs of the single individual, aggravated by the sedentary lifestyle, by office work which does not lead the individual to move.
Foods that present themselves as excellent and refreshing but could be more nutritious are the real problem. We must learn to evaluate our food quality and not rely only on what tastes good. Another factor to keep in mind is the time dedicated to food preparation. Today’s very frenetic society and advertising lead to the consumption of ready-made foods, making consumers believe that the time spent in the kitchen is in vain. Instead, on the contrary, it gains in health in the long run.
What Are The Main Carcinogens That Can Be Found In Food?
Food is not carcinogenic by nature, but it becomes so due to various factors such as industrial treatments, refining processes, the addition of sugars, preservatives, cooking methods, the quantity ingested, the frequency of consumption as well as the combination with other foods, which increase the total risk of cancer. The cooking methods at high temperatures, which involve the direct contact of the meat with the flame or the cooking on the grill, produce compounds (such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) that increase the carcinogenic risk. Another example can be the habit of frying foods: boiling oil not only destroys the beneficial substances present in the food but enriches it with harmful substances such as acrylamide and acrolein.
Is Red Meat Carcinogenic?
The IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) groups substances based on the level of carcinogenicity demonstrated in scientific studies and are divided as follows:
- group 1, substances that are certain human carcinogens;
- group 2A, substances that are probable human carcinogens;
- group 2B brings together the possible carcinogens;
- group 3 includes substances that cannot be classified as carcinogens;
- group 4, groups substances probably not carcinogenic to humans.
The studies involve the use of high dosages and very long exposure times. Therefore, it is essential to know not only if a particular substance is on the list but also what are the dosages and the duration of exposure beyond which the risk becomes real because, mind you, it doesn’t mean that eating a slice of ham leads to the onset of cancer. If we talk about red meat, we must also distinguish whether we are talking about processed meat.
Processed meats such as frankfurters are placed in group 1, i.e. substances that cause cancer. Meat that has undergone a manufacturing process that prolongs its conservation or alters its taste, such as smoking, salting, seasoning, adding preservatives and some types of cooking, increases the carcinogenic risk. Processed meats are ham, sausages, canned meat, and meat preparations. Less at risk are unprocessed red meats, included in group 2A, but in any case, to be used sparingly.
What Are The Sugars That Are Bad For Our Bodies?
Industrially refined, precooked and prepackaged foods contain high amounts of sugar and fat, such as those served in fast food restaurants. Occasionally you can eat very fatty or sugary food, but never daily; carbonated and sugary drinks are only sometimes recommended because they provide abundant calories without increasing the sense of satiety. Sugar stimulates inflammatory mechanisms and insulin peaks, favoring pathologies’ onset. Insulin is the hormone produced by the pancreas in response to increased blood sugar ( glycemia ).
Still, it also regulates other aspects of the functioning of our body, and for this reason, it is considered an essential hormone in the relationship between food and cancer; high levels in the circulation induce excessive production of testosterone (male sex hormone) in women and also favor the production of a growth factor called IGF-1 which is a natural fertilizer for cells in general and for tumor ones. Some tumors, such as breast cancer, are susceptible to the combined action of sex hormones and growth factors. Therefore, one must be very careful not to abuse particular foods. There are currently several sugars and sweeteners on the market, but none have proven to be free from adverse effects; therefore, the advice that can be given is to use small dosages of what you prefer. The guidelines advise not to exceed 10% of daily calories in sugar.
Tips To Prevent Cancer Summarized In A Few Points
- Perform moderate physical activity (2-3 times a week);
- Use unrefined foods and spend more time preparing them;
- Use processed meats rarely and unprocessed meats 1-2 times a week, giving precedence to fish and legumes and more vegetables and fruit;
- Prepare foods avoiding unhealthy cooking methods ;
- Drink 1.5 – 2 liters of water a day.