Grill aficionados, beware: “High intake of meat, particularly well-cooked meat, has been associated with increased risk of cancers,” says Mia Gaudet, PhD, scientific director of epidemiology research for the American Cancer Society (ACS). The problem seems to be that cooking meat on a grill leads to the production of carcinogenic compounds known as PAHs, she says.
Essentially, the mouthwatering char marks on a flame-broiled burger or steak are the sign of chemicals that may not be as good for you as they taste. In studies, rodents that were fed high amounts of these compounds developed cancerous tumors. Even burnt toast has some, but in much smaller amounts, says Gaudet. So if you regularly cook your meat at very high temperatures, you may want to consider alternate methods. Look into these 37 other ways you can reduce your risk of cancer.
Fermented foods have grown popular lately, in part because they’re said to have digestive benefits thanks to their supply of healthy bacteria. But some preliminary research suggests that their high salt content may be linked to stomach cancer. “Studies have found higher rates of cancer among Asian populations that consume a lot of fermented kimchi and smoked fish,” says Robert Segal, MD, founder of Medical Offices of Manhattan. Consider swapping in some of these other gut-friendly foods instead.
The process used to preserve meats like sausage, bacon, ham, and salami leads to the formation of nitrites, compounds that researchers have found can increase the risk of colon and other cancers, says Gaudet. For that reason, ACS guidelines recommend limiting processed meats in your diet. Eat less meat that has been preserved through smoking, salting, or curing. Check out other foods you should never eat if you don’t want to get cancer.