Join the PCN mailing list.

person holding cheese burger

Dietary Cautions

This page is still under construction.

Moderate the Menu

The Dirty Dozen – Non-organic foods to avoid

Some foods tend to be particularly contaminated with pesticides, so purchasing organic versions is a good place to start. The U.S. Environmental Working Group 2021 list of foods with higher  levels of pesticides includes: Strawberries, Spinach, Kale, Collard Greens, and Mustard Greens, Nectarines, Apples, Grapes, Cherries, Peaches, Pears, Bell Peppers, Hot Peppers, Tomatoes and Celery.

Moderate your salt intake. Research shows a higher incidence of stomach, esophagus, and bladder cancer among populations with high salt intake due to salt-preserved foods (e.g. processed meats and pickled foods) and the saltshaker, which is worsened with H. pylori infection. Excessive table salt consumption contributes to cancer as well as other chronic diseases, so it is best used with greater restraint. The use of blended salts including magnesium-, potassium- and calcium-chloride is a healthy alternative to excess sodium chloride use. Other seasonings such as cider vinegar, garlic, herbs and spices are tasty substitutes for salt.

If you eat meat, choose lean cuts, organic and pasture fed versions if possible, and minimize red meat. Avoid processed meats, as carcinogens are formed from the preservatives. For example, higher risks of childhood leukemia were seen with intake of hot dogs, and bladder cancer with intake of bacon.

Processed meats. The World Health Organization declared that bacon, sausages and other processed meats are as strong a cancer threat as cigarettes. In your body, the nitrate preservative forms carcinogenic N-nitrosoamine compounds. For example, research shows higher risks of childhood leukemia with intake of hot dogs, and bladder cancer with intake of bacon.

Avoiding Genetically Modified Foods is difficult. The only way to minimize genetically modified (GM) ingredients is to eat only certified organic foods. Canada does not require labelling of genetically “engineered” foods (so called, to distinguish from genetic modification via breeding). High-volume, common commodities such as soy, corn and canola are predominately genetically modified (GM) to withstand pesticides, and some are modified to produce insecticide right inside the crop (e.g. against worms in corn). Growing GM crops locks farmers into using multiple passes of pesticides, including herbicides applied during the summer to kill unwanted plants in fields. As weeds become resistant to certain herbicides, GM seeds are being devised to withstand larger numbers of pesticides (see PCN submission on “stacked” corn with “traits” to survive five herbicides). Some are increasingly suspected of causing cancers and other conditions such as kidney disease. Transparency may decrease further, with federal plans to stop assessing and regulating GM seeds that were developed using “gene editing.

Cool the Cooking

When overheated, proteins and starches can form cancer-causing chemicals, so low heat, slow cooking methods are safest. Consider adding a bit of water to moderate temperatures.

Charred meats contain hetrocyclic amines (HCAs) and poly-aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), adding sugar when grilling (e.g., BBQ sauce) creates glycoproteins, and starchy foods form acrylamide, that can all contribute to cancers. 

Do not overheat or repeatedly reheat cooking oils as this can create cancer-causing substances. Use avocado oil, nut oils, rice bran oil, grapeseed oil or coconut oil, that have higher smoke points.

Some chemicals that can contribute to cancer dissolve in water, making food preparation especially important

Boiling vegetables will reduce the water soluble nutrients in the food, but boiling hot dogs will leach some of the harmful nitrates.

Water helps to reduce inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen. It is hyperaccumulated by rice — plants exposed to arsenic in the soil, compost or water may have high levels in the grain. To reduce arsenic, pre-soak rice in ample water and/or cook it in excess water and drain before serving. Unfortunately, this also reduces B-vitamins.

… more to come!