Top Cancer Causing Foods: How to Replace Them in Your Diet

November 01, 2017

As always, we did our research and compiled the latest information on cancer-causing foods. We prepared a list of the top 7 cancer-causing foods based on scientific studies. Limiting or even better, avoiding these foods will reduce your risk of developing cancer. Don’t worry though, this doesn’t mean you have to be on a starvation diet. We’ve got some healthy yet very tasty alternatives for you!


This blog was written by Angela Azar , Licensed Dietitian and intern at Healthy Happy Us and edited by Rola GhaddarUS Registered Dietitian and Certified Health Coach at Healthy Happy Us, a nutrition and exercise diet center in Beirut, Lebanon.


The Top 7 Cancer Causing Foods 


1- Sugar


One of the biggest cancer threats are refined sugars. Sugar is the main fuel for cancer cells, without it cancer cells can’t grow and spread. Did you know that  there are around 10 teaspoons of sugar in sweetened fruit juices and sodas?


How to replace sugar:

  • Enjoy 2-3 dates with a few almonds to savour your sweet cravings.
  • Use honey as a sweetener (in moderation) instead of sugar. Honey is filled with nutrients, unlike sugar which is contains absolutely no nutrients i.e empty calories. 
  • Enjoy fruit infused water instead of fruit juice or sodas.
  • Bake your own sugar-free desserts. Here’s a link to a delicious vegan sugar free brownie recipe


Tip: Start reading food labels. Sugars are hiding everywhere!

Our team actually went on a sugar free challenge during the month of Ramadan. Check out this blog to know more about our experience and healthy sugar alternatives. 


Sugar: Cancer Causing Food

Sugar: Cancer Causing Food

2- Processed Meat


Processed meats include foods such as smoked turkey, hot-dogs, pepperoni, bologna etc. There is no doubt that these food items contain harmful chemicals due to the processing methods that they undergo. The nitrates and nitrites present to keep the cured meat looking pink, are known to be carcinogenic. 


How to replace them:

  • A much healthier source of proteins includes natural peanut butter and hummus. Spread 1 tbsp of peanut butter on a whole grain toast with some chopped bananas or enjoy some crunchy carrots with a hummus dip.
  • Prepare a mixed green salad with quinoa, walnuts and dried fruits of your choice to boost your protein intake.



Processed Turkey: Cancer Causing Food

Processed Turkey: Cancer Causing Food


3- Red Meat


Studies have shown that a high consumption of beef, lamb, and pork have been associated with increased risk of developing cancer. Try to limit your consumption to 1-2 times per week!


How to replace them:

  • Choose more protein rich stews such as cooked beans, lentils, peas with whole grain rice.
  • Enjoy some grilled fish, salmon, shrimps with steamed veggies and baked potato at least twice a week. This way, you will also be boosting your omega-3 intake! 


Tip: Grass-fed, hormone-free and organic meat are much safer to consume.


Red Meat: Cancer Causing Food

Red Meat: Cancer Causing Food

4- Refined Carbohydrates


When carbohydrates, such as flour are refined i.e. without their shell, all the nutritional value and fibers are removed. Moreover, excess amounts spike up your blood sugar level and have been positively associated with cancer.

When you for whole grains, you will benefit from the fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants and healthy fats found in the bran and the germ.

When you choose whole grains, you will benefit from the fibers, B vitamins, antioxidants and healthy fats found in the bran and the germ.


How to replace them:

  • In your stews, choose whole grain rice or bulgur, freekeh and quinoa.
  • For breakfast and dinner use whole grain toast and bread, bran cereal or oats  to boost your fiber intake.


Refined Carbohydrates: Cancer Causing Food

Refined Carbohydrates: Cancer Causing Food



5- Burned or Heavily Barbecued Foods


Grilling at high temperatures exposes the meat to carcinogenic chemicals. Avoid charred meat or any animal food product that has browned or burnt/blackened parts.


How to barbecue safely:

  • Flip your meat frequently to avoid overdone layers. Keep in mind, smaller meat pieces cook more quickly and at lower temperatures.
  • Marinate your meat with high antioxidant foods such as thyme, rosemary and chili.
  • Fill up your grill with veggies! Plant foods when grilled do not produce cancerous chemicals like meats.


Barbecued or Burnt Meats: Cancer Causing Food

Burned or Heavily Barbecued Meats: Cancer Causing Food


6- Trans fat and hydrogenated fats 


 Trans fats and hydrogenated fats have been strongly associated with cancer and other diseases. They are especially found in baked goods, fried foods, cookies, chips, commercial peanut butter and salad dressings.


How to replace:

  • Cook your foods with healthy oils such as olive oils, coconut oil. 
  • Instead of frying food, start grilling and seasoning it with your favorite herbs and spices.
  • Go for all natural peanut butter options or make your own. Check out this blog for a homemade peanut butter recipe.  


Tip: Always check the ingredients on the label to make sure the products you’re buying do not contain any trans fat or hydrogenated fats. 

Potato Chips: Cancer Causing Food

Potato Chips: Cancer Causing Food


7- Excessive Alcohol


All alcoholic drinks contain a compound called ethanol. This compound once consumed is turned into acetaldehyde in our bodies which is a known carcinogen. Moreover it damages the cell’s DNA and prevents the body from absorbing nutrients.


Try to limit your consumption of alcohol (all types, even wine).

Alcohol: Cancer Fighting Food

Alcohol: Cancer Fighting Food


If you want to decrease your chance of cancer, you can also check out our blog “10 Cancer Fighting Foods: How to Add Them to Your Diet”

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Rola Ghaddar

US Registered Dietitian at Healthy Happy Us
Her smile, positive energy and optimism are transferred to the people around her. She always has ways to motivate you to achieve your health goals! She has a passion for nutrition education and she is bound to make your healthy living journey a fun learning experience. Her extensive experience with NGOs and Syrian refugees allows her to comfortably communicate, counsel, and educate people from different backgrounds and age groups. Her patience is incomparable, as she's always ready to answer all her client’s inquiries.
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