Observational studies show that the fewer ultra-processed foods that we consume, the lower the risk for certain cancers, especially breast cancer.

Reduce the ultra-processed foods

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Life is busy for everyone, it seems. From single people who are pursuing careers to families with active kids to retired folks who are involved in new life adventures, time spent in the kitchen often diminishes. It becomes a time-saver to rely on convenience foods. There are other activities to pursue, and they don’t involve much food shopping, cooking or clean up. So that means our reliance on convenience foods and pre-prepped meals increases. 

Observational studies show that the fewer ultra-processed foods that we consume, the lower the risk for certain cancers, especially breast cancer.

Which ultra-processed foods may increase cancer risk, according to researchers?

  • Carbonated sweet drinks, sweetened fruit drinks and sweet tea
  • Snack foods- chips, cheese puffs, etc.
  • Sweet processed cereals
  • Processed meats – hotdogs, bacon, sausage, frozen coated chicken nuggets, deli meats
  • Canned soups
  • Frozen TV dinners
  • Commercially made bakery desserts

This French study of over 100,000 men and women took into account some of the common cancer risk factors of age, gender, family history of cancer, smoking and level of activity. Even with that the ultra-processed foods were found to be a cancer risk. 

Now, what is in the ultra-processed foods that might be the culprit? The researchers do not know for sure but there are many things to pick from including nitrites, emulsifiers, sugar in many forms, salt and other preservatives, and partially hydrogenated oils. 

There are healthy foods not associated with increased cancer risk and these are good choices when planning menus:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole-grains such as rice, barley and pasta
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Low-fat Dairy

Recipes to try:

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About the Author

Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.