How to Get Cancer - Part I

We all know someone who has cancer. And maybe even someone that has died from cancer.

If it seems like cancer is everywhere that’s because it is. Roughly 15 million new cancer cases are diagnosed worldwide each year.

While cancer treatment has improved tremendously in the last decade, still there is no absolute cure. You probably already knew that.

But did you know one third of cancer could be avoided by changing lifestyle and diet habits?


That’s right. What I just said is cancer is preventable in many cases. Really and truly.

Because I would prefer to prevent cancer, I’ve done the research and incorporated the evidence into my life. And today I’m starting a cancer prevention series just for you. Over the next few weeks I will lay out the evidence and offer simple and sustainable ways for you to make lifestyle changes to prevent cancer.

I’m always shocked when people I work with don’t realize that some cancers can be prevented. Knowledge is power and cancer prevention is one of my passions. If you have a friend, family member, or other loved one that you want to help, please refer them here.

Each week, I will offer you one or two action-oriented methods to prevent cancer and the evidence to back it up. In return, you will use the next week to take action and make changes.

Without further adieu, let’s dive in and get started!

How to Get Cancer: Eat Ultra-Processed Food

processed foods.jpeg

It should come as no surprise that processed foods are bad news. We know they are linked to obesity, increase blood pressure, and heart failure exacerbations.

Now we know consumption of processed foods increases the risk of cancer.

A little over a month ago, a study was published that assessed the association between ultra-processed food and cancer. This study include over 100,000 participants that were followed for six years. The results were startling.

A 10% increase in ultra-processed food intake was associated wth greater than 10% increase risk in overall cancer and breast cancer.

Why? First of all, processed foods are high in total fat, saturated fat, added sugar and salt. Secondly, processed foods contain contaminants that are carcinogenic (such as acrylamide and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). Third, processed foods often are packaged in materials that are carcinogenic or endocrine-disrupting (such as bisphenol A). Lastly, processed foods often contain nitrites, which are hypothesized to be carcinogens.

Which foods were considered to be ultra-processed this the study?

  • Mass produced packaged breads and buns
  • Sweet and savory packaged sweets
  • Mass produced confectionery and desserts
  • Sodas and sweetened beverages
  • Meat products with preservatives other than salt (such as meatballs, chicken nuggets, and fish sticks)
  • Instant noodles and soups
  • Frozen or shelf stable meals
  • Food products made mostly from sugar, oils, fats, and processed oils

Action of the Week: Ditch Ultra-Processed Foods. Immediately, If Not Sooner.

What does this study mean for you? It means that if you want to decrease your risk of cancer (overall and breast), you must decrease your consumption of ultra-processed foods.

So take an inventory. Do you eat any of the ultra-processed foods mentioned above? If so, say sayonara to them. Instead, replace the ultra-processed foods with organic vegetables and fruit. Drink water, sparkling water, or tea instead of sodas and sweetened beverages.

Give it a try this week! And stay tuned for more on the cancer prevention series!

In health and happiness,


What Foods are BAD for Your Health?

Last week, we talked about the BEST foods for your health.

The natural follow up is which foods are the WORST for your health.

The truth is there are foods that significantly contribute to illness and disease. It’s the cold and hard truth.

We know certain foods increase your risk of early death. The bad news is Americans often eat way too much of these foods.

Where does this information come from? It comes from a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

So which four foods should you avoid to decrease your risk of early death? Read on for the details!

Sugar Sweetened Beverages


Sugar sweetened beverages are drinks that have sugar added to them. Examples include sodas and soft drinks, flavored juice drinks, sports drinks, sweetened tea, coffee drinks, energy drinks, and electrolyte replacement drinks.

While sugar sweetened beverages may seem innocuous, they are anything but. They are associated with 15% of deaths related to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

If you’re a die hard soda or sweet coffee drinker, it may take time to wean yourself. However, I know you can do it. And to help, here are some healthy swaps.

  • Instead of Coca-Cola or Pepsi, try La Croix La Cola.
  • Instead of sodas, try sparkling water (Trader Joe’s sells a variety of flavors - lemon, lime, berry, and pina colada to name a few).
  • Instead of Gatorade or Powerade, try water with fruit infused (think oranges, limes, or stawberries).
  • Instead of sweet tea, try iced tea with lemon. Or make iced tea with naturally sweet tea leaves (basically anything with licorice).
  • Instead of a caramel macchiato, try an Americano with milk.
  • Instead of energy drinks, try black coffee.

Processed Meats

Processed meat.jpeg

Processed meats are meats that have been preserved (by canning, curing, salting, smoking, or drying). Commonly consumed processed meats include sausages, hot dogs, salami, bacon, ham, corned beef, salted and cured meat, smoked meat, dried meat (think beef jerky), and canned meat.

Processed meats are associated with 8% of deaths related to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

Patients often cite convenience and cost as a reason for turning to processed meats, which I completely understand.

The good news is there are healthy, affordable, and convenient alternatives to processed meats.  

Instead of making a ham sandwich or hot dog, try a nut butter and fruit sandwich on whole grain bread. Instead of beef jerky as a snack, try nuts and seeds (pumpkin seeds are great this time of year). Or some veggies and hummus. Your heart and health will thank you.

Unprocessed Red Meats

red meat.jpeg

I know this one may surprise you.

Especially because some popular diets sing the praises of red meat.

The reality is red meat consumption is associated with 15% of deaths related to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

You may be thinking red meat was eaten by our ancestors. Which in some cultures is true. However, the quality of meat consumed by our ancestors was much different from what most people today consumed. The animals roamed free and ate grass, insects, and whatever else was available in the environment. Today most red meat is raised in factory farms and the nutrient profile of the meat is very different from the meat of our ancestors.

Instead of red meat, try to increase your intake of legumes. Beans and lentils have a rich and sturdy texture and can fill you up. Or try mushrooms. Mushrooms have a meat like texture and pick up the flavor of marinades well.

High Sodium


Sodium. Salt. Table salt. Whatever you call it, too much is associated with 10% of deaths related to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

Most salt in American diets come from processed foods (think processed meats, packaged foods) and fast food. If you avoid these, you should be in good shape.

Now What?

I love recommending foods to ADD to people’s diet instead of focusing on what to ELIMINATE.

But there are cases where you should eliminate or decrease your consumption of for your wellness.

Things you should eliminate entirely? Trans fats and sugar sweetened beverages.

Foods you should eliminate or decrease? Processed meats and red meat.

And salt is something you need to be mindful of.

So take an assessment of what you eat and determine where you can make tweaks to boost your wellness.

Until next week,