The Atkins Diet has appealed to many because you can eat bacon, steak, hamburgers and eggs but along with these foods comes a higher risk of cancer.
Eating substantial amounts of red meat (beef, pork, veal) may increase the risk of colorectal, pancreatic, breast, prostate and renal cancer, says the National Cancer Institute.
The amount of red meat found to incite cancer may be extremely small: Only half an ounce daily -- just a big bite. Eating red meat, especially if it is grilled or fried, can double your risk of cancer.
People who ate the most red meat (average 3-ounces daily), especially well-done or fried, had twice the risk of colon cancer compared with those who ate less than half an ounce daily, says the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
Breast cancer risk doubled in post-menopausal women who ate three ounces or more of red meat a day, compared with women who consumed one ounce or less daily, says the Portland (Oregon) VA Medical Center.
Vanderbilt University investigators found that women who ate the most deep-fried, well-done meat had nearly twice the odds of developing breast cancer as those who ate the least.
The odds of pancreatic cancer doubled in people who ate the most grilled or barbecued red meat (between three and 21 ounces weekly) compared with non-red meat eaters, says the University of Minnesota. Eating broiled red meat did not increase the risk factor.
What to Do?
Eat fish or poultry instead of red meat. Fish is the safest, and may even discourage breast cancer. In one study, eating chicken baked, broiled or barbecued did not raise colon cancer risk. Pan-frying chicken boosted odds by 50-percent.
Cook meat slowly with lower heat. Stew, bake or microwave your meat. At high heats, proteins in meat form heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which are potent carcinogens. Reduced heat creates fewer HCAs. Broiling produces fewer carcinogens than grilling.
Eat rare or medium-rare. The longer meat is cooked at high temperatures, the more carcinogens (a cancer-causing substance or agent) it has. Consistently eating hamburger, beef steak and bacon very well done boosted breast cancer risk nearly five times in a University of Minnesota study. (Note: Men get breast cancer, too.)
Instead of hamburgers, meatless burgers using turkey or soy. Or, try our recipe for burgers made with mushrooms: Portobello Burgers. Ground beef must be cooked well done to kill infectious agents, such as e-coli. If you mix antioxidants, such as textured soy protein, mashed blueberries or cherries, tea, garlic or onions, into beef burgers before cooking, you can cut formation of carcinogens by 60 to 90 percent.
Microwave before you grill. Pre-cooking in the microwave reduces carcinogens produced by grilling.
Avoid nitrate-cured meats. Most cured cold cuts, hot dogs, bacon and ham also contain nitrites that can spur formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines. The late Dr. Robert Atkins himself suggested buying nitrite-free bacon at health-food stores.
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