While there’s no single food that directly causes cancer, certain cooking methods, growing techniques, and ingredients have been linked to greater odds of developing the sometimes-deadly disease.
Here's where it gets tricky: You shouldn't deprive yourself of your favorite foods, since that can lead to binges down the road. Plus, there's something to be said about late-night pizza that seems to make everything better. "There is always room for moderation, and to also at the same time eat fresh veggies like broccoli," says nutritionist Luke Bucci, a certified clinical nutritionist, certified nutrition specialist, and VP of research and development at Ritual essential vitamins.
That being said, here are five foods that you should think about limiting in your diet:
Roasted chicken and turkey are great sources of muscle-building protein, but those fancy charcuterie boards filled with cured prosciutto and salami aren’t doing you any favours. Many processed meats—including bacon and hot dogs—are made using nitrates and nitrites, which are carcinogenic, according to a 2015 analysis from the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Red meat consumption has also been linked to pancreatic, colorectal, and stomach cancers, according to the analysis.
It gets worse: According to that same 2015 analysis, grilling meats over an open flame produces cancer-causing compounds, too. However, you don't have to quit your barbecuing habit altogether: The American Institute for Cancer Research advises eating no more than 18 grams of grilled meat per week.
PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED OILS
Many of our favourite processed foods and baked goods contain partially hydrogenated oil, a form of fat that’s solid at room temperature. It improves taste and preserves shelf-life, but at the expense of our health. According to research from International Journal of Cancer, consuming partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (commonly listed as trans fat on nutrition labels) is linked to breast and rectal cancers.
Bucci says partially hydrogenated oils have largely been phased out from grocery stores, but a few bad eggs remain. When reading a label, avoid anything that has the words "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" among the ingredients listed. That's code for trans fats!
According to research in the Environmental Research Journal, many cans are lined with bisphenol-A (BPA), which has been shown to damage DNA. This can increase your risk of certain cancers and type 2 diabetes (although the full potential effects are unknown, and studies have been primarily done on animals rather than humans). If you're shopping for canned foods, make sure the can is clearly labeled “BPA-free," and limit your canned food consumption to one serving per day maximum.
There’s nothing like a zesty side of pickles to go with your favourite sandwich or burger, but keep your servings limited. Bucci says high consumption of pickled foods is linked to stomach cancer.
However, many pickled foods like cabbage and kimchi also have lots of gut-healthy probiotics, so don't cut them out of your diet completely—just keep your servings in check. If you rely on the pickled stuff for flavour, Bucci says you shouldn't ignore the spice rack: “Spices are also preventive and usually forgotten, but can play a big role if used more frequently than the average,” says. Bucci. He recommends using more turmeric, cinnamon, oregano, sage, rosemary, thyme, basil, cloves, nutmeg, and fresh garlic and onion.
Happy hour might be a misnomer. Anything more than moderate alcohol consumption, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, can increase your risk of a number of different cancers (including liver cancer, breast cancer, and colon cancer). Women should stick to no more than one drink a day, per the CDC recommendations.
This article originally appeared on Women's Health US