This Memorial Day weekend people across the nation will be celebrating with barbeques, trips to the beach, and attending parades. The official first weekend of summer is not only a time for remembering the men and woman who have lost their lives to protect this nation, but it ushers in the season of cook outs, and summer parties. These celebration are often full of foods like hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, soda, and alcohol. Unfortunately many of the foods that fill the tables at these Memorial Day celebrations increase the risk of cancer and cause obesity.
Americans will usher in the summer this weekend, and at the same time usher in the “season of the hot dog”, consuming an average of 800 hot dogs a second. Hot dogs are processed meats, most have large amounts of chemicals and high amounts of salt. Studies have linked eating processed meats regularly with an increase risk of early death by as much as 49 percent. Sodium nitrates, a carcinogen, are often found in smoked meats. Hot dogs are a staple of the Memorial Day cook out.
Memorial day is the second biggest barbecue day of the year, with Fourth of July being first. The top three choice of food to grill, are burgers, at 85 percent, steaks at 80 percent, followed closely by hot dogs at 79 percent. Red meat can lead to an increase in colon cancer and obesity, in small amounts though, it can be good for you. The buns on the burgers, usually are made from highly processed white flower, bleached with a chemical called chlorine gas, which the EPA sites as an irritant, dangerous, and potentially lethal. It is also glycemic, bad for blood sugar, and causes weight gain.
Most holiday parties will have alcohol. Alcohol use is the second leading cause of cancer after tobacco use. Excessive alcohol use can lead to liver, mouth, rectum, colon, esophagus, and female breast cancer. The increase for cancer due to alcohol rises for woman who are post menopausal, one drink or less a day causes an increase of breast cancer by almost 30 percent, compared with woman who do not drink at all. Alcohol’s high sugar and calories can increase obesity. Mixing alcohol with soda or juice makes matters worse, high in refined sugars, like high fructose corn syrup, they are believed by many to be foods for cancer cells, that help the cells to grow. Diet sodas as an alternate are not a very good choice, artificial sweeteners in many studies, have been show to actually increase weight gain for people and can make controlling blood sugar more difficult. Aspartame a popular sugar substitute, has been increasingly shown, in studies to become toxic when broken down. The breakdown of this chemical has been known to cause certain brain cancers.
That potato and pasta salad full of mayo, is not only fattening, and leads to weigh gain, and obesity, but it more than likely contains hydrogenated oils. These oils are thought to be linked to high cholesterol, heart disease, and cancer because they change the way cells function.
Not surprisingly another common find at Memorial Day cookouts, potato chips, are high in fat and calories. A study done in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that one ounce of potato chips eaten daily can cause a two-pound weight gain yearly, leading to an increase chance of obesity. Some people worry that the way the chips are cooked, fried at very high temperatures to make them crispy has a side effect of producing a chemical called acrylamide, a carcinogen.
Though cancer causing, high calorie, and high fat foods that can cause obesity, may fill the tables at Memorial Day parties, all is not lost. Most agree that occasional consumption of these foods is safe. A diet high in plant foods like vegetables, fruits, and dietary fiber can help prevent cancer, and combat obesity.
By Jessica Hamel
Christian Science Monitor: Seven Fun Memorial Day Facts For the Holiday Weekend
Ghana Web: Cancer Causing Foods You Probably Eat Daily
Pulse.ng: Five Top Cancer Causing Foods
Photo Courtesy of Kurt Komoda’s Flickr Page- Creative Commons License