Could Eating Processed Meat Increase the Risk of Some Deadly Cancers?

Plate with assortment of delicious deli meats on wooden board

Smoked, cured, salted, with preservatives….processed meat is an umbrella term which refers to meats that have been altered, either for preservation or taste purposes. There’s no clear definition.

For years, doctors, public health officials and scientists have linked processed meat to diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, certain kinds of cancer, and even death, because the salt, fat, and chemical preservatives. But how bad is it? Should you continue to eat it? See what Webmd.com has to say about each one of them:

Bacon

The fat in bacon is no secret — it splatters away right there in the pan when you cook it. But not all bacon is the same. Look for brands lower in salt and nitrates — some use none at all — and go with leaner cuts.

Cold Cuts

Hunks of beef, ham, and turkey are preserved with various amounts of salt, seasonings, sugar, and sometimes chemicals, and sliced for sandwiches or snacks. Check the ingredients — some cold cuts may not be as bad for you as others.

Hot Dogs

These processed tubes of meat are a staple at some fast food restaurants and neighbourhood cookouts. Some brands use more parts of the animal than others, but most of them are still loaded with salt, saturated fat, and nitrates.

Fast Food Chicken Nuggets

They are easy to pop in your mouth, but they are processed. There’s chicken meat in them, along with bones, blood vessels, nerves, connective tissue, fat, and skin. If you buy your own chicken and bake it in bite-size chunks, you can leave out the “things” you’d rather not think about, let alone eat.

Beef Jerky

You know our own Kilishi? It’s Nigeria’s beef jerky! It’s the perfect travelling meat snack: dried, salted meat you can put in your pocket. Quality makes a difference here: Cheaper, mass-produced beef jerky can have added sugar along with the fat and salt. But high-quality beef jerky is still processed meat, so don’t overdo it.

Pepperoni

It’s a favorite topping for pizza, but it is part of a family of processed meats — fermented sausages — that have all the usual suspects: salt, fat, calories, sugar, and preservatives. To ferment a sausage, you let the raw meat cure in its casing, which gives it that tangy flavor and chewy texture.

Breakfast Sausage

If it comes in a package, glistens like it’s been dropped in a vat of oil, and tastes like a salt lick, it’s probably not that good for you. It sure looks tasty next to those eggs, though. If you’ve got to have it, check the ingredients for lower amounts of salt and preservatives. You also can try turkey, chicken, or even vegetarian sausage for less fatty alternatives.

Hamburgers

The ground beef fast food restaurants use in their hamburgers often has growth hormones and antibiotics to go along with all the salt, fat, and preservatives. It’s a better idea to make your burgers at home with good quality lean beef or ground turkey.

Vienna Sausages

These are tiny sausages in a can. They are made from “mechanically separated chicken” — meaning the bones are taken out with a machine, and all the rest of the animal is used — along with small amounts of pork or beef. It’s all ground to a fine paste and cooked in little hot dog casings, ready to eat when you pop the top.

Canned Corned Beef Hash

Fry some chopped corned beef (typically brisket that’s been salted and cured) with some onions and potatoes, and you’ve got corned beef hash. Put it in a can and you have an inexpensive meat product loaded with fat, preservatives, and salt. For a healthier take, make your own version with turkey pastrami.

As said earlier, a growing body of research shows that regular consumption of processed, cured, or smoked meats like ham, hot dogs, bacon, and sausage can up your odds of developing some deadly cancers. That’s largely because processed meats are treated with nitrates chemical additions that help keep the color of the meat pink and the flavor tasty and salty.

As such, you’d want to be careful how you stuff yourself up with them. The one piece of advice most nutritionists agree on is that increasing the amount of fresh produce you eat is always a good choice.

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