6. Processed Meats
Processed meat is defined as any meat that is preserved by smoking, canning, curing, salting, drying, or adding chemical preservatives. This includes sausages, bacon, ham, canned meat, hot dogs, corned beef, salami, smoked meat, among others. Many people consume processed meat daily, without thinking of the harm they do to the body.
They are very high in sodium. Most have more than 20% the recommended daily intake of sodium. This is associated with a greater risk of high blood pressure, and negatively affect organs such as the heart and kidneys. Some, like sausages and hot dogs, are a source of high saturated fats and calories, which may lead to weight gain and are not healthy for the heart.
Some chronic diseases, such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Heart disease and bowel and stomach cancer are associated with a high intake of processed meats.
Sodium nitrate, used for protection against the bacteria that causes foodborne illnesses, is an ingredient in most processed meats. In the stomach, which is acidic, some nitrate is converted to nitrite and combines with the protein in food. This combination is converted to nitrosamine, which is a carcinogen. Long-term exposure to this increases the risk of cancer.
When smoking meats (or grilling them), Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) are formed. These PAHs have been shown, after studies and research, to cause cancer. Cooking meat under high temperatures, such as frying, leads to the formation of Heterocyclic Amines (HCA), which are associated with cancer.
There are several ways of controlling your intake of processed meats:
- If possible, avoid all kinds of processed meat, and instead go for fresh meat from grass-fed animals, and fresh-caught fish.
- Lower-temperature cooking methods such as stewing, poaching, steaming and braising are usually recommended.
- Grilling meat should be done as few times as possible.
- When purchasing any processed meats, make sure you buy those with a low sodium quantity.