There's Yet Another Reason to Avoid Processed Meats - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on December 30, 2015

There's Yet Another Reason to Avoid Processed Meats

Processed meats increase your risk of cancer.

A report from the World Health Organization
is giving you another reason to cut
processed meats, like bacon, from your diet.

Bacon, sausage and cold cuts all have a few things in common. First of all, they are delicious. Secondly, they are very unhealthy. Unfortunately, it’s what makes these foods delicious that also makes them bad for you.

These types of meats, a.k.a. processed meats, are high in sodium, preservatives, fat, saturated fat and trans fat. Because of that, processed meats are linked to an increased risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and more chronic conditions.

But a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) is giving you yet another reason to say buh-bye to these meats – processed meats increase your risk of cancer.

Specifically, the WHO cancer research group is stating that there’s enough evidence to say that eating a diet rich in processed meat increases your risk of colorectal cancer.

These meats are developed by salting, curing, smoking or fermenting to enhance their flavor or preserve them. It’s this process that makes these meats nutritionally unhealthy and it’s also what links them to cancer. The process of transforming these meats causes carcinogens to form or be released in them. The compounds formed in these meats are what led WHO to list processed meats are carcinogenic, or cancer-causing.

The WHO cancer research group also looked at red meat, but the organization didn’t have enough evidence to report red meat as causing cancer. In fact, the group reported that eating red meat in moderation may provide you with health benefits.

That’s because red meat is high in iron and vitamin B12, which helps make DNA and keeps nerve and red blood cells healthy. Red meat also contains zinc, which can keep your immune system functioning properly. And, of course, red meat is a protein, meaning that is helps build muscles and bones.

In order to reap these health benefits of red meat, pick a lean cut, which means that a 3-ounce serving contains less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s label can also help you pick out a leaner meat – if it’s labeled as “prime” that means it is top grade but that it also has the highest amount of fat, which gives the meat its flavor and tenderness. USDA meat labeled “select” is the leanest.

Yet another label you can look for on red meat is “grass-fed beef” – this type of beef is leaner than grain-fed beef, making it lower in total and saturated fat.

Despite eating lean red meat, you still need to consume it in moderation since the WHO report stated that the risk of cancer increases with the more meat you eat. Substitute some of the red meat in your diet with more fish, poultry, beans, fruit, vegetables and other plant-based products.

And when it comes to processed meat, it’s best to steer clear of it and only indulge in it occasionally and in moderation.

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