A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

4 things you should know about processed meats

The dangers of eating processed meats

Meat-eaters, you may want to give thought to the types of meat you eat and reduce your consumption of processed meats because of their impact on your health.

Meat-eaters, you may want to give thought to the types of meat you eat and reduce your consumption of processed meats because of their impact on your health.

Some meats are lean, full of nutrients and vitamins. However, once they’re changed from fresh meat to processed fare you want to watch how much of it you eat for a number of health reasons, said Chrisanne Urban, a Marshfield Clinic Health System dietitian.

What is processed meat?

It’s not cutting, grinding or mixing fresh meat. Meat becomes processed when salt, chemical preservatives and fat are added.

“It’s meat that’s been modified in some way, either smoked, cured, salted, fermented or preservatives added,” Urban said.

Pros and Cons

Pros of processed meat include improving the meat’s flavor and extending its shelf life.

The down side though is that, according to research, processed meat has been linked to chronic conditions and illnesses:

  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes

Examples of processed meat

Pork, beef and poultry are standards for processing into bacon, ham, sausages, salami, corned beef, jerky, hot dogs, luncheon meat, pastrami, canned meat and meat-based sauces. Cold cuts, made from chunks of beef, ham and turkey, are preserved with salt, seasonings, sugar and sometimes chemicals, then sliced for sandwiches or snacks. Urban suggests reading labels to learn more about their ingredients since some varieties of cold cuts may not be as bad as others.

Alternatives

If you’re looking for some alternatives to processed meats, Urban has some healthier suggestions:

  • Dry beans and lentils (like hummus)
  • Fresh-canned tuna and salmon
  • Nuts and nut butter
  • Avocado
  • Eggs
  • Roast up your own meat and slice up for sandwiches and salads

Urban said that you can include processed meals in your summer meals – the key is to focus on quantity. Limiting your processed meat consumption to two (3 oz. serving sizes) a month is recommended.

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