Health

Should I be eating processed meats?

There are many reasons to cut down on processed meat.

Processed meats include bacon, ham, salami, devon, frankfurts, chorizo, cabanossi, and kransky.

If you’re a big fan of eating these kind of things, it may be worth reducing the amount in your diet slowly.

raw deli meats

Should I eat processed meats?

The World Health Organisation has classified processed meats as a Group 1 carcinogen. Red meat, such as beef, lamb and pork, has been classified as a Group 2A carcinogen.

Unprocessed red meat is part of a balanced diet for many people.

It offers good amounts of:

  • Protein
  • Vitamins, such as B-6 and B-12
  • Minerals, including iron, zinc, and selenium

There’s no need to completely cut red meat out of your diet, though.

To reduce your risk of developing nasty health complications like cancer, the Cancer Council recommends eating no more than 1 serve of lean red meat per day or 2 serves 3-4 times per week.

They recommend to keep eating processed meats to an absolute minimum.

medium roast rib-eye steak on wooden plate with pepper and salt

Cutting down on red and processed meats will reduce your cancer risk

Amanda Dos Santos, experienced Nutritionist, food scientist and writer with over 10 years of experience in the Heath industry breaks it down for The Healthy Mummy.

Amanda explains that processed meats generally have high levels of sodium, fat, and preservatives like nitrites.

“We all know the links of fat, more specifically of saturated fat to heart disease. It has been well published by scientific bodies and health organisations that saturated fat increases the risk of the development of cardiovascular disease.

“Processed meats are very high in fat and saturated fat. For example, a typical beef sausage has around 15% saturated fat. Yes, you could go down the track of reduced-fat sausages, but they are often higher in sodium to offset the loss in flavour from the fat.

“This brings us to sodium, which is also incredibly high in processed meats. There are a number of reasons that sodium or salt is high in processed meats. One is due to flavour, the other reasons include texture, water activity due to texture but also food safety, preservation, and curing.

Sodium is linked to high blood pressure (hypertension) and even cardiovascular disease as well.

A sausage can have from 200 to up to 900mg of sodium per sausage which is huge considering the recommended upper limit in Australia currently sits at 2300mg.

“The preservatives used in sausages and processed meats such as nitrites and nitrates are thought to combine with the amino acids during cooking and digestion to form cancer-causing nitrosamines,” continues Amanda.

“The argument for the addition of nitrates and nitrites in these processed meats is due to their effective control of Clostridium botulinum which is a microorganism that can cause severe food poisoning or even death. This microorganism thrives in low oxygen environments like sausages, salami, and hams.”

Can I eat processed meats as part of a healthy eating plan?

Amanda points out they really are “sometimes’ food”.

“A sometimes’ food is one which you can have it every now and then.

“Your best bet is having red fresh meats and other good protein sources that are high in iron and other vitamins and minerals. Swap out the ham in a sandwich for some tuna or chicken. If you like sausage, try meatballs instead.

Amanda adds, “If you are going to eat ham, bacon, pepperoni or chorizo, do so, enjoy it, but do not have it every day.”

One of our favourite recipes is the Creamy Mushroom and Bacon Ravioli JUST 328 Calories!

tracy-hardy
written by:

Tracy Hardy

Tracy has been a digital content producer for the past 9 years. Mum of two boys, slowly finding her way through the tween and teen years at the same time. Beach lover. Terrible housekeeper. Tea drinker. Wine sipper, who sadly can't eat cheese or ice cream. Life is cruel!