Is Deli Meat Healthy?
As a little child, my parents also offered for school lunches one of three choices: a rice cake with peanut butter, a classic peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, or a turkey, lettuce, and cheese sandwich. Like most people, these sandwiches are probably a staple to the everyday life of a 90s and early-2000's kid, tied closely with a lunch-able or your school's cafeteria food. Nowadays, being more open to having time to cook, make my own meals, and be more aware of what I am putting into my body, the reliance on eating deli meat sandwiches and the staple of PB&J's has quickly become a thing of the past.
In wanting to be more health-conscious, I remember also being introduced to a number of articles dealing with the health benefits of eating deli meat. I always found that people were concerned with the preservatives that went into the processing of the food or were concerned with eating deli meats increasing your risk of cancer. In doing more research about whether deli meat is healthy or not, here is what I have found:
What Exactly Are Processed Meats?
Processed Meats refer to any of the following:
- Meat - Including pork, poultry, lamb, goat, or others
- Meat That Has Been Enhanced - Meaning those that are fermented, preserved, cured, smoked, or salted to elevate the flavor
Processed Meats can also include:
- Hot Dogs
- Bacon - turkey or pork
- Corned Beef
Many of these meats that are considered to be processed meats are high in salt and saturated fat, but there are definitely other options to check out in replacement.
Does Eating Deli Meat Contribute To Increased Rates of Cancer?
Within eating meat and poultry, you do get key nutrients such as Vitamin B, protein, and other minerals, but in just consuming small amounts of processed deli meat can lead to an increased rate of cancer. In a study performed by the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the School Of Public Health at the Imperial College of London, it was found that eating about 50 grams of processed deli meat a day can lead to an increased risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent. According to Dr. Nigel Brockton, the director of research for the American Institute of Cancer Research, even just eating even 15 grams of processed deli can increase your risk of cancer by 4 percent.
However, in eating red unprocessed deli meat by comparison, cancer risk only happens at an increased rate by eating more than 100 grams of meat. Dr. Brockton says that there is limited research, meaning that researchers do not know exactly how red meat affects the development of colorectal cancer within the body. Possible research shows that red meat has compounds that good essentially breakdown and damage the lining on the gut which can possibly be one of the reasons why it affects the increased rate of cancer.
Even more, there is research showing that processed meat can cause stomach cancer, with studies suggesting as well that there can be an increased rate of breast cancer in women who consume processed deli meat on the daily.
What Goes Into Making Processed Meat
Processed meat is often cured by adding sodium nitrate, which gives them the a pink color and distinct taste. According to the American Meat Institute, some processed deli meat is often also cured with sodium nitrate and lactic acid, which helps to produce a tangy taste. Some meat in the past often used to have nitrates applied to them, which according to scientists, inhibit the growth of botulism on the meat but may be a cause or reason for the increased rate of cancer within the body. Some products do claim to be "natural" or "organic" and say that they are made without nitrates, but even so, just because they may be "organic" or made without preservatives come with some warning. Nutritionists have warned that with some organic deli meat, manufacturers may add vegetable juices or powders that can contain natural nitrates that can interact with our body's bacteria.
In Choosing Healthier Deli Meat
If you still want to eat deli meat, there are still options to satisfy your cravings. Look for a deli meat that is free from nitrates or nitrites, such as AppleGate that offer natural and organic products that have a line free of those preservatives. Look for options that are low sodium and try to cut back on saltier foods throughout the day. In the end, be cautious of what you put into your body. Make healthier choices and try to swap out your deli meat for healthier alternatives.
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