Are Bacon, Hot Dogs And Other Processed Meat That Bad For Us?

May 18, 2016  |  

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Processed meats do cause cancer.”

When I read this title for a BBC story about how everything from bacon and sausages to ham, deli meats and hot dogs that once were fresh meats but were changed and cured to last longer or taste “better” can be bad for us, I immediately became worried. I’m a big fan of cold cut sandwich meat, which I’ve been eating since childhood. I’m specifically a big fan of Buddig turkey meat, which is absolutely delicious. Well, to me, at least. But with the World Health Organization stating that 50 grams of processed meat a day can increase your chance of developing colorectal cancer, I had to reach out to Marci Clow, MS, a registered dietitian and senior nutritionist for Rainbow Light about it.

“Studies have consistently shown that all-cause mortality is higher with daily consumption of red meat, especially that which is processed,” Clow said. “Eating more meat often means eating fewer plant foods, and research has consistently associated higher intake of plant-based foods with decreased risk of many chronic disease conditions. Many reports over the years have also shown processed and red meat consumption linked to mortality, often with the processed and red meat eaters also having less fruit and vegetable consumption and less exercise, along with higher rates of cancer.”

Back in the day, when you read hot dog packages that said they were mixed with all sorts of different meats and parts, you already knew something sounded weird about it. But who didn’t love a good hot dog growing up? However, according to the American Cancer Society, those same hot dogs are being classified as carcinogens. The process all these types of meats go through in order to be “processed” includes salting, curing, fermenting and/or smoking.

But nowadays, if I’m being honest, it sounds like just about any and everything we eat has been morphed in some way and can put us at risk. Therefore, all the recommendations and declarations about our food can get dizzying. Who and what can you believe? Fifty grams of processed meat is reportedly the equivalent of four slices of bacon or one hot dog. We can’t even have that?

Well, actually, you can. Kurt Straif, MD, from the World Health Organization, pointed out that processed meats, in moderation, are still okay.

“For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal (bowel) cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small,” Straif said, “but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed.”

Clow agreed, stating that we don’t have to give up these meats completely, but we need to scale back on our intake and be sure to have a balanced diet that also includes a wealth of fruits and vegetables.

“Based on the research to date, my recommendation would be to consume processed meats only on occasion, and try to substitute processed meats with lean cuts of red meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and nuts and legumes. Bottom-line, don’t deprive yourself from enjoying a couple pieces of bacon on the weekend. Just don’t eat it every day.”

As for my beloved Buddig turkey, Clow did try to reassure me by saying that even though it’s considered a processed meat, it is a white meat and “is a much better choice than say, bacon or pastrami.”

Still, considering that I’m already a bit shook with a side of confused by all that I’ve read about processed meats, it might be a better move to trade in my beloved Buddig turkey slices for lean cuts of turkey when I can find some. And I will try–as soon as I finish these last two packs I just bought…

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