Contrary to popular assumption, the term ‘processed’ covers a wider variety of meats than you may think. Spam might immediately come to mind but ‘processed’ essentially means any meat that has had something done to it to keep it edible for longer.
This preservation involves treating the meat by salting, curing, smoking or using chemical preservatives. And unfortunately that includes your fancy, expensive luncheon meats such as Parma ham, as well as less appealing cans of the pink stuff.
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Examples of processed meatsDeli meats such as salami and pastrami
Popular sandwich fillings such as ham, bacon and corned beef
Some sausages and hamburgers, if they include preservatives
Canned meat and some ready meals
Most meat for mass consumption (e.g delivered to hospitals, restaurant chains and schools)
Why are processed meats bad for your health?Processed meats have been linked to numerous health risks, including cancer. They are high in calories, fat and salt, all of which have serious repercussions if you have too much.
Cancer – processed meats have been linked to an increased risk of cancers such as pancreatic. This is because the preservatives used can contain cancer-causing chemicals such as sodium nitrite.
Heart disease – the high sodium levels found in processed meat put strain on your heart, weakening blood vessels and pushing up blood pressure.
Obesity – processed meats tend to be fatty and high calorie. Eat too much and you’ll put on weight, increasing your risk of various related health complaints. Plus, all the salt encourages makes you body retain water and feel bloated.
Diabetes – Putting on weight is a risk factor in type 2 diabetes, but this is compounded in processed meats by the nitrates that are thought to affect the way your body secretes insulin and controls its glucose levels.