You may have heard that eating processed meat is bad for you, but the dangers are best understood once you know just what makes eating processed meat unhealthful. Unlike unprocessed meat, "processed" meat refers to any meat that has gone through salting or chemical processes to extend its shelf life. Here are four complications you should know about before eating processed meat.
1. Weight Gain and Obesity
Processed meat is high in calories, fat and sodium. The more bologna, ham, and sausage that you stuff inside your sub roll or pita will add up to more calories, more fat and more sodium. Too much salt in your body leads to water retention and bloating. Many of these processed meats are casually referred to as "luncheon meats" for good reason. They are easy to slap in between two pieces of bread for a mid-day meal.
Custom has it, however, that a typical luncheon-meat sandwich consists of the luncheon meat, added slices of cheese, and dressings like mayonnaise and barbecue sauce. A typical luncheon meat sandwich also gets a side helping of potato chips. These ingredients make the calorie count higher.
Another way that processed meat leads to weight problems is that sodium and fat cause your system to slow down. Diet experts advise against fatty, salty foods if you plan to exercise. A large sub makes you want to take a long nap rather than a long walk.
2. Heart Disease
Consider the burden you place on your body when you eat hot dogs or processed-meat subs. You are getting over three times the amount of sodium that you would get from a sandwich filled with a few slices of cooked turkey. What makes too much sodium so dangerous? High levels of sodium weaken blood vessels. This leads to heart disease.
Your body cannot accommodate large amounts of sodium. Water retention as a result of sodium builds up blood volume. A vicious chain of events follows, where the more blood volume you have, the more your heart needs to move the blood through your arteries--and the greater the burden on your arteries.
Researchers have found signs of danger in nitrates and nitrites found in processed meats. Diabetes experts say that nitrates lessen your secretion of insulin and have negative effects on the body's glucose levels. Harvard researchers recently did a study that showed that eating just one serving a day of processed meats was linked to a 29 percent risk for diabetes. One serving, for example, is just two slices of salami or a hot dog.
Swedish researchers have discovered a higher risk of stomach cancer among those who eat processed meats. A study from Hawaii that followed participants for seven years, revealed that those who ate the most processed meats showed a 67 percent greater risk of pancreatic cancer over those who did not eat the meats or ate the meats infrequently.
General advice is to eat no more than one serving of processed meats a week.