You may have heard the good news yesterday that the WHO released a report stating processed meat causes cancer!1 This is good news because it helps to raise awareness as to which kinds of meat are not a part of a healthy diet. Examples of processed meats are things like sausages, bacon, canned meat, any kind of smoked meat, etc.
This report by the WHO is something we agree with but we do feel that it is important to help people understand exactly why processed meats are unhealthy. Our aim here is to help you understand why certain meats are unhealthy and why can be part of a healthy balanced diet.
Processed Meats Contain Harmful Chemical Preservatives:
Almost all processed meats contain a number damaging chemical preservatives. One of the most prevalent in these processed meats are sodium nitrates and/or sodium nitrite-compounds that keep the food from spoiling. The problem with nitrates is that when they are ingested they react with protein in the stomach and form high carcinogenic compounds called nitrosamines.2 This is a major reason why there is a link between processed meats and cancer.
Factory Farms = Stressed Animals + Antibiotics/Hormones + GMO/Poor Quality Feed = Poor Quality Meat That Makes You Sick
Most processed meats come from factory farmed meat which is of very poor quality. These animals are raised in extremely stressful environments with little to no access to the outdoors or room to move. Animals, just like humans, release stress hormones and can face illness due to overwhelming stress. This stress is reflected in the quality of the meat.
Due to their poor living conditions and poor health, antibiotic use is very common as well as hormone use. Growth hormones are thankfully banned in Canada but it is important to remember that a lot of our processed meats/factory farmed meats are imported from the states where hormone use is allowed. Antibiotics and hormones are both used to fatten up the animals, so there is more meat to sell. To make matters worse, factory farms are also fed very poor quality food, such as GMO corn and other grains (Cows, for example, are intended to be fed grass). The animals eat feed grown with pesticides and chemicals and are likely to store some of this in their meat which we then consume. When cows that are fed grains their meat contains primarily saturated fats which are of much less nutritional value. Another thing to be noted is that mammals store a lot of toxins in fat, that means the poorer quality the meat and the more toxins introduced through diet, hormones an antibiotics, the more toxins you will be ingesting through the fat of the animal.
Animals Fed The Right Food Have Lower and Healthier Fat Contents
Fed the right foods, the fat content of meat can actually be healthy for you! For example, grass fed cows are much leaner that factory farmed cows and their meat contains omega-3 (4-8%), a fat that is anti-inflammatory and very good in the body, as well as more polyunsaturated fats.
Organic Meat = No Antibiotics + No Hormones + Feed Free Of Pesticides
The bottom line is if you eat meat the quality of the meat you are consuming does matter. Try to go for organic as much as possible and for beef try to ensure it is grass-fed (for the healthier fat content). To qualify as organic, meat must be raised without the use of hormones and antibiotics. The food they are fed must also be organic meaning that the animal feed is free from pesticides and chemicals. Clean food equals cleaner meat.
Good Source Of Protein, Small Portions, Balanced Diets
Meat is a excellent source of protein and is nutrient dense, you do not need to eat a lot of it to get enough protein (ex. 4oz of beef gives you 32g of protein). Protein is an essential building block in the body. It’s the building block of our cells, provides the body with energy, in necessary for the synthesis of hormones, enzymes and antibodies, it helps build muscle and much more.3
Meat, however, can be acidifying in the body therefore it is a good idea not to be eating it at every meal. Once a day is enough. We also recommend having at least one vegetarian day per week. We recommend this not only for health but also from an environmental/social stand point as the meat industry contributes a lot to global warming.
Also, make sure you’re getting enough fibre from vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fruits. There is no fibre in meat so making sure your diet provides this elsewhere is vital to good health.
Tips For Vegetarians and Vegans
Following a vegetarian or vegan diet works great for some people but not everyone. We support your choice and encourage you to read up on food combining for complete proteins so you can make sure your diet doesn’t lack any of the essential protein building blocks. If you are vegan make sure you are supplementing with B12 as it is an essential nutrient that is not readily found in the plant world. B12 deficiency is serious and should not be taken lightly as it can lead to brain damage, impaired immune function, impaired blood platelet function and other issues.
The Choice Is Yours, So Make It A Healthy One!
Eating meat or being vegetarian or vegan can be a healthy lifestyle it is all about balance and choosing good quality foods. Unprocessed food is the way to go!
Josh & Lauren
2. Michael Murray and Joseph Pizzorno. The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine
3. Lynne Hilton and Tracey McBurney. Nutritional Symptomatology