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Health and Fitness News

Kissing Bacon Goodbye

It may be time to say goodbye to some of your favorite foods. Here’s why.

You have a bacon biscuit for breakfast, deli ham sandwich for lunch, and pepperoni pizza for dinner. As a snack, you have beef jerky. It all tastes great, but taste isn’t all that matters.

Across the globe, millions of people eat processed meats every day. Do you? Would you continue to eat it if you knew that it comes with many serious health risks? For some, this knowledge doesn’t strike home. They keep buying and eating processed meats. It’s hard not to, as processed meats are often cheap and require little or no prep. Don’t be one of them.

As you plan your week’s meals, do your best to reduce the amount of processed meats you eat. If you’re wondering why, here are four good reasons.

1. It’s Bad for Your Liver

Both red meat and processed meats increase your risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. As the name suggests, this condition is caused by fat buildup in the liver. Over time, too much fat can lead to scarring and inflammation. When this happens, your liver struggles to operate properly.

Processed meat is high in saturated fat, sodium, nitrites, and nitrates. Unfortunately, all of these are associated with inflammation in the body. What’s this got to do with your liver? Preparing meat at high temperatures through grilling, smoking, or frying creates dangerous chemicals that must be processed by the liver. So, grilling your hot dogs or sausage (both types of processed meat) makes them even more unhealthy.

2. It Increases Your Cancer Risk

Several types of cancer are linked to a diet full of processed meats. This includes stomach, pancreatic, prostate, breast, and colorectal cancer. In fact, this link is not considered a coincidence. According to the World Health Organization, processed meats are a carcinogen. In other words, they are known to cause cancer.

What makes processed meat carcinogenic? When digested, natural and added ingredients in processed meats harm cells in the large intestine. And the preservatives nitrate and nitrite form compounds that can cause cancer. Combine cancer-forming preservatives with damaged cells, and your cancer risk skyrockets.

Raising your risk even higher is the fact that many processed meats are smoked to get their flavor. This process releases cancer-causing compounds that may damage DNA.

3. It Harms Your Heart

You don’t have to eat a truckload of processed meats to hurt your heart. Even eating five ounces (two sausages) a week increases your chances of developing heart disease by 50 percent.

Most likely, this risk is due to the high sodium content, saturated fat, and preservatives found in processed meats. Sodium raises blood pressure. Saturated fat contributes to plaque buildup in the arteries, increases your bad cholesterol, and leads to weight gain. And preservatives in processed meats are known to damage blood vessels, causing them to harden and narrow. All of these issues are risk factors for heart disease.

4. It May Lead to Early Death

If you’re still not sold, this one should do the trick. Someone who eats processed meats on a regular basis is more likely to die an early death, whether that’s from heart disease or cancer.

One study found that those who consume the most processed meat have a 44 percent greater chance of an early death. The answer? Eat processed meats sparingly. Get your protein elsewhere. Choose fish, eggs, and poultry. Or go with plant-based sources such as tofu, tempeh, lentils, nuts, seeds, or quinoa. And when you chow down on processed meats, don’t eat much.