5 Ways Processed Meats Are Destroying Your Health

If you’re looking to fuel up on plenty of protein to get through your toughest workouts, then you might think bacon, sausages, and lunch meats should be incorporated into your meals. While a bit of cured and processed meat here and there won’t completely sabotage your diet, you need to be aware there are some ingredients in those meats that can be bad for your health. Here are five reasons why you might want to cut back.

1. They can cause high blood pressure

Stethoscope and blood pressure monitor

Processed meats can hurt your heart. | iStock.com

Along with pre-made boxed dinners, sugary soft drinks, and canned soups, processed meats are high on the list of foods to avoid for a healthy heart. The Grio explains any meat that has been preserved through smoking, curing, salting, or chemicals of any kind should be eaten minimally, as the salt content can do major damage in the long run. Considering most of the sodium in your diet comes from packaged foods and eating out at restaurants, it’s vital to watch the amount of processed meat you’re eating. The story went on to explain many of these meats contain nearly a day’s worth of sodium.

2. They can increase your risk of type-2 diabetes

close-up of a man checking his blood sugar

Meat increases your diabetes risk. | iStock.com

Studies are showing processed meats are worse for you than regular beef, lamb, or pork. A study from Harvard School of Public Health found eating processed meats was associated with a 19% higher risk of developing type-2 diabetes over time.

If diabetes runs in your family or you already run the risk of developing the disease, then it’s important to significantly cut down your processed meat consumption. Since salt and preservatives are the biggest differences between processed and unprocessed meats, researchers think those ingredients may be to blame.

3. They make you gain weight

Woman Adjusting Weight Scale

Meats can tip the scale in the direction you don’t want. | iStock.com

There’s bad news for you if you’re a processed meat eater and are also trying to lose weight. Research published in BMC Nutrition found meat contributes to obesity at the same rate as sugar in many countries that have complete access to both. This means meat may be more to blame for obesity than we previously thought.

It’s also important to note physical inactivity and less attention to diet and exercise in general were associated with those who ate more processed meats. And, because meat protein is digested slowly, we often have a surplus of energy from protein. If this energy is not used, which is most often the case for sedentary folks, then the protein is stored as fat in the body.

4. They’re hard on your lungs

man coughing as he stands outside

Your lungs won’t be thanking you, either. | iStock.com

You may associate difficulty breathing with smoking and other toxins you inhale, but you may not realize that processed meats can have a major effect on your lungs. Eating these foods has been linked to a higher risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, which can show itself as chronic bronchitis or emphysema, says MedlinePlus. Long-term coughing and mucus production can cause damage to the lungs over time, and you may also feel fatigued and short of breath when you’re developing COPD.

According to the European Respiratory Journal, COPD was the third most common cause of death in 2010, so it’s no joke. According to this research, nearly one-third of those who developed the disease had never smoked a cigarette in their life, showing diet really does make a difference. Eating foods high in antioxidants is a better bet.

5. They can cause cancer

A doctor goes over a patient''s x-ray screening for colon cancer

Processed meats can increase your cancer risk. | American Cancer Society/Getty Images

The most sinister truth about processed meats is they can increase your cancer risk, particularly cancers that are associated with the colon, pancreas, prostate, and stomach. Live Science explains researchers have found eating as little as 2 ounces of processed meat per day, the equivalent of a small hot dog or two slices of lunch meat, is still associated with an 18% higher risk of developing colorectal cancer compared with someone who forgoes these foods.

While the exact reason processed meats can increase the risk of cancer isn’t known, researchers think substances used in the smoking process can form cancer-causing compounds. Also, processed meats use nitrites as preservatives, which may also form compounds that lead to cancer.

To keep your risk of cancer low, eat processed meats sparingly and try to eat as many fruits and veggies as you can.