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Why You Should Skip Processed Meats

Why You Should Skip Processed Meats

When country super-star Alan Jackson croons, “But, I still like bologna on white bread,” he may hit a note of nostalgia for the go-to lunch of the 1950s and 60s. But don’t let that sway you. Here’s why we both avoid processed lunchmeat—and any other processed meat—and eat avocados, full of healthy fats and a few goods carbs.

Processed meats, including salami, pepperoni, corned beef, sausages, hot dogs, beef jerky, canned meats, and of course bologna, are considered Group 1 Carcinogens according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). And now a new study in the Journal of Internal Medicine reveals that eating 1.7 ounces of processed meat a day increases your risk for prostate cancer by 4 percent, breast cancer by 9 percent, colorectal cancer by 18 percent, pancreatic cancer by 19 percent and death by all cancers by 8 percent. And, geez Louise, if that’s not enough fun, it raises your risk for stroke 13 percent, and diabetes by 32 percent! 

Why the huge health hazards? One idea is processed meats contain a lot of nitrates which ups your risk for type 2 diabetes. Other theories say chemicals produced in the gut—through digestion—fuel inflammatory processes that contribute to cancer and heart disease. So our advice (it’s what we do): Skip all processed meats, and red meat while you are at it. Opt for five to nine servings of produce daily and stick to lean proteins like non-fried skinless chicken, salmon and ocean trout.

Medically reviewed in July 2018.

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