Increasingly common in the western diet; the adoration and hunger for processed foods and red meat. From grilled steaks to deep fried chicken and oil soaked beef burgers – the demand globally for fast food is growing and consequently, as are the cases and incidences of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. So, why does eating red meat and processed foods increase your risk of developing such serious health problems? This article will look at the negative effects that eating processed meat can have on your health, discuss which foods are the worst in terms of saturated fats and finish by presenting a number of healthier alternatives that will still sate your taste for meat, but will not compromise your health as a result.
What are processed and red meats?
As their name suggests, red meats tend to be a darker, red, brown in appearance – they are blood rich meats and are often a lot tougher than white meats such as poultry or game. Processed meats are animal products that have been modified and preserved using salt or other preservation methods such as curing or smoking. Processed meats will include bacon, salami, ham, pates and of course, sausages. Red meat sources include beef (and veal), goat, pork, venison and lamb.
What’s the beef with processed red meat?
Red meats are naturally high in saturated fats, this is because they are derived from animals and are often cuts that include the body fat of the animal they originated from. Saturated fats can be linked to health problems such as high blood pressure, hypertension, bowel cancer, diabetes and coronary heart disease. This is because they contain fats and cholesterol that tend to accumulate against the walls of blood vessels, building up into a plaque matter known as atheroma. This plaque can continue to accumulate, harden the artery and potentially cause a blockage of the blood vessel – leading to cardiac arrest (heart attack). As red meats are high in saturated fats, consuming red meat increases your risk of developing coronary heart disease. In terms of processed meats, they often contain chemical additives and excess salts, both of which are not healthy or needed in such quantities by the body. These substances can also increase blood pressure, leading to further health and heart complications.
How much red or processed meat should I be eating?
Red meats are packed full of iron, zinc, protein and many other essential vitamins and nutrients needed to maintain healthy bodily function, so eating red meat once or twice a week will not increase your risk of developing heart disease significantly. Instead of eating excess red or processed meats, you can increase your intake of leaner meat cuts, fish rich in omega-3 (which reverses the effects of saturated fats and improves heart health), chicken and legumes such as beans. Plant-based proteins can also be a much healthier option, often being just as nutritionally stable and containing no cholesterol and more unsaturated fats, which are healthy and non-damaging to the body in moderation.