Can Processed Meats Ever Be Part of a Healthy Diet?
Health and fitness minded people are always looking for new ways to spice up our diets while keeping our protein and nutrient intake high. One type of food which has divided the fitness community is processed meats.
On one hand, processed meats are just that — meat — which means they should provide some benefit (right?).
But on the other hand, the common advice from most nutrition experts is that we should avoid processed foods as much as possible.
So what’s the truth here? Can processed meats ever be part of a healthy diet or should you stay away from them all the time?
Here are the factors you need to consider.
Why Processed Meats Are Bad for You
Processed meats include any sort of animal flesh that has been cured, salted, �smoked, or otherwise chemically modified to help preserve freshness and give it a longer shelf life.
That processing is great for producing cheap foodstuff �that will last a long time, but not so great for your health.
Many types of processed meats, like bologna and salami, are also loaded with fat and other junk that won’t do much for you. Worse yet, the chemicals used in processing can be downright harmful.
Some studies have linked processed meat to cancer and heart disease, and some of the main culprits are nitrites and nitrosamines.
When Processed Meats Might Be OK
In a perfect world, you would avoid processed meats all the time, and your protein sources would always be, well, perfect: lean, grain-fed beef; open-range eggs and poultry; fresh-caught fish.
But we don’t live in a perfect world, and we’re often left with choosing between two or more dietary evils. If you have the choice of going hungry or grabbing a sub with turkey lunchmeat, which would be better for your overall bodybuilding goals and health?
In most cases, it’s going to be grabbing the lunchmeat option, warts and all, to keep your protein levels high and your blood sugar levels stable.
If you don’t let it become a habit, an occasional dalliance with the “dark side” won’t kill you and may HELP if you have no other option.
What Should You Do?
As mentioned above, you should strive to avoid processed meats and other processed foods most of the time. If you have to, use processed meats as a tactic to avoid going hungry, but always opt for the best choice available to you: turkey over bologna, roast beef over salami, etc.
Keep your diet “clean” most of the time, and the very infrequent use of processed meats could help you out if you’re in a pinch. Just don’t let it become anything close to a habit.