Cancer-causing substances form when processed meats are preserved. And eating these meats can damage your DNA, raising your colon cancer risks.
“Research shows that eating processed meats like bacon and cold cuts can increase your chances for colorectal cancer,” says Mary Ellen Phipps, a wellness dietitian at MD Anderson.
Deli meats and bacon aren’t the only processed meats. Any meat that has been preserved by smoking, curing or salting is processed. And meats with added chemical preservatives are also processed.
Some processed foods include:
- Hot dogs
- Beef jerky
- Roast beef
Learn to rein in your temptations and avoid processed meats with these tips.
Read the label. Check the ingredient list for words like nitrate, nitrite, cured or salted. If you spot these words, it’s a processed meat.
Be an educated buyer. Even meats labeled “uncured” still can have nitrates and nitrites in them.
What about nitrate-free meats? These meats may have less nitrates and nitrites. But, they’re not completely nitrate-free. When you eat nitrate-free food, your stomach actually turns some nitrates into nitrites. And some of these nitrites can then form cancer-causing substances in your body. So eat these meats in small quantities, too.
Think outside the box. Eating less processed meat is easier than you think. Here are some healthy swap tips to get you started.
- Add grilled chicken, hard-boiled egg, beans, tofu or flaked tuna to your salad instead of cubed deli meat.
- Order a grilled chicken or fish sandwich instead of a deli sandwich.
- Add vegetables to your omelet instead of bacon, ham or sausage.
Use this guide to choose healthier options and track how much processed meat you’re eating.
Request an appointment at MD Anderson's Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center online or call 877-632-6789.