Humans have been consuming cured meats for a long time. One of the reasons why we love cured meat so much is its deliciousness and a wide variety of options. Different parts of the world have different types of cured meats, recipes, and preparation methods.
While meat lovers love to eat cured meats, eating these excessively can lead you to several issues. In some circumstances, these can be the worst things you could eat. That's what people have started to say about cured meats.
So, if you are also concerned about your health, here we will elaborate on everything you need to know.
What are cured meats?
Cured meat is meat that goes through the process of curing that involves preservation methods. Any moisture from meat is removed by adding salt.
The shelf life of this meat increases while adding some unique flavor. Curing is a process that can add spices, sugars, nitrates, and nitrites to your meat. These are added to prevent harmful organisms growing in or on the meat.
Are cured meats and processed meats the same?
Cured meat and processed meat have similar characteristics with a few differences. The major difference is fermentation with different chemicals, which enhance the flavor and further increase the shelf life of those meats.
Are cured meats healthy? A complete guide to knowing everything
There are lots of cured meat types, including the following:
- Hot dogs
- Corned beef
- Prosciutto, etc.
So many options mean so many recipes, and you can eat these meats in several ways. However, it is important to know about the effect of these meats on your health. It is because certain cases link these meats to different types of cancers. Not only that but these are linked with other health issues as well. So, here are all the important factors you need to consider.
Before jumping straight to those health factors, remember that:
- Curing adds nitrates that are usually found in spinach, celery, and beets
- Curing uses salt, and that can increase the sodium content of meat
Connection of cured meats with cancer
In 2015 WHO announced that consuming too much-processed meats will increase the risk of developing cancers. They announced that bowel cancer could be a common issue among people who consume too much-cured meats. After that, the meat industry kicked some damage, and more scientific studies were conducted to verify its authenticity.
It was found that the cured meats had an abundance of nitrites (sodium nitrite or potassium nitrite), making the meat much more dangerous as people were not considering their portion sizes. These studies also mean that if you monitor your nutritional facts and manage your intake accordingly, your chances of developing cancer could decrease.
All you need to know about the nitrates
These nitrates have had a lot of hype about them that they are not safe and bad for our health. However, if we dig a little deeper into the facts, most of the nitrates we consume come from vegetables, not meat. As these come from vegetables, most people consider them good as they are present in beets.
\In fact, nitrates are linked to help with blood pressure issues. So, why is everyone worried about their bad effect on their health? The thing to worry about here is that these are not harmful normally. However, things change when we eat them because the bacteria convert them into different nitrites. These nitrites can cause carcinogenic reactions, which can even harm health.
Why are we still using nitrates in cured meat?
Now that you know that nitrates are bad for us when consumed so, why are these still present in cured meats? The reason why these are still used for making cured meats is that they come with some significant benefits, including:
- The pink color that these meats are liked for
- Better shelf life because nitrates stop bacterial growth
- Improved taste of the meat
- Faster curing process
Due to these benefits, we still use nitrates to cure meat.
Nitrite-free cured meats – becoming a thing.
Remember that all cured meats do not have nitrites, and the slow-cured ones are nitrite free. Slow curing takes up to 18 months, and these cured meats are known as nitrite-free cured meats.
These are becoming a thing with commercial sales booming as people think these are better. However, it is still important to note that the sodium contents of these meats are more than normal because of the usage of salts. So, one must eat it after checking the portion size.
Are uncured meats safe?
As there was news about cured meat being bad for health, sellers started selling meat with the uncured label. It was the type of meat that was usually preserved with natural salts and flavorings instead of chemicals. However, it is safe to say that uncured meat will not have any significant benefits over cured meat if you are not careful about the portion size and nutrition facts.
Different ways to add cured meats to your daily intake.
The right way to have cured meat is by monitoring the nutrition facts and eating only according to your healthy portion size. When you do that, you can eat cured meats in the following ways:
- Use cured meat with eggs, lettuce, avocado, and mayo on bread to make a sandwich
- Use cured meats in homemade soups or stews
- Try adding bits of cured meats to different types of salad
- Cook a meatloaf with cured meats
When you use these safe ways of consuming cured meats, things will be much better.
Cured meat is known for its unique taste and rich texture. Meat lovers like eating that meat in different forms and ways, but one thing that makes them concerned is the health hazards that are said to be created because of cured meat consumption.
Although cured meats have more sodium and nitrate contents, the more important thing is their nutrition facts. If you carefully set the portion size and follow the nutrition facts, you may not face any issues. Remember that sodium and nitrites/nitrates that are said to be the culprits here are also found in several vegetables.