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Pig to plate: The lowdown on pork, including do healthy hot dogs or bacon exist?

unhealthy hot dogsWith barbecue season in full force and organics cropping up everywhere, one question remains to be answered: is there really such thing as healthy hot dogs or bacon? In the U.S., many of us eat pork more than other red meat. We eat a lot of it – bacon, sausage, hot dogs, ham, chops, pork steaks, ribs, roasts and more. But should we really be putting all this pig on our plates?

If you’re a vegetarian, vegan or animal activist, the answer is clear. But if you’re a meat eater, the answer may not be so black and white.

Pigs 101

Despite the advertising campaign, pork is actually a red meat. Due to its light color after cooking, some consider it a white meat. But because pork contains more myoglobin (an oxygen-carrying protein) than chicken or fish, is a livestock product and has been linked to increased risk for heart disease and cancer, it is actually classified as a red meat.

Now that we’ve cleared that mystery up, let’s look at the benefits of eating pork.

Well, pork tastes delicious – so, not a benefit. It does give us some healthy fat and protein, if it’s not overpowered with additives, sugar and other junk.

But consider what we know about pigs. They eat just about anything, including their own feces, their own young and other dead animals.

Besides not sweating much, pigs digest their tantalizing menu of goodies more quickly than other livestock animals, resulting in less removal of toxins. Those toxins then get stored in the pig’s fatty tissues until we consume them. Still sound delicious?

What worse? According to onegreenplanet.org, more than 80% of factory-farmed pigs have pneumonia when they go to the slaughterhouse. If you aren’t exposing yourself to the pneumonia when eating the pork, you sure are taking in some of the antibiotics it was given.

Though sometimes warranted, antibiotics kill the good bacteria as well as the bad bacteria in our digestive tracts. Without the healthy (good) bacteria, poor gut health can lead to many other health issues.

Plus, if you follow Old Testament scripture in the Bible, God considered the pig an unclean animal (See Leviticus 11).

So even with all this information, I have to admit that I still love the taste of pork. And you might, too.

So can processing the pork take away some of the health risks. And finally, is there a healthy hot dog out there?

Pigs to plate: does processing the pork make it healthier?

Processing pork is meant to kill harmful bacteria or parasites in the meat. But due to the pig’s makeup and lifestyle, eating processed pork can increase our risk for swine flu, trichinosis, other viruses or parasites and cancer.

Plus, whether uncured or cured, sausage, bacon and hot dogs will contain nitrites and nitrates. At least with uncured versions, the nitrates and nitrites come from more natural sources such as celery powder, instead of added, man-made sources. Nitrates and nitrites are thought to be cancer causing, so we should consume only natural sources of them, in moderation.

Finally, what’s worse is that the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) concluded that no amount of processed meat is safe, so they recommend avoiding all of it, all the time (mercola.com).

So, we can conclude that processingthis already unhealthy meat does not make it healthier. Sad, I know. I love my bacon, too.

Roping in the processed meats prognosis

What does the WCRF’s recommendation mean to us meat lovers?

Most processed meats are pork-based, but any deli meat or packaged meat and even meat from a local farm may be processed. Processedmeans that the meat has been preserved by curing, salting or smoking it, or by adding chemical preservatives to it.

Processed meats include many of our go-tos: ham, salami, pastrami, pepperoni, hot dogs and bacon, as well as some sausages and hamburgers.

So the prognosis is that we should all stop eating processed meats!

That said, I’m a realist and a meat lover. So what other choices do we have? We can:

  1. choose to eat the unhealthier, conventional processed meats, but much less often.
  2. healthy hot dogresearch and find a trustworthy local source of the cleanest, most organic meat possible.
  3. learn to make our own paleo bacon.
  4. purchase more organic versions of pork products from brands such as The Piggery, Pederson’s Natural Farmsand Wellshire Farms.
  5. find store brands that offer uncured, organic versions made from beef instead of pork, such as Applegate 100% organic, grass-fed beef hot dogs (not their “natural” version). Note that they are still processed, but more organically and they are made from beef instead of pork.

As a society, we love bacon, ham and pork and many of us eat it daily. But to sum up the answer to ‘do healthy hot dogs or bacon truly exist’, I am sad to say, no.

However, we can choose healthierversions of them. If we eat those much less often and enjoy fresher, unprocessed meats or plant-based foods (even better) instead, our bodies will become healthier, too.

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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Cured vs uncured meat: Is this a don’t do it or die decision?

cured vs uncured meat

Is banning cured vs uncured meat from your diet a matter of life and death? Or more livelihood instead of health struggles?

Bacon makes everything better. So why the bad rep?

What is cured vs uncured meat?

Have you been put on high alert to review product labels carefully for cured vs uncured meat?

We cure meat to add flavor, de-funk it and potentially add shelf life (aka preserve it). Truth is, usually even “uncured” meat is cured. By USDA standards, the label “uncured” simply means that the supplier did not use chemicals, but only natural sources for the curing process.

In fact, curing meat blocks the growth of a bacteria responsible for botulinum toxin, the most poisonous chemical compound known, according to this article on paleoleap.com.

So, curing is a good thing, right?

Let’s compare cured vs uncured meats.

Cured meats:

  • typically contain salt and nitrates.
  • will be pinker in color due to the preservatives.
  • increase your risk for cancer due to the chemicals used.

Uncured meats:

  • cook and taste similar to cured meats.
  • are cured without added nitrites.
  • have a shorter shelf life.

Meat suppliers can cure meat (whether labeled “cured” or “uncured”) by:

  • smoking it
  • packing it with salt
  • a wet-cure method, in which water is injected under the skin with tiny needles, and then the meat is bounced around in a tumbler to distribute the water evenly throughout (paleoleap.com).
  • a dry-cure method (a better option).

Does cured vs uncured meat involve higher health risks?

First, when reading labels, treat nitrates and nitrites the same – not good – because your body convert nitrates into nitrites. Your stomach will then convert nitrites into nitrosamines, a carcinogen, or substance capable of causing cancer.

Meats labeled “uncured” are typically cured using natural sources, such as celery powder and sea salt, so they at least do not contain carcinogenic chemicals.

But celery powder is a still a nitrite.

In fact, several vegetables contain nitrites. But the vitamin C in those vegetables prevents the conversion of the nitrites into nitrosamines.

So if shopping cured vs uncured meats, opt for the uncured versions. At least you know it was not cured using chemicals.

Also look for “no nitrites or nitrates added” on the label. Read the ingredients and choose products with fewer ingredients, such as the meat (preferably grass-fed, organic), celery powder and sea salt.

Even better, buy your meats from a local butcher who cures the meats most organically. Ask for all the details and understand what you’re getting. Or venture in to curing your own meats.

What else do you need to know about processed meats?

Zooming back from the cured vs uncured meat category, we see a broader category of “processed” meats, which includes meats that are smoked, cured, salted (or cured naturally) and fermented. This includes bacon, ham, pastrami, salami, pepperoni, hot dogs and some sausages and hamburgers if they have been preserved with salt or chemical additives (mercola.com).

According to Dr. Josh Axe, all processed meats are bad.

And Dr. Axe considers red meat a notch less evil than processed meats. If you eat red meat, he recommends using high quality, grass-fed meat and cooking it for just a short time to maximize the amount of protein and iron you can get from it. This meat cooked more rare also provides a cancer fighting conjugated linoleic acid.

However, many restaurants won’t cook meat rare because the (lower quality) meat they use would not be safe to eat that way!

So, eat more chicken, indeed. Or turkey and wild-caught fish. And experiment with more of the healthy, life-changing foods.

If and when you do eat meat, eat and prepare it at home so you know what you’re getting. Eat organic, grass-fed versions in moderation. If you buy it from a supermarket, opt for the meat labeled “uncured”. And most importantly, if your body disagrees with it, don’t eat it at all or take a break to find out if you can reintroduce it later.

 

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice.