Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What's Lurking in Your Turkey Sandwich?

There are dangerous carcinogens lurking in the majority of deli meats. Unless you buy organic or all natural deli meat, your sandwiches most likely contain one of two (or both) ingredients labeled "sodium nitrite" and "sodium nitrate".

What are sodium nitrites and nitrates?
They are preservatives used in processed meats (deli meat, hot dogs, SPAM, bacon) to retain coloring. They are also reported to inhibit the growth of botulism, to some degree.

Why I choose not to eat them:
Once in your stomach, these preservatives react with your stomach chemicals to produce nitrosamines, which have been shown to cause cancer in lab testing after being consumed in large quantities by animals. Once produced in the body, nitrosamines produce the growth of cancers, particularly colorectal and pancreatic cancer. So, they're proven carcinogens.

Recent research:
A study conducted at the University of Hawaii followed 200,000 men and women for seven years to track health differences between those who ate meat and those who did not. The results? A frightening 67% increased risk of pancreatic cancer was found among those who consumed meat. Mike Adams, a nutritionist, cites the widespread use of sodium nitrites in processed meat as the cause of the increased cancer risk. He writes, "This is clearly not due to macronutrient differences. This is the kind of risk increase you only see with ingredient toxicity. Something in these processed meats is poisoning people, and the evidence points straight to sodium nitrite."

Children and pregnant or nursing women are warned to stay away from this preservative, so I stay away too. If it's not good for a newborn baby, it can't be that good for me.

How do I avoid nitrites and nitrates?
Processed meats like deli meat, hot dogs, SPAM, bologna, ham, and breakfast meats usually have sodium nitrite or nitrate in them. An often overlooked culprit is pepperoni. Most sandwich shops and restaurants use nitrite-laden meat, so avoid ordering meat on a sandwich. If you or someone you know must eat meat, there are nitrate and nitrite-free meats available. Any meat that is labeled all-natural, preservative free, or organic shouldn't have this dangerous compound in them (Ralphs sells a couple types of all natural lunch meats), but always check the labels yourself to be sure. I personally just stay away from all meat. It's much easier.

A refreshing cucumber sandwich with freshly cracked pepper and dijon mustard just sounds so much better to me than hunting for and spending extra bucks on non-cancer causing meat for lunch.


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