Recapping 2019 to date!
The objective of
is to drive healthy change in an effort to control health care costs. In January, we presented a study that identified diet-related characteristics associated with cardiometabolic deaths (heart disease, stroke and diabetes).
- Too much sodium (9.5% of CM deaths in 2012; 66,508 deaths)
- Not enough nuts/seeds (8.5%; 59,374)
- Too many processed meats (8.2%; 57,766)
- Not enough seafood (omega-3 fats) (7.8%; 54,626)
- Not enough vegetables (7.6%; 53,410)
- Not enough fruits (7.5%; 52,547)
- Too many sugar-sweetened beverages (7.4%; 51,694)
The study was followed by "action" in February with a $25 incentive challenge pinpointed on "sodium awareness". Sodium is identified in the study as the #1 nutritional factor contributing to cardiometabolic death. For a more detailed picture of your personal sodium habits, take a minute or two and fill out the
, I think you will find it a useful exercise.
Goal for March!
Reduce the intake of high-processed meats (#3 on the list) and discover what makes them unhealthy and even dangerous. The International Agency for Research on Cancer identifies processed meat as a Group 1 Carcinogen (causes cancer) which is the same as tobacco and asbestos. Processed meats include hot dogs, ham, bacon, pepperoni, sausage, corned beef and many deli meats; unfortunately, all the things we love! Processing includes salting, curing, fermenting and smoking.
Why should you avoid processed meat?
They are loaded with 1) sodium (a 3 oz. serving of ham contains 1,023mg), 2) nitrates and 3) saturated fats. Last month we discussed the dangers of sodium (high blood pressure) and it's sources, including high-processed meats. Therefore, our focus will be on nitrates.
What are nitrates?
Nitrates are naturally found in many foods and are produced by our own bodies. We ingest the greatest amount of nitrates through fruits, vegetables and some drinking water. When combined with the vitamin C in produce, nitrates are mostly harmless and have healthy effects such as lowering blood pressure, increasing blood flow and possibly reducing the risk for cancer.
So, if processed meats contain nitrates isn't that a good thing?
NO, nitrates are added to meat to give it a pink color, preserve the meat by killing harmful microorganisms and to add a salty flavor. The dangers of nitrates are a result of them being converted into nitrosamines which occurs when they are subjected to high cooking temperatures or interact with the acids in your stomach.
What are the perceived dangers of high-processed meats?
Sodium, nitrates and saturated fats found in processed meats raise blood pressure, clog arteries and result in insulin resistance not only increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes; but also increasing the risk of cancer (stomach, colorectal and pancreatic) and Alzheimer's disease.
Making better choices!
The American Heart Association recommends avoiding processed meats whenever possible. Doctor Axe, an online nutrition guru, recommends avoiding processed meats altogether and instead choose organic grass-fed beef, free-range chicken and wild-caught fish.
...use the month of March to be a mindful eater. How often do you eat processed meat? Can you reduce harmful risks by using healthy alternatives? For example, use chicken breast in your sandwich instead of deli ham. Keep mind, it is not about being perfect but improving, even reducing your use of processed meats by 10% or 2 days per week will have positive effects on your health!!!