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Friday, March 23, 2012

Would you ever eat GRAY meat?

 Believe it or not—gray is the color that meats like bacon and hot dogs would be if there were no sodium nitrite added to stabilize the red color and add flavor. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)1, when nitrite is added to food it can lead to the formation of cancer-causing chemicals called nitrosamines.

These compounds are carcinogens that researchers have linked to cancers of the bladder, brain, esophagus, mouth, and stomach. So meat that's been doctored to look healthy isn't really healthy. You might be better off eating gray meat.

You should know that nitrites also occur naturally in many green vegetables, such as celery, lettuce and spinach. Does that give you an excuse to avoid eating your veggies? 

Nice try. . .but no.

You see, vegetables also have healthy doses of vitamins C and D, which help block the formation of cancer-causing nitrosamines. This is why eating plenty of vegetables can actually reduce your cancer risk.

As for the cured meats—you'd be better off eating them sparingly or not at all. Maybe it would help to take extra vitamins when you do eat them — that's speculation on my part, but it makes sense.

For me, cured meats are a treat I have a few times a year — when I'm someone's guest, for example, and sausage or bacon is on the breakfast menu. The rest of the time there are plenty of good meats that are much less processed and chemicalized.

The problem is nitrites are not the only food additive you should watch out for…

Some food additives have been used for centuries to preserve the flavor of food and enhance its appearance. Included are items such as salt in meats… vinegar for pickling… and sulfur dioxide to prevent wine from spoiling.

But in the mid-20th century, processed foods became more popular. This led to the development of more chemical additives such as:

    Acids—to preserve flavors
    Colorings—to make foods more attractive and replace color lost during preparation
    Emulsifiers—to help waters and oils stick together in foods like mayonnaise
    Humectants—to keep foods from drying out
    Preservatives—to prevent bacteria and other microorganisms from spoiling foods
    Stabilizers—to give foods firmer textures

  Recent examples Include: 
  • Butylated hydroxyanisol (BHA) and butylated hyroxytoluene (BHT)  -  widely used to prevent oils from becoming rancid. You'll find them in a wide variety of foods including cereals, gum and potato chips. 
  •  BHT is a widely used preservative that’s supposedly safe for people to eat and is even sold as a supplement. Years ago, I saw it recommended by some alternative practitioners as a treatment for herpes, because it’s a powerful antiviral. But more recent research suggests it may not be a good idea to consume it.  
  •  Propyl gallate. It is often used in tandem with BHA or BHT to prevent fats and oils from spoiling. You'll often see it used in chicken soup base, potato sticks and vegetable oil.
 Propyl gallate is known to cause kidney, liver and intestinal problems. It also may cause allergic reactions in people with asthma and/or sensitivity to aspirin.

 Animal studies suggest propyl gallate increases the risk of getting cancer. However, due to limitations in the studies, scientists have said they cannot be certain that propyl gallate directly causes cancer.

When all is said and done… you might just be better off eating some fresh, gray meat!


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