When you find yourself at the deli counter at your local supermarket, you’re faced with a couple of decisions. Ham, turkey, roast beef, salami, bologna — the options can be overwhelming. We’re here to reassure you that the vast majority of cold cuts are very low in fat and calories, but it’s good to know which ones aren't. We’ve gone through every product that Boar’s Head, one of the nation’s most trusted cold cut companies, produces, and have rounded up their 10 most fat-, calorie-, and sodium-laden offerings.
10 Boar's Head Meats You Shouldn't Eat a Lot Of (Slideshow)
Before we get to the unhealthy stuff, let’s chat for a minute about the healthier options, which also happen to be the most popular sellers: ham, turkey, and roast beef. All of these offerings are surprisingly lean: their Virginia ham contains only 1 gram of fat and 60 calories in a 2-ounce serving; Ovengold turkey has the same amount; and their London broil top round roast beef contains only 3 grams of fat and 70 calories in a 2-ounce serving.
The sodium content in cold cuts is a concern, but Boar's Head has found ways to remedy that issue as well. A serving of ham contains 590 milligrams of sodium, but their Black Forest Low-Sodium Ham contains 440, which is on the low end for an innately salty product like ham. Ovengold turkey contains 350 milligrams, but their No Salt Added Turkey Breast contains just 55. And while the roast beef contains 310 milligrams, the No Salt Added Top Round contains just 40.
The good thing about cold cuts is that while it’s not always easy to tell how high in sodium they are just by looking at them, you can easily gauge which ones will be higher in fat, for the most part. For example, by just looking at a piece of salami, and noticing how it’s speckled with fat, you can tell that it has a higher fat content than, say, turkey. But which has more fat and calories, salami or bologna? Liverwurst or olive loaf? We’ve rounded up the top 10 unhealthiest cold cut offerings from Boar’s Head, including Italian charcuterie, so the next time you’re at the deli counter you’ll know which ones you might want to eat in moderation. All our serving sizes are two ounces to keep it consistent.
Hot Dogs You Should And Shouldn't Buy
There's something quintessentially American about hot dogs. At best, they're a staple of long, lazy summer days and at worst, they're suspicious tubes of mystery meat in a casing you probably don't want to ask too many questions about.
The nature of hot dogs means there are a lot of stories about what, exactly, is in them. It's nothing new, and it's not going to stop any time soon, either. Snopes says in 2017, a fake news story from World News Daily Report started making rounds on the internet, claiming a hot dog vendor in New York City had been caught using meat from real dogs for the dogs he was selling on the street. It was a completely false news story, but the idea that there's good hot dogs and very, very bad hot dogs is still pretty accurate.
Mystery meat aside, there are definitely some hot dogs that'll be a hit when they come off any grill, and some you should probably avoid. Let's talk hot dogs, and the ones you should — and shouldn't — pick up this summer.
Beef bologna doesn't fare a whole lot better than salami, though it is cholesterol-free. It's still high in fat and sodium, and has 150 calories per 2-ounce serving — about two slices.
A New York deli staple, pastrami doesn't fare much better than its processed-meat counterparts, though it is lower in calories at 80 per serving. One 2-ounce serving — about two slices — has a quarter of your daily sodium intake and 11% of your daily cholesterol, though it also has a quarter of your recommended daily protein intake.
30 Best and Worst Packaged Deli Meats
We know we're about to break the hearts of lunch-preparing moms and dads everywhere, but those cold cuts might not be trustworthy. And it's not just about your kiddos you could be sabotaging your own figure. Just a couple slices—no, really, just two of those thinly-sliced pieces of lunch meat—have more sodium than a bag of pretzels that's 450 milligrams! Sodium, a known contributor to hypertension, not only makes your belly bloated, but it's also a risk factor in the development of heart disease when eaten in excess.
As for the nitrate and nitrite debacle? Here's what you need to know: All "cured" deli meats include sodium nitrate and nitrite as preservatives to keep the cuts free from harmful bacteria. To claim "All Natural," brands substitute these artificial additives for their naturally-occurring counterpart—celery powder—and dub themselves "uncured." But whether it's the synthetic version or from celery powder, it's basically the same thing, according to Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CDN. She also tells us there's no verdict on whether nitrates are harmful or safe. (Ever seen beet juice nitrates being marketed to help boost your endurance?)
What we do know is this: the World Health Organization (WHO) released a study in 2015 linking high consumption of processed meats (which equates to four slices of bacon a day) to colorectal cancers. However, the authors of the study say that the occasional hot dog is okay. The takeaway? As long as you grab good-quality meat made with good-for-you ingredients, eating a sammy with deli meats once or twice a week isn't going to do a ton of damage. What's more important than choosing a nitrate- or celery-juice-preserved meat is actually eating a predominantly plant-based diet, which has been connected with the lowest incidences of cancers and other diseases when compared to those who eat the least amount of produce.
Below, you'll find some of the best and worst lunch meat brands on the market. And if you can't find the brand we've recommended in your own grocery store, use the chosen product's nutritional information and ingredients as a guide to what you should look for. Once you've chosen a meat, find out where the rest of your sandwich add-ons stack up in our exclusive guide of best lunch foods for weight loss—ranked!
Deli meats that are a cut above the rest
I thought I'd bring up a discussion on deli meats that are really a cut above the normal items you may find in the grocery store.
Now I'm not actually a big deli meat person. I've always found that flavor and textures are lacking in many deli items. No matter if it's some thinly sliced meats or deli cheeses. no flavor!
Now, although I'm not a deli person i do enjoy Boar's Head products. No matter what you buy. it's full of flavor. great texture. chicken taste like chicken and turkey taste like turkey. It really is a treat. Hmmm, maybe I am a deli meat person after all
But setting even Boar's Head products aside. Have you found any cuts of deli meats that are really a cut above. even Boar's Head, Jamon Serrano, Prosciutto di Parma, etc.
Here are some of my favorites that I've found so far in the Chicago area, not in any particular order.
Petit Jesu - a nice salami product with great depth and oils that remind you of a certain black pig. I have noticed some inconsistencies with it. But still pretty darn tasty! Be sure to get it sliced thin.
Centimpalo Salamanca, Spain - A real nice eating Chorizo with good flavors.
Prosciutto di Parma Pio Tosini - Wow. this is really so delicate. so deep. so full flavored and irresistible. Right now (for me) this is second only to Iberico Bellota.
Jamon Iberico - I still think that if you have the chance to try regular Iberico side by side with Bellota don't pass up the opportunity. It no slouch! It also taste different enough from bellota that it warrants a try.
Jamon Iberico Bellota - I obsess about it's flavors, really. I wonder if it came out of popularity if the price would drop? I will either get a leg or partial leg at some point. I only wish I could find a reputable source that would have a little bit of a price break. Someday!
What are your favorites? Where are they available?
a good headcheese from the local european provisions, "veal loaf" from the same place. liverwurst with a slice of onion and some mustard. mmmm
I find Proscuitto San Danielle to be even better than Parma ham.
Boar's Head Black Forest Ham is a staple in our house.
If you like Boar's Head product try their frankfurters (not the all beef). Best hot dog ever, with a bite to the skin.
I find Proscuitto San Danielle to be even better than Parma ham.
Boar's Head Black Forest Ham is a staple in our house.
If you like Boar's Head product try their frankfurters (not the all beef). Best hot dog ever, with a bite to the skin.[/QUOT
That is your opinion. We here feel its Hebrew Nationa l(all beef) franks,
Well. not wanting to start a "Dog wars" again nor to split hairs (of the dog so to speak ). Vienna Beef Franks are still the best in this former Chicagoans book. Unfortunately we can't get the Vienna Beef ones here so we have the Boars Head and Wellshire Farms brands as a close second. They are tasty but I guess it's that "Chicago dog" taste I grew up on that sets the tone for me.
The Boars head Baked Virgina ham is our favorite in the hams category. Black Forest is enjoyed also but it's that Virginia thing that gets us. When in Rome. Hehehe
I know Boar's Head is the most popular, but frankly, I think it's just average.
I find the turkey rather bland, and the Black Forest Ham has a strange, sweet, yet stinky taste. Forget the roast beef-bland bland bland.
The brand I always look for, and usually have to drive to Manhattan to find, is Schaller and Weber. The Black Forest has a clear, cured ham flavor and they have two other types of ham that are out of this world-Westphalian and Nusschinken ( a little smoked ham football) that tastes kind of like smoked prosciutto-delicious! Their wursts are wonderful, my favorite being Bauernwurst made with beef and pork and flavored with cracked pepper and mustard seed.
For roast beef, I love the Saval brand but have a very difficult time finding it anymore.
Like Happy, we are not big fans of Boar's Head.
We smoke some or roast some "deli" meats ourselves. Turkey, roast beef, roast and/or smoked pork, for instance.
We don't buy much pastrami because there are lots of great overstuffed "pastrami-dips" in the SGV (Genes, Top's, The Hat) but when we do we buy from Langers. Sometimes, rarely, we make our own -- but it's a PITA.
We buy most of our salami, mortadella, cappicolla, head cheese, prosciutto, "hot dogs" (aka sosnichki) etc., from either a local Italian deli (Claro's) or from any one of a number of Armenian/Russian markets -- either one of the Jon's supermarkets or one of the small markets or meat markets in "East Hollywood" (aka Little Armenia) where we used to live. We get great quality and prices from many of the lesser known brands, Schaller among them, sold by the ethnic outlets.
Linda's not nearly as much of a cold-cut eater as I am, and I think she actually likes the Boar's Head Black Forest ham. My impression is that Boar's Head generally isn't as good as it used to be, but is more expensive, so I tend to avoid it when reasonable alternatives are available.
While I do think Boar's Head products are better than the usual supermarket meats, I don't think they're a top tier deli meat . I do think the other meats that I listed are a cut above (even) Boar's Head. I wonder what else is out there?
I'm not a huge fan of Boar's head, and choose not to use it - but lets face it, it is what is widely available for most.
For Salami, I rather prefer "Framani" or "Salumi" (I'm lucky enough to live in Seattle, -the shipping is outrageous), as far as commercially availibile products go.
Of course, I also have the luxiory of being "Chef de Charcuterie" for a restaurant, so if you ask me about Mortadella or Headcheese, I'm going to say "try making it yourself"
It may take you a few try's to come up with a product you like, but the rewards out weight the investment.
Use the recipe in "Cooking by Hand" by Paul Bertoli, as a starting point and you will find that Mortadella is just about as simple as any good forcemeat -You need nothing more that a robocoupe, plastic wrap and butchers twine to make it happen.
As far as hotdawgs go, I have but two criteria:
A. it is after 1:30 am and I've had no less than 5 cocktails.
B. It is from a street vendor who also stocks sauerkraut and good mustard.
I've always enjoyed Dietz and Watson products.
A little too spendy for some of the places I've worked, but if I'm making trays for personal catering/family events, that's what I use.
Not saying it's the best, just that I am happy with it.
*Oh, and I have to add, their Horseradish Cheddar is the best I've tried.
Others have a hint of horseradish, theirs has actual flavor.
Just to make a clarification. Unless you have deep pockets or another avenue to make reduced cost purchases. You sometimes have to use what you can get and with that said, Boars Head brand is the best we've had based on that. The area we are in is really a black hole when it comes to getting a variety of good choices. If I wish to drive a couple hours in any direction, I probably could find some alternatives but then we're really talking about breaking the budget. But based on what we've seen elsewhere Boars head ain't all that bad and in defense of Boars head. one of our most purchased meats at home has to be the Cap off Top round. I use this primarily since you can't get the local grocer to since your meats any longer and face it, unless you have a pro slicer at home, it's impossible to slice roast beef by hand for Hot Italian beef sands. It is roasted, not marinated, low sodium, and when you add it to the seasoned jus of the sands, imparts a very good beef flavor. Still at 10bucks or more a pound for the label. it's becoming not worth it and I figure I could go buy that slicer and have it paid for in a year with as often as we eat Italian beef sands around here.:look:
When I was running my kitchens, we primarily roasted our own, beef, turkeys, corned beef from raw and the same with chicken for sandwiches. But these were whole cuts available for us to season and given the lack of qualified staff or the budget to pay for them it was a great deal of work to provide this quality of meat for our sands and salads. It was worth it though and our guests could always tell the difference.
These products qualify for inclusion on the Feingold ® Association food list for persons on food sensitive diets.
Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones in pork and poultry.
No Nitrates or Nitrites added except for those naturally occurring in cultured celery powder and sea salt.
You could win a year’s supply ofBoar’s Head® products*
Ignite your senses with our new Bold PitCraft™ Slow Smoked Turkey Breast
See official rules for details. *Three (3) Grand Prize winners will each be awarded a check for $3,000.
When nitrites combine with amines in meat they create nitrosamines, which some studies have found to be carcinogenic. Only about 5% of the nitrites we eat come from meat. We actually get most of them from plants and water. However, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the consumption of processed meat is associated with small increases in the risk of cancer. And the more you eat, the greater the risk is. But WHO has not been able to determine what it is in processed meat, like deli meat, that actually increases cancer risk.
The Worst Foods To Eat On A Road Trip
Road trips are all about new sights, tasting unique snacks, and singalongs. The best road trip moments are always the ones that are shared with your family and closet friends. One part of road trips that is especially fun are the pit stops. Depending on where you are, you can find really interesting road stops and even more interesting food options. While it may be great to dive head-first into that burrito deluxe you found at South of The Border, it might not be a smart idea for the rest of your trip or for your stomach. We gathered a list of foods you probably shouldn't eat while on your next road trip.
Packaged sandwiches on the go may seem like a good idea at first, but not so much when you're knee-deep on U.S. Highway 90 and haven't seen a single stop for the last 30 miles. Packaged wraps or sandwiches are (hopefully) made daily for purchase, but by the time you're ready to eat, it's been sitting unrefrigerated for a few hours. If the contents contain anything like mayonnaise, it's definitely not good for consumption and can lead to an upset stomach or worse.
Fast food is great if you're ending a night out with friends and heading immediately home. But it can make you sluggish, and that's not what you want when you're driving. It's also not good for long road trips where restroom breaks are sparse. Try holding it for 120 miles right after eating at In-N-Out.
This might be obvious to some, but there's technically nothing wrong with sunflower seeds. Sure they're high in fat, but everything in moderation is bearable. Eating and deposing the shells in a packed car on a long-distance trip might not be so pleasant for you or the passengers.
Even though milkshakes are straight godly food, they're still made with a lot of dairy which can upset your stomach.
Stick to a different protein for your next road trip. Unless you're doing the actual cooking, you don't know if said meat is fully cooked. Save yourself a bad gastronomic episode and eat something else.
Anything bubbly is bad for long distance travel. It can lead to symptoms like upset stomach, nausea, and gas.
FODMAP are chain carbohydrates that can cause blockage in the small intestine which can lead to digestive discomfort. Candies are rich with FODMAP and probably not the best idea if you're going to be sitting down for a long period of time.
Chips in general are pretty bad for your health, but salty chips on long road trips can lead to uncomfortable bloating.
Even though beef jerky is synonymous with road trips, it actually contains a lot of sodium that makes you thirsty and later develops into a need for the restroom.
Don't blame us for ruining your road trip diet. Tomatoes are highly acidic and can upset your stomach. Even though everyday is a pizza day, it's probably best to skip on your next road trip.
Similar to tomatoes, oranges, lemons, limes, and anything citrus-y or acidic can make you want to urinate a lot.
Spicy food increases your body temperature and that might be a little uncomfortable on a long road trip with very few rest stops.
Caffeine has a laxative effect that might cause upset stomach and diarrhea. Shot of energy or a straight shot to the bathroom, it's your call.
Lowering YourSodium Intake
Many don ’ t realize that sodium occurs naturally in foods you wouldn ’ t even think of…foods like fresh vegetables, fresh poultry and meat, and even milk and dairy products. Taste alone may not reveal which foods are high in sodium. It ’ s all in your control if you just choose the right foods and take a little extra time in sizing up what ’ s best for you. An important step is to read nutrition labels and compare the sodium content of similar foods.
At Boar ’ s Head, our research and development has always been driven to create high quality food. Having lower sodium products is nothing new for us. Since the company began, we have developed our products to serve friends and family plentifully always with a dedication to eating well.
The taste of Boar ’ s Head Brand products comes from the quality of our ingredients – pure pork, turkey, chicken and beef, combined with real spices and no artificial ingredients – making it unnecessary to overuse salt as a flavor enhancer. We are proud to say that our meats, cheeses, condiments and spreads contain no gluten†, artificial colors or flavors, added MSG, fillers, by-products or trans fat * .
†All Boar ’ s Head meats, cheeses, condiments and hummus are gluten free.
* No trans-fat from partially hydrogenated oils.
Daily Sodium Intake
FAQ: Exactly what processed meat should I avoid, and other questions
This morning, the World Health Organization revised its health guidelines around the consumption of meat. The report from the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer now labels processed meats as “carcinogenic to humans,” meaning their consumption can cause cancer. The report also classifies red meat as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
For more on what this finding means for our shopping list and diet choices, we’ve prepared a list of FAQs, as formulated by the collective minds of the PBS NewsHour.
What counts as red meat? What counts as processed meat?
Red meat is any meat that comes from a mammal. That means meat from cows (beef and veal), pigs (pork), sheep (lamb and mutton), horses, goats and bison all count as red meat.
White meats come from fish and poultry. The color difference is dictated by the amount of blood in the tissue, which plays into why red meat is more likely to cause cancer (see below).
Processed meats are any meats that aren’t fresh. People typically think of processed meat as only referring to pork and beef, but this category can also include poultry (chicken, turkey, duck) and fish. A processed meat, according to the panel, has been modified from its natural state, either “through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavour or improve preservation.”
This includes sausages, hot dogs, corned beef, beef jerky, canned meat, meat sauces, lunch meats and bacon.
What does cancer “link” versus cancer “cause” mean?
The word “caused” sounds much more definitive than “linked,” right? Consider the news headlines surrounding this report. Here are two examples:
W.H.O. Report Links Some Cancers With Processed or Red Meat (New York Times)
“Bad Day For Bacon: Processed Red Meats Cause Cancer, WHO Says (NPR)
Technically, meat consumption has been linked to cancer, especially colorectal cancer, for years. It’s a correlation or “link” backed by statistical evidence. Large-scale studies from Europe, Australia, Japan and the U.S. have shown that people who consume more processed and red meat are more likely to develop cancer. Meanwhile, research in the lab has shown scientifically — in rat models and human cells (see below) — how that meat leads to the chemical shifts and genetic mutations that turn healthy cells into cancer cells.
Based on this collective evidence, the WHO panel has concluded today that processed meat can cause cancer, upgrading its threat assessment from correlative to causal.
In contrast, red meat without processing remains a probable cancer-causing agent, because there is less evidence in humans showing that it can spawn cancer.
In the case of red meat, the classification is based on limited evidence from epidemiological studies showing positive associations between eating red meat and developing colorectal cancer as well as strong mechanistic evidence.
Limited evidence means that a positive association has been observed between exposure to the agent and cancer but that other explanations for the observations (technically termed chance, bias, or confounding) could not be ruled out.
How does processed meat compare to smoking and other carcinogens?
The IARC deals in strength of evidence. For this agency, scientific evidence either points to a compound causing cancer in humans or it doesn’t. To classify carcinogenic status, it separates agents into five groups:
Group 1 – carcinogenic to humans
Group 2A – probably carcinogenic to humans
Group 2B – possibly carcinogenic to humans
Group 4 – probably not carcinogenic
Of the millions of chemicals in the world, the WHO only only 118 agents fall into group 1. This group includes tobacco smoke, asbestos, aflatoxins (a chemical sometimes found in organic peanut butter), coal emissions from indoor stoves and as of this morning, processed meat.
However, the number of cases caused by each of these agents — or their cancer risk among the general population — varies. That’s because risk, from a public health perspective, is a statistical property. For instance, check out the Cancer Research UK’s breakdown of how smoking and meat consumption contribute to overall cancer rates in the UK:
The risk — the statistical rate in the population — of developing cancer is greater for smoking tobacco than eating processed meat.
Ed Yong’s piece in The Atlantic does a great job of outlining why WHO’s categorical danger versus actual statistical risk can sometimes breed confusion.
My grandpa ate 7 lbs of red meat every day and lived to be 130. Why didn’t he get cancer?
It’s impossible to determine if an individual will get cancer based on a lifestyle choice, whether it’s smoking or eating processed meat. Cancer occurs when a healthy cell acquires enough mutations to start replicating uncontrollably and to spread into new organs away from its site of origin.
Those mutations vary dramatically among the types of cancer (lung, pancreatic, colorectal, etc). They can even differ within a subtype, meaning a pancreatic cancer from one person can be genetically dissimilar than a pancreatic cancer in another. Plus, a malignant tumor in a single individual is constantly evolving, and there is evidence suggesting no two cancer cells in the same tumor are the same.
A cell’s ability to acquire these mutations depends on personal genetics — whether or not you inherited a predisposition from mom and dad — and exposure to compounds that are genotoxic that is, that can change your DNA.
The IARC is merely concluding today that processed meat can cause cancer if given the chance.
How much processed meat is safe to eat?
On an individual level, it’s hard to say. On a population level, the WHO report cites this epidemiology meta analysis, which examined colorectal cancer studies going back to 1966.
Based on that study, a person who eats 50 grams per day of processed meat has an 18 percent higher chance of developing colorectal cancer. A person who eats 100 grams has a 36 percent higher chance and so on. According to Cancer Research UK, 50 grams per day would be on par with two slices of ham. Two slices of bacon is about 75 grams.
For red meat, cancer risk elevates by 17 percent for every 100 grams per day that is consumed.
When cancer risk levels of both processed meat and red meat were modeled together, the relationship maxed out at 140 grams per day.
Are organically raised meats as dangerous as industrial-produced?
In the context of this WHO report, yes. The danger posed by processed meat and red meat comes from chemical properties inherent to all forms of meat (see below). Organic meat labeling, at least according to the USDA, tackles issues like antibiotic use, hormone use, and access to exercise for domestic animals, which falls outside the scope of the WHO’s report.
What about white meats (chicken and fish) that are processed? Like smoked salmon? What about nitrate-free meats?
The scientific connection between smoked, salted, or cured meats comes down to how these preservation processes influence the chemistry of these foods.
Curing meats involves adding salt, sugar, nitrates like saltpeter or nitrites to preserve foods against bacteria-induced rot and maintain flavor, though the most validated suspects in the cancer drama are nitrites. Enzymes in meat convert nitrites into nitrogen oxide and nitrous acid. Both of which can chemically react with amino acids found in our proteins to form N-nitroso-compounds (NOCs), a class of carcinogenic compounds also sometimes described under the banner nitrosamines. Though saltpeter and other nitrates are a somewhat antiquated way of curing meats, these compounds can become nitrites thanks to chemical reactions mediated by our own cells, by bacteria in our guts, or by bacteria naturally found in meat. NOCs are also spawned by chemical reactions with heme, the red pigment/compound responsible for binding oxygen in blood cells.
“For the red meat, they think it is the HEME iron that is damaging,” said Alice Bender, director of Nutrition Programs at American Institute for Cancer Research.
NOCs can physically bind to genetic material — forming what are called DNA adducts — which can initiate the transformation of healthy cells into a cancer cells.
Grilling, barbecuing, frying, broiling or any form of cooking contributes to the carcinogenic potential of meat due to the accumulation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). How this accumulation happens isn’t completely understood, but this 2005 review paper offers a general overview of the current thinking. In sum, it states that heat breaks down complex organic compounds naturally found in muscle tissue — like fats and sugars — into smaller compounds that react to form PAHs:
At high temperatures, organic compounds are easily fragmented into smaller compounds, mostly free radicals, which may then recombine to form a number of relatively stable PAHs. At temperatures below 400 °C, only small amounts of PAHs are formed. However, the amounts of PAHs increase linearly in the range 400–1000 °C.
Excessive heat can also introduce carcinogens to meat in the form of heterocyclic aromatic amines, which the WHO report abbreviates as HAAs. (The term HCA is also used and means the same thing.) Heterocyclic aromatic amines are formed when naturally-occurring compounds like creatine (found in high quantities in muscle meats), amino acids in protein and sugars become too hot. Like NOCs, heterocyclic aromatic amines are genotoxic and can yield mutations that cause cancer. Here’s what the 2005 review had to say about the formation of heterocyclic aromatic amines:
In general pan-frying and grilling produce high yield of HCAs at cooking temperatures from 200 °C and above, boiling yields little or no HCAs, and deep-fat frying, roasting, and baking procedure give variable yields. Extremely high yield of HCAs have been reported in pan residues….from frying, roasting or baking, while most commercial bouillon cubes contain modest amounts.
PAHs are also thought to be produced when fat and juices from meat hit flames over open grills. These PAHs then float up and “adhere to the surface of meat,” according to the National Cancer Institute.
Smoking introduces carcinogens to meat in the form of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons created in the fumes of burning wood or by heat.
These food prep processes increase the amounts of these carcinogenic chemicals in meat, regardless of whether the original animal was a mammal, a bird or a fish. However, the WHO panel primarily made their assessment based on research into processed red meats.
However, given the limited number of studies that have independently examined the influence of different preservation methods on cancer risk among the general population, the WHO can’t state yet if one is worse than another:
Different preservation methods could result in the formation of carcinogens (e.g. N-nitroso compounds), but whether and how much this contributes to the cancer risk is unknown.[Also] there were not enough data for the IARC Working Group to reach a conclusion about whether the way meat is cooked affects the risk of cancer.
Should you give up meat?
Not necessarily. Alice Bender, director of Nutrition Programs at American Institute for Cancer Research, said it’s important to remember the distinction that the WHO report makes between processed meat and red meat.
“Processed meats even in small amounts were increasing risk — a little less than 2 ounces [which is equivalent to] a hot dog or few slices of cold cuts,” Bender told the NewsHour. “For red meat, what is important to keep in mind isn’t so much that you shouldn’t eat it at all, but more the amounts. It’s large amounts that become harmful.”
Oncologist John Schoenfeld of Harvard Medical School agreed.
“There are benefits to red meat, and the findings don’t say that a balanced diet that includes red meat is bad,” Schoenfeld said. “[The report] gives pause to the part of the American diet that is high in meat consumption and red meat. There needs to be broader discussion on [red meat], weighing the benefits and the risks.”
For more of our conversation with John Schoenfeld, check out his interview with PBS NewsHour correspondent William Brangham.
If you have a question, leave it in the comments. We’ll address them ASAP.
Rhana Natour contributed to this report.
Still have questions about Monday’s news from World Health Organization? Join us at 1 p.m. EDT Wednesday for a Twitter chat. Joining us to take your questions will be Alice Bender from the American Institute for Cancer Research (@aicrtweets) and NPR Food and Culture Correspondent, Alison Aubrey (@AubreyNPRFood). Leave your questions for these experts in the comments below, or on Twitter using the hashtag #NewshourChats.
Leave your questions for these experts in the comments below, or on Twitter using the hashtag #NewshourChats.
Left: Today's WHO report on processed meat raises many questions on what can be safely consumed. Here are some answers. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images