Sandwiches can be the perfect choice for a summertime meal. Whether it’s a picnic in the park or a quick-and-easy no-fuss supper that won’t have you slaving over a hot oven all night, the sandwich can be a great go-to option.
But it’s important to pick the right meat or your quick and convenient meal can turn into an unhealthy one. Because traditional preserved cold cuts can be filled with harmful ingredients.
It’s important to know what’s hiding in the cold cuts you choose to serve to your family.
Let’s take a look at Boar’s Head Virginia Brand Ham for example.
First, there’s the ham itself:
Then, there’s the glaze:
|Sherry Wine Flavor (Maltodextrin, Sherry Wine Solids, Citric Acid)|
Ham with a side of inflammation
Ham is supposed to be a savory dish, yet two different sugars show up in the glaze ingredients – sugar and dextrose. And since sugar occupies the top spot on the list, we know there’s more of it than anything else in the glaze.
By now you’re probably aware of the dangers of sugar, so we’ll just hit the highlights.
Sugar is linked to a laundry list of health problems as well as premature aging. But perhaps worst of all is sugar’s link to systemic inflammation, because over the long term inflammation is linked to just about every major disease you can imagine including cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
Limiting the added sugars in your diet is critical to staying healthy.
Genetic modification on the menu?
Canola oil, like other vegetable oils, enjoyed an undeserved good reputation for a while. But those days are long gone.
Vegetable oils are rich in inflammation-linked omega-6s. Since the Western diet has become dangerously low in omega-3s to balance them out, getting so many omega-6s can have serious health consequences—especially for our heart health.
In addition, we now know as much as 90 percent of all canola oil processed in the United States and Canada comes from GMO crops. Which means there’s a good chance every time you eat canola oil you’re being exposed to the toxic pesticide glyphosate.
And the potential problems with canola oil don’t end there. Unless it’s cold-pressed canola oil is extracted using toxic chemicals. While in theory none of those chemicals are left in the oil by the time it makes it to your table, not everyone agrees this is the case. And even a trace reside of these toxins could pose a health threat.
And so far we’ve only covered the glaze for the Boar’s Head Virginia Brand Ham!
Tumor-linked ingredient provides golden glow
Take a look at those ingredients again, sugar and dextrose aren’t just in the glaze, they’re in the ham too! But even if you decide to ignore all the added sugar and the canola oil there are still some ingredients that make this a meal you’re most likely going to want to skip.
Let’s focus on the beautiful golden-brown color that coats the edges of the ham, for example. It sure makes the meat look delicious and appetizing doesn’t it? Well that golden-glow is the result of caramel coloring, which may sound harmless, but it isn’t.
The caramel coloring used as a food additive is created by reacting sugars with ammonia. This results in some nasty chemical byproducts that are anything but appetizing. At least one of the chemicals created when making caramel coloring has been linked to cancer in animal trials, and has been declared “potentially carcinogenic in humans.”
And government studies have shown that two of the byproduct chemicals—2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole—may promote liver, lung and thyroid tumors in animal studies.
Ridiculous risks to take to have a golden hue on your ham.
Preserve your health by avoiding additives
It’s not looking good for Boar’s Head Virginia Brand Ham, and we’re not even done. We haven’t touched on flavor enhancers and other additives, yet.
There are four of them on the label to take a closer look at…
- monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- sodium phosphate
- sodium erythorbate
- sodium nitrate
Monosodium glutamate (MSG):
You’ve probably heard of MSG before. It’s the same flavor enhancer that’s often found in take-out Chinese food, as well as in countless processed foods you’ll find lining grocery store shelves.
MSG is what is known as an “excitotoxin,” and while not everyone appears to have a bad reaction to MSG folks who are sensitive to it can reportedly have headaches, flushing, tightness in the face or chest and nausea. If you react badly to MSG you’re probably going to want to take Boar’s Head Virginia Brand Ham off your menu permanently.
Sodium phosphate is often used in processed meats to help keep them moist. Generally, small amounts of the chemical are used, but the more processed meats we eat the more we’re being exposed.
Large amounts of sodium phosphate are associated with a variety of health issues ranging from the simply annoying to the downright dangerous. Gas, bloating, and stomach cramps aren’t pleasant, but they aren’t going to kill you, either. However, kidney damage and organ calcification that leads to an inability to process the minerals you needs to survive could kill you.
Sodium nitrite appears naturally in some foods, but it’s also often used to cure processed meats such as ham and other cold cuts. Sodium nitrite helps meat last longer as well as look more appetizing as it adds a rosy pink color to pale meats that people have been taught to find appealing.
But let’s cut to the chase here. Sodium nitrites may have a link to cancer. While nitrites alone aren’t carcinogenic they can convert into nitrosamines, which are associated with an increased risk of certain types of cancers in animal studies. Some experts warn that folks who are on a proton pump inhibiting drug for acid reflux or heartburn may be particularly vulnerable to nitrosamine formation
In addition, nitrites in very high doses can contribute to methemoglobinemia a condition that keeps your white blood cells from effectively transporting oxygen around your body. If not treated and resolved, methemoglobinemia can become a life-threatening condition.
But to be clear, you’d never be exposed to the levels of nitrites necessary to trigger this condition just from eating some ham. But it’s the cumulative effect of all the nitrites you are being exposed to that’s concerning.
And finally there’s sodium erythorbate, a newer preservative that’s essentially a synthetic version of ascorbic acid or vitamin C. Sodium erythorbate is used to extend the shelf life of meats as well as some soft drinks and other processed foods. The preservative helps keep the food from oxidizing so the flavor and color of the food lasts longer.
The FDA says animal studies have shown that sodium erythorbate is safe at the levels you’re being exposed to it in the foods you’re eating. But they also admit that we don’t yet know if it could interfere with the absorption of real vitamin C if you’re being exposed to significantly higher doses.
Similar to MSG, if you’re sensitive to sodium erythorbate you may experience some side effects when you eat it. According to one food additive supplier, Foodchem International, potential side effects include flushing, headaches, dizziness, fatigue and hemolysis (the destruction of red blood cells).
It’s so easy to eat healthy and make smart, and still delicious, choices this time of year. Don’t ruin it by choosing cold cuts that are packed full of unwanted ingredients and unnecessary additives.
Try your local farmer’s market (or a nearby farm) for fresh, organic, preservative and additive-free sliced meats. You can also find organic deli meats or pre-cooked and ready to slice meats at some local health food stores as well as online.
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