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Cured meats are not ultra-process foods

It often happens that cured meats are indicated as unhealthy foods because they are the result of meat processing in order to keep it for a long time. But is it really so? There is actually a bit of confusion about it, as there is a difference between a "processed" food and an "ultra-processed" one. Based on the NOVA classification , “processed” foods are simply made with two or three ingredients and have undergone processing such as cooking and storage. This category therefore includes cured meats, together with canned vegetables and legumes, bread, beer and wine.

Posted on Feb 26 ,00:10

Cured meats are not ultra-process foods

For this reason cured meats are defined as " processed meats ", but they are quite distinct from the category of "ultra-processed" foods . In fact these are the result of long industrial processes and contain more than 5 ingredients, including additives such as stabilizers and preservatives, with the aim of imitating the sensory qualities of other foods or masking unwanted flavors and smells. Examples are fake soy steaks or veg burgers , i.e. fake products that try to imitate (unsuccessfully) the real ones.

We are therefore faced with real " junk food ", ultra-processed and hyper-processed, the excessive consumption of which has been associated with numerous health problems, such as obesity, cardiovascular and cerebrovascular pathologies, therefore strokes, heart attacks, ischemias and a higher risk of mortality. So far from our genuine cured meats , the result of the savoir faire of artisans, who use simple ingredients such as salt, pepper, herbs and spices according to the recipe, which boasts ancient traditions and protected by DOP and IGP brands that guarantee its quality and wholesomeness .

And what about nitrites and nitrates in cured meats? Research has already shown for some time that they are not dangerous, but it is always good to reiterate it. These substances are added to protect us from the development of very dangerous pathogenic microorganisms , including Clostridium botulinum which causes botulism. They have specific functions in our body for the correct functioning of various processes, such as vasodilation and blood pressure control , and for this reason their presence in food is important for our health.

They are not only found in cured meats and sausages , but above all in drinking water and in vegetables such as beets, celery, turnips, spinach, radishes, lettuce, fennel, cabbage, courgettes in which they are naturally present in much higher quantities, with values 10 times higher than cured meats , in the order of 2000-7000 milligrams per kilogram of food product. In fact, cured meats are kept under certain legal limits for safety , equal to 150 milligrams of nitrite per kilogram and 150 milligrams of nitrate per kilogram of product . It goes without saying that these thresholds are therefore absolutely safe for humans.

But then why are they looked at as something to be limited? The reason is their potential transformation in the stomach into carcinogenic nitrosamines , but this too can be avoided by consuming foods containing them together with others rich in vitamin C , which prevents this transformation.

In short, there is no reason not to consume cured meats and it is highly unlikely that a food that we have been consuming for millennia is responsible for today's pathologies. Instead, let's think of the abundance of ultra-processed modern foods that invade the shelves of our supermarkets, perhaps with improbable traffic light labels that deceive the consumer, and let us ask ourselves some serious questions.

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