Just as there are some great meat choices you can make, there are some real doozies you should avoid, as well. This list of offenders contains a lot of common favorites that are loaded with unhealthy fat and packed with sodium. Many of them are processed meats, which you should be dutifully avoiding, anyways, but some of them are regular dinners for many of us. Take a look at the nutritional content (or lack thereof) and be amazed!
Of course, if one of your favorites is on this list, you don’t have to stop eating it forever. Just make sure it’s not the staple of your diet and enjoy it every now and then. All in moderation, friends!
- CORNED BEEF
Did you scarf your corned beef and cabbage down on St. Patty’s day? Whoops! Corned beef is generally made of the fattier areas of brisket, which should give you a pretty good image of its health profile (not pretty). As for the numbers: it has 16 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat and 960 mg of sodium, not to mention nitrates galore. Maybe you should only eat it on special occasions…like next March 17.
- PROCESSED MEAT
Come on, we know this is a no-no, but we don’t always give it a second thought. Take prosciutto for example. It’s light and thin, so it can’t be that unhealthy for you, right? Wrong. Just a two-ounce serving of prosciutto contains over 10 grams of fat and four grams of that fat is unhealthy saturated fat. In addition to its unsavory fat content, prosciutto is also salted, which makes the sodium content a whopping 973 mg per serving when the daily recommended limit is 1500 mg. Yikes. It’s the same story with items like salami, bologna, and hot dogs. If you don’t want to be eating tons of extra salt, fat, and cholesterol, eat them sparingly.
Always go for the leaner versions of ham, and avoid getting the super cured honey ham. We love these tastes, but our bodies sure don’t. A three-ounce serving of boneless roasted ham has 7.7 grams of fat with 2.7 grams made up of saturated fat, and all those curatives, preservatives, and sugars are just excessively bad for you. Keep it a Christmas food only!
Lamb is a young sheep. This means the poor little guy still had all his baby fat, which means you get the joy of consuming a lot of calories and saturated fats. A recent 10-year study, the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), found that people who ate red meat every day were a third more likely to develop colon cancer than those who didn’t. The problems could be two compounds called hemoglobin and myoglobin, which are found in all red meat. Researchers theorize that the compounds react with chemicals in the gut to create cancer-causing agents. Red meat isn’t necessarily the devil, but it is a meat you should only enjoy about once a week to decrease the risk of all sorts of health issues.
Okay, none of us are surprised to find bacon on the list, but it hurts all the same. Bacon is delicious. But it's delicious for a reason. Bacon comes from one of the fattiest parts of the pig, and is then cured in a mixture of sugar, preservatives, and salt until it’s, quite frankly, super tasty, and super bad for you. It’s got tons of sodium, preserving chemicals, and saturated fat. Either make it a every-now-and-then treat or test out turkey bacon. No, it’s not as tasty, but it may be worth switching over in the long run.
- GROUND BEEF
Regular ground beef is a no-no for regular meals. There are possible health risks associated with contaminated beef because there is a high risk of E. coli. E. coli is carried through the ground beef after it comes in contact with fecal matter. For the lower quality ground beef producers, it might be easier and cheaper to simply cut the meat from an area of the cow where contamination could occur. Not knowing the source of your beef can sure cost you. The ground meat may not be from the same cow or even the same slaughter; it could be various meats from various resources, thus increasing the risk of contamination. And then there’s the issue of how it’s actually made. Ground beef gets put through a grinder, which doesn’t seem suspicious at all. However, there are no standards set to test the presence of bacteria on the grinder, which means the grinders are often less than pristine.
Aside from all the bacteria risks, regular ground beef is also known for being high in fat and grease (just look at your pan next time you finish flipping some burgers). Eating this too often increases your risk for high cholesterol and heart disease. What should you do when you want a burger? Buy from a source you can trust, such as local or a well-researched USDA organic company.
Whether it’s fried or baked, catfish really isn’t that great of a meal choice. It’s a bottom feeding fish, so it’s not eating things that will make it health for you. Catfish are full of toxic chemicals such as mercury and lead due to them feeding on the bottom of the water. When an animal feeds on the bottom or near the bottom of a body of water, they are more likely to ingest toxins because they are at the bottom of the food chain. Catfish might be a very tasty meat to enjoy with your home cookin’, but with the levels of toxins it contains you can get very sick. The toxins in your body can spread, making you very sick and lead to gastrointestinal problems and damage your internal organs. Eating your catfish fried is even a worse idea because fried foods contain carcinogens and neurotoxins which can lead to internal damage and diabetes as well as many other health problems. The carcinogens and neurotoxins are due to the foods being cooked at such a high temperature and can result in long-term health problems.
- ORGAN MEATS
Organ meats are items such as heart, brain, liver, and tongue of an animal and can be considered a delicacy in some areas and are usually very rich in flavor, but they shouldn’t be landing on your plate too often. Aside from being quite high in cholesterol, which is linked to heart disease among other medical problems, it’s also the part of the body that probably has the most toxins, as well. Think about it. What does the liver do? It filters all the bad things out of the body and processes it as waste. Meat producers cannot clean all these tiny toxins out of the liver, and so you will be chowing down them when you eat it. No thank you.
- CHICKEN NUGGETS
Another unsurprising culprit, we all know chicken nuggets are not health food. Whether you get them from the frozen aisle of the supermarket or grab a package of them from Mickey D’s, most chicken nuggets contain very little chicken and lots of deep fried batter that make it a calorific food. Craving your childhood days? Your best bet is to make your own chicken nuggets from scratch.
Duck is one of my absolute favorites (being half-Chinese, we score these often at Chinese family banquets). However, it’s a rare favorite that I enjoy because it’s quite clear how unhealthy it is to be eating on the regular. Duck actually has a lot of nutrients in it, but if it's not prepared properly it becomes a very fattening meal (the Chinese banquet version has a half-inch layer of fat underneath that glorious crispy skin). If you want to eat it throughout the week, try to keep the duck lean by cooking it skinless, trimming the fat and using as little oil as possible (and of course, using healthy oil substitutes like coconut oil). Of the six grams of fat in a serving, there are 2.3 grams of saturated fat, so there's no need to add more.