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Is the processed meat you are eating safe? Shocking facts to know - Times of India

Source: The Times of India

Fast food and junk food is something that has always been deemed unhealthy, and best if consumed in moderation. While studies have often highlighted the dangers and the many chemicals that go in the production of processed food, consuming non-vegetarian junk food may actually be more harmful than we perceive it to be.Incredibly addictive and calorie consuming, processed meats and junk food meals are often criticized. Newer studies and investigations have also revealed that the meat that goes into non-veg products we find in chain restaurants, might actually not be meat. So, what really is inside the fast food you consume? And how healthy is it?The dangers of consuming processed meatsAn investigative report by a global news agency evaluated findings that suggested that the fish meat used in a popular chain-restaurant sandwich did not actually contain pure tuna or not meat in its entirety. Upon investigation, it was found that the processed meat did not contain any recognizable DNA specific to tuna.

 
The news, which went viral in no time brought into question the authenticity and made many wonder, how healthy highly processed items, such as these were. Processed foods and meats specifically have been deemed unhealthy for long because of the high level of preservatives and chemicals present in them. Some forms of fast food, which have been under the scanner, experts say may also go through an extreme level of processing, that it may take away all nutritional elements present in them.Experts have often also said that the non-vegetarian junk food we see listed on the menu, apart from containing excess sugar, sodium and additives may not actually be 100% true to its name. For example, a lot of chicken, meat or fish products sold in restaurants are not often made out of 100% meat but contain additional chemical/ non-chemical additives, such as soy protein, textured vegetables which could make it economical for companies to produce on a large scale, without actually impacting the cost.
 
Apart from this, there could be certain products used in the meat products, including bread, starch or dextrose, that could be added to patties and fried meats to add more weight to the product, and cut down on the actual meat usage which goes into the production. Some of the ingredients which go into the meat, such as poultry are also injected with synthetic hormones, which add to the dangers and make it not so suitable for consumption. Salt, nitrates, nitrites, and saturated fat in these processed meats increase these health risks.While it may not be always possible to recognize the additives used while eating meals from a fast food centre, this is one of the reasons which makes it so important to read the labels closely when you are picking up processed produce while grocery shopping, or ordering stuff online.What do we know about the health risks that existNot only is eating junk and processed food linked to risks in general, WHO advisories also state that some forms of processed meats and additives that go into their making can be detrimental for health.
 
High consumption of processed meat is also linked to a higher risk of colorectal cancer, diabetes, cholesterol and poor hormonal health.Multiple studies have also entailed that eating processed meats is directly proportional to poor health outcomes. Higher the consumption the higher goes the risk of chronic diseases and lifestyle disorders. Processing, preservation, added flavouring and ultra processing also take away the actual nutritional value, such as protein and fats which can be easily derived from fresh, unprocessed meat.
 
What can you do?While the best investment to do for your health is to completely do away from any sort of processed or junk food consumption, people need to take a wiser look at the type of processed meat they take.If you are a non-vegetarian and heavily depend on chicken, fish or meat to extract nutrition, be sure to minimize, and limit your processed food consumption in your diet- no matter how convenient or delectable it is. Try and use organic, unprocessed meats in your diet to garner most health benefits. When you visit a food chain or order in, read up about the risks and guidelines which are being followed. Heavily processed, flavoured products will do you no good.
 
Experts also suggest that for those willing to make the switch to a greener, meat-free lifestyle, there are plenty of unprocessed options, which not only are free of preservations, filled with nutritive values, but also similar to the taste and appeal of non-vegetarian foods. Plant-based meats, which are extremely popular these days, are a good option to try.