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Processed Meats Like Bacon, Sausage Linked to Breast Cancer, Study Says

Bacon may be the food of the decade, but if you’re trying to avoid cancer, particularly breast cancer, you may want to take that item off your grocery list. A new study shows that regularly consuming processed meats like bacon, sausage and ham could increase your risk for breast cancer by 9 percent, KGET reports. While study authors admitted that their findings did leave some “unanswered” questions, previous research by the World Health Organization has shown that smoked, cured and salted meats may be carcinogenic.

If this is the biggest downer you’ve heard in a while, keep in mind that processed meats usually contain additives that earn them the unhealthy label. As the featured article mentions, previous studies have linked processed meats — including hot dogs and sandwich meats — to an increased risk of several cancers, male infertility and early death.

For example, a 2007 analysis by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) found that eating just one sausage a day may raise your risk of bowel cancer. Specifically, 1.8 ounces of processed meat daily — about one sausage or three pieces of bacon – was found to raise your likelihood of the cancer by 20 percent, making these meats a Class 1 carcinogen.

So, does this mean you can never have another piece of bacon for the rest of your life? No, it doesn’t — as long as you know what kind of bacon to buy. Bacon can be a healthy addition to your diet, in small amounts, provided you take certain precautions. First, make sure your bacon comes from organic pasture-raised pigs, as this will reduce the risk of pathogenic contaminations that factory farmed pigs are prone to.

Second, make sure it’s free of added nitrates. The easiest way is to check the label, but the color of the meat can also be a powerful tipoff. If it’s pink, it’s been treated with chemicals, more specifically nitrates and nitrites. That said, don’t misunderstand that anything with nitrates in it is “bad,” as the right kind of nitrates can be a boon to your health.

The good nitrates come from plants, not meats. Arugula, cilantro, spring greens, basil, Swiss chard and red beets are just a few on the “good list.”

Another thing to remember is that, even if you don’t purchase processed meats, there are other “fresh” processed meats that you need to beware of, and that’s factory-farmed, supermarket meats (turkey, pork, ground beef and chicken). Testing reveals that 83 percent of these meats are contaminated with fecal bacteria, including drug-resistant bacteria.

So, the best food choices should begin with local farmers and fresh-cut meats that don’t come from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). If you don’t have local farmers or co-ops where you can do this, look for the American Grassfed Association (AGA) logo on your meat and dairy, which ensures the highest quality grass fed products.