Sugar in fast food, processed meat

It is well-established that, on average, vegans, vegetarians and pescatarians live longer, healthier and more pain-free lives.

It is also well-known and widely publicised that processed meats contribute to higher rates of cancer and type 2 diabetes. However, there is another element to processed and fast-food meats.

When we think of flour products, pastries, and dairy, the health-conscious among us will often think of sugar content. Of course, manufacturers and restaurants will put sugar in their products, after all, it is addictive and there are reports of fast-food corporations actively researching how to peak their food’s addictive component with the manipulation of fats, salt, sugars, and other additives.

What even the most informed among us do not consider is the sugar content in processed and fast-food meats, which is, at times, significant.


Sugar in/with meats

I began to look at this situation when an InteKai Wellness System member gained weight in a week, where all the calculations said she should have lost weight. On looking at her meal images, they appeared perfect — spot-on portions, excellent protein-to-vegetable ratio — all seemed well, but it wasn’t.

The InteKai member readily said that because of time restrictions, most of the proteins this week were bought from fast-food institutions. We were always cognisant that street-bought foods were fat gainers. But just the proteins? This was a whole new level.

If sugar was indeed added to these meats, it would explain a lot. Sugar stimulates the insulin release and insulin is the fat storage hormone — it detects that a ready energy source is available and signals a lockdown of the body’s fat stores.

Another red flag was the reaction of some InteKai members to processed meats. Over time they realised that they experienced headaches when they had sugary foods, ice cream, cakes, et cetera.

This is not uncommon when we clean the damaging habits out of our regular eating. Our bodies become more sensitive to toxic levels of refined foods such as sugar, resulting in diarrhoea, in an attempt to flush it out, and headaches.

I became aware that these members, who, generally, could tolerate salts and natural cuts of meats, also experienced the same type of headaches after eating processed meats.


How much sugar can you have?

For reference, I will state here that the World Health Organization (WHO) advises that for best health outcomes, the maximum daily recommendation for sugar should not exceed 25 grams. This includes sugar in fruits, vegetables, ground provisions, breads, seasonings, dressings, sauces, sugar-added products, and added sweeteners.

Twenty-five grams of sugar per day — that is the equivalent of any of the following:

• One large banana and two teaspoons of sugar in two cups of coffee;

• One large apple;

• One cup of the average cereal with two per cent milk;

• Eight ounces of soda;

• One Snickers chocolate/candy bar.


Many “healthy” fast food, processed meat contain added sugars

Commercially, sugar is used in the process of meat curing. It is not clear why, but it is believed that it offsets the taste of salt, which is also used in meat curing. Bacon is striking in this respect, as its distinct sweet taste is a result of the fried sugar content.

If it wasn’t bad enough, sausages, pepperoni, salami, and similar products are often made from the parts and cuts of meats, which are unwanted/too unsavoury to sell as is on the shelves. Starches and flours, however, are also added to those processed meats as binders.

For the most part, restaurants and processed meat manufacturers do not list the amounts of sugar in their products. Usually, only calories are listed, and, occasionally, saturated fats. However, added sugar, in preparations and sauces in the form of molasses, sucrose, dextrose (corn sugar), sorbitol, are listed in the ingredients of a few restaurants’ meat products, including KFC, Wendy’s, Chick-fil-A, Panera, Subway, Panda Express, Chipotle, McDonald’s, and Taco Bell.

After some research, here are a few examples of sugar in “healthy” fast foods:

• Panera Bread: Fuji apple chicken salad – 20 grams

• Wendy’s: Apple pecan chicken salad – 40 grams

• KFC: Large baked beans – 61 grams

• Boneless wings and sauce – 67 grams.

Sugar is ubiquitous and added and refined sugars are insidious. But, in general, processed meats are significantly dangerous. A May 17, 2010 study published in Circulation, an online journal, revealed that regularly having one to two slices of deli meats or one hot dog is associated with a 42 per cent increase in the risk of developing heart disease and a 19 per cent increase in the risk of developing diabetes. However, eating unprocessed clean cuts of meat did not result in a discernible increased risk.


Knowledge and guidance are key

Many people have been making choices which they believe to be healthy, but their weight and the resulting health risks (cancer and more) remain the same or worsen. Their heart issues remain threatening and their blood sugar levels remain elevated, in some cases, continuously requiring medication.

Unknown to them, the non-carb, non-sugar meat products and dishes they have been ingesting have been elevating their blood sugar levels for years. You are only what you ingest.

It is possible to have processed meats as part of your healthy diet — minimise their usage, read labels, contact your nutritional consultant. Choose knowledgeably and wisely, it will decide the life you end up with — choose nature, chose health.


Fitz-George Rattray is the director of Intekai Academy, which is focused on helping people live a healthy lifestyle through nutrition and weight management. If you are interested in losing weight or living a healthier lifestyle, give them a call at 876-863- 5923, or visit their website at intekaiacademy.org.

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