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[:en]You might be thinking: how could bacon cause cancer?  Since bacon and other processed red meats such as ham, sausage, salami, hotdogs and bologna are staples in the North American diet, it may seem crazy that these traditional foods could increase our risk of cancer–specifically colon cancer. The World Health Organization (WHO) released findings that processed red meats have the same carcinogenic levels as cigarette smoking. Also, for every 50 grams of processed red meats consumed, there is an 18% increased risk in colon cancer. Now before we start trashing our bacon and ham, there’s actually a better side to this story!

But first, why is bacon bad to begin with? The reason is due to the smoking process; high salt and nitrites (or nitrates) are used. Nitrites are used to preserve, prevent bacteria growth and give processed meats their pink colour. When nitrites are heated to high temperatures, they are prone to convert into carcinogenic compounds known as N-nitroso.

Carcinogens are known to cause cancer; however, our stomach naturally produces these compounds from the naturally occurring nitrates in vegetables and dairy we consume. Surprise! Nitrate-containing vegetables include beets, celery, lettuce, and spinach. Only a small percentage of these carcinogenic compounds are from processed red meats unless a large amount is eaten daily. Strong evidence also shows that a diet high in processed meats increases the risk of colon cancer, but the amount of processed meat we eat is very little to be considered harmful. So what does this entail? We can’t completely blame processed meats because we don’t consume them as much as nitrate-containing vegetables. With that being said, it doesn’t mean you should avoid vegetables and dairy. It is not recommended to limit these foods since it is still unclear if nitrates or other compounds in processed meat are the cause for colon cancer. Fortunately, you don’t have to abandon bacon forever! You can still enjoy these meats without harm, but limiting your intake as much as possible is best.[:]