General Question

ibstubro's avatar

Given that the World Health Organization made an announcement that processed meats are "cancer causing", what assurance do we have that processed plants (think hydrogenated oil) are any healthier? OR: WTH is this made out of?! [Detail, obviously]?

Asked by ibstubro (18770points) October 26th, 2015

I’m a non-meat eater and I enjoy this product on rare occasion.

I have shared it with meat eaters, and they liked it a lot, but wanted to know “What’s it made of?”
I think my new answer will be, “Vegetable sausage.”

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22 Answers

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Zero. In fact hydrogenated oil will give you either cancer or heart disease. Take your pick. Any processed oil will do this, even so called “healthy” alternatives like canola oil. You are almost better off using butter. Stay the hell away from soy too. Veggie sausage is out my friend. local, “organic” meat and veggies are the meal of the day that will enable you to live to see tomorrow. If it came from a feedlot, chicken house, factory or factory farm…don’t eat it.

Seek's avatar

I literally don’t have the time or energy to add “nothing processed” to my list of grocery store rules.

I asked my husband, and he says if the choice is between cancer and a bacon-free existence, he’ll take the bacon.

Buttonstc's avatar

Author Michael Pollan has a good rule of thumb for how to choose the healthiest foods.

“If your great grandparents would not have immediately recognized it as food, pick something else.”

Obviously that eliminates a crapload of over-processed and “convenience” foods such as Gogurt (squeeze tubes of supposed “Yogurt”)

(I doubt that you’re meatless “burger” would make the cut.)


Blueroses's avatar

Nobody knows what causes cancers; that’s what makes it scary.

Thousands of trials and blind-trials have been inconclusive. If you’re looking for a cause, you can prove it with the right data manipulation.

My personal opinion, based in a medical career, is: Eat what you want, but try to stay with “real food”. Shop the perimeter and cook for yourself whenever possible. You don’t have to be committed to any dietary path to eat well.

Bacon? Excellent! See if you can get locally cured bacon, but if you can’t… just enjoy whatever’s on sale sometimes.

Anything that is close to the source, without being guaranteed to last 4 years in a fallout shelter, is good to eat. I believe in real butter, real eggs, real meat, real bread, real veg!

I grew up with fear-mongering, but eating real foods anyway. My grandparents are in their 70’s, enjoying world travel, alert, healthy and loving every bite of bacon!

None of us would touch that veggie sausage unless being a polite guest.

Seek's avatar

My great grandparents lived in Ireland in the 1920s… they wouldn’t recognize most things as food.

cazzie's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me There are different ways of hydrogenation now, and the new ways are safe, so don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater if you don’t keep up with new food technology systems. I wouldn’t know about them either, to be honest, if it wasn’t for my side hobby.

Speaking of side hobby, this so called ‘science news’ is not news. Increased cancer risk from the ingestion of nitrates has been known about for probably over a decade now. Over 60 studies:

The idea is that we limit our exposure to cancer causing things by not exposing ourselves to them too much. It is all about risks. We still get in our cars and drive. Some people even choose to keep smoking.

I know that when I last visited the US, I found the grocery stores a bit strange, but also much more full of choices. I had to look very hard to find some things, like a juice that wasn’t made up of half corn-syrup water, but the produce section was amazing! Finding a good bread to eat was difficult, too. My two favourite places to grocery shop is still France and the US. You just have to know what to look for. (I don’t drink cows milk or eat eggs in France, though. yuck.)

cazzie's avatar

I ate much better when I lived in New Zealand, though.

ibstubro's avatar

FYI I have shared Morningstar Farm’s ‘sausage patties’ with a lot of meat eaters and not one has known it contained no meat.
I don’t, however, think it’s unequivocally better for you that meat sausage. If a meat eater eats sausage at the same rate I eat the fake crap – 3–4 times a year – it’s not going to be a problem.

LOL @Buttonstc. My great grandmother died in the early 1980’s and Velveeta was invented in 1918. She loved Tang.

I use only butter. I buy and cook meat, and it’s mostly locally sourced and processed. I admit to a weakness for bottled sauces and gravies.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I used to eat those Morningstar things all the time. I can hardly stand the sight of them now.

elbanditoroso's avatar

I think this is one of a long series of alarmist pronouncements – they come almost like clockwork. We’ve been hearing about them for 50 years or longer.

Think about it:
sugar, saccharin, cyclamates will kill you
margarine will kill you, butter is better, but then they recanted that a couple of times
dairy products
bacon has been around the block a couple of times
wine is good then bad then good again
GMO feeds people but now the scaremongers are telling you it’s bad.

Fact is, if you are a veggie you’re not going to change what you eat, and if you eat processed meat and red meat, you’re not going to change your lifestyle.

I read stuff like this and say “so what”. They’ll recant this in a year or two because the science was in some way flawed.

Buttonstc's avatar


Good point :) Maybe Pollan needs to walk it back a few more “grands”.

But obviously the main point he makes is that we should eat real food as opposed to overly processed crap.

I think of it more along the lines of: “If you couldn’t find it on “Little House on the Prairie”
then you should pass it up.

So that would eliminate Tang as well as Gogurt :)

(In my younger years I really did try to like Tang but just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Any of those powdered drinks, including Country Time Lemonade, always end up leaving me twice as thirsty as prior to drinking them. So, for me, at least, it’s just totally beside the point. If you’re drinking to quench thirst and the product actually increases your thirst, then why bother ?)

ibstubro's avatar

I buy maybe 3–4 packages of fake meat a year, so I’m not overly concerned. I just thought it was humorous that PETA members were offering fake burgers in light of the WHO processed meats as potentially dangerous.
Like wheat gluten perverted to look, smell and taste like a grilled chicken patty is inherently better.

I get what you’re saying, @Buttonstc, so this isn’t argumentative so much as a fun fact: Underwood started producing Deviled Ham (deviled tongue was also very popular) in 1868. It’s been a long and winding road kill to the crap we ingest today.

And if processed meats were so bad, wouldn’t Germans have a noticeably higher incidence of cancer, given their sausage loving culture?
Sausage was mentioned in Homer’s “Odyssey”!

Cupcake's avatar

There is a lot that is unknown about the link between diet and cancer.

The one moderating effect that is typically unaccounted for in nutritional studies, yet is known to have a positive health effect, is the consumption of vegetables. Eat a lot of vegetables, in a variety of colors, cooked as simply as possible. That will, most likely, be the best thing you can do for your diet.

There is so much that we don’t know about the new “processed meat” scare. You make a good point about processed vegetable products. What about local, organic, cured meat products? What about eating them once or twice a week (most studies compare people who eat cured meat daily to those who eat none ever)? Does this relate to the composition of your gut microbes? Does taking probiotics have a moderating effect? What about sugar? What about salt? What about the bread that you are probably eating with your cured meats?

So many questions… My advice is to eat a variety of vegetables. Have your meat/meat substitute in addition, if you wish (I sure do). But eat a lot of veggies.

ibstubro's avatar

Fun fact: Underwood Deviled ham: 1868.
Little House on the Praire: 1870’s.
Wilder and historically accurate.

cazzie's avatar

Here is a good and science-y article about nitrates in one’s diet.

LostInParadise's avatar

Here are Michael Pollan’s 64 food rules. Notice rule 64.

ibstubro's avatar

I find the list is too long to be meaningful for me, @LostInParadise.

Some I live, like:
Eating what stands on one leg [mushrooms and plant foods] is better than eating what stands on two legs [fowl], which is better than eating what stands on four legs [cows, pigs and other mammals].

Some I don’t get, or think are bogus:
Regard nontraditional foods with skepticism.
Traditional to who?

Blueroses's avatar

@LostInParadise #17 is delightful: Eat only foods that have been cooked by humans.

Finally, a valid reason to kick the dogs out of the kitchen. Their cooking is abominable!

ibstubro's avatar

Oops, there go the, uncooked, raw fruits and vegetables, @Blueroses, @LostInParadise?

Buttonstc's avatar


I agree that the whole long list is a bit much. Who can remember all that.

But the one of his that I like best is the simplest and original pithy summation:

Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

That pretty much sums it up nicely.

cazzie's avatar

Science Friday on NPR is talking about this subject a bit today if anyone is interested.

ibstubro's avatar

Thanks, @cazzie!

I just checked and it’s 30 minutes to broadcast. I’ll be there.

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