What’s in your sandwich?

Photo by: Lovro Rumiha (via Flickr)

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about a healthy lunch? If it is a sandwich then I am about to rock your world.
As it turns out the stuff between your buns is known to increase your risk of colorectal cancer. I am talking about sandwich meat; a standard lunchtime ingredient that everyone should avoid. I thought about heading to my local grocery store and picketing in front of the deli counter, but instead I decided to spread the word in a more productive manner. I figured that with premade sandwiches available across campus, the students lining up for them might like to know what they are in for.

The truth is simple and clear. The Canadian Cancer Society openly states that eating processed meat increases your risk of colorectal cancer. It is no secret, as you can find this fun lunchtime fact under the prevention tab on the Canadian Cancer Society website.

I have heard about processed meat containing harmful ingredients, but when I read the warning on such a public site with my own eyes I was still shocked. The preservatives in these processed meats are a concern, but the preservation processes themselves can be dangerous and harmful as well. Smoking, curing, and salting are all just as risky as added preservatives. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, processed meat contains cancer-causing substances, which are formed during the preservation of the meat or present in the added preservatives. These substances, which lead to the development of colorectal cancer, can harm cells in your body. That is a tough pill to swallow when you’ve been fed the idea of “healthy sandwiches” your whole life.

Upon further research, I found that colorectal and colon cancers are far less common in developing countries, and that the geographical difference is often credited to differences in diet, or the lack of processed meats consumed by people in those countries. In other words, most research concludes that processed meat and colorectal cancer go hand in hand, like two besties.

The good news is that there are plenty of things to eat for lunch other than meaty sandwiches. For instance, the Canadian Cancer Society website suggests veggie wraps with hummus instead of cold cuts. This change in diet can prevent up to 70 per cent of colorectal cancers, which means it is time to ditch the bologna. It is hard to spell and even harder on your cells, so it should be easy to cut out of your diet.

Seeing as there are great risks associated with the consumption of processed meat, I could not be happier that I ended up on the Canadian Cancer Society website when I did. There is, however, one preventative tip that I cannot seem to wrap my head around. The website suggests that as a preventative measure you should save processed meat for special occasions.

After reading a statement like that you could imagine my shock and dismay when on the same website, the Canadian Cancer Society, suggests that people quit smoking all together. Surely it is not harmful to have one little ciggy on those special occasions when I indulge in a cancer inducing wiener?

If the Canadian Cancer Society states that processed meat increases your risk of colorectal cancer, it is absurd that they would suggest that you eat it at all. The smoking and tobacco section of the website reads, “Quit now and reduce your risk of cancer” so I say the same for processed meat. You certainly will not catch me eating it – not even during October Fest. I would rather bite into some nutrient rich veggies than play Russian roulette with a smoked turkey loaf any day.

Since we live in a world where sandwiches should be feared—in the spirit of large intestinal health—let’s swear off processed meat to keep our bodies happy and our risks low. Happy and healthy lunching everyone.