Smoked meats and health effects - Dietitians

BY: Mabel Faith Tannor
Be careful of smoked meats, it can cause cancer—dietitian
Be careful of smoked meats, it can cause cancer—dietitian

Over the years, many cooking methods have been adopted in order to process food for consumption. These cooking methods include boiling, grilling, smoking and frying amongst others.

While cooking may confer some nutritional benefits to food as well as make it easier to chew and digest, some cooking methods can have adverse effect on health depending on the method of processing and the length of time (for how long) the food is processed as well.

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Smoking meat has become an increasingly popular food preparation method in Ghana in recent years with many preferring it to deep frying. Smoking of meat involves cooking the meat over fire by exposing it to smoke from burning materials such as wood.

Smoked meats may be considered a healthier alternative to meats processed by other cooking methods such as deep frying. However, prolonged smoking of these meats coupled with other factors associated with smoking  such as the type of wood used, can lead to the production of carcinogenic (cancer causing) substances such as Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) and acrylamides which are mostly produced when one has direct flames over food.

This is more so when it is smoked for a long period of time sometimes darkening the food. These chemicals have been linked to the possibility of developing cancers and other diseases.


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This doesn’t mean that smoked meat and fish are in themselves harmful. Attention must be paid to the type of process used in smoking these meats like the type of wood used, and the duration with which these meats are kept over high flame.

Also the quantity of smoked meats/fish consumed could determine the level of exposure to these compounds.

It is important to note that the general composition of one’s diet ultimately impacts the health of a person and not necessarily one component of a diet. Eating smoked meats as part of a healthy, well balanced diet that includes enough fruits and vegetables will help reduce the effects of these chemicals.

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This is because fruits and vegetables contain protective substances known as antioxidants which help reverse the effects of other chemicals that are known to increase cancer risk.

In conclusion, we will like to inform the general public that you may enjoy your smoked akrantie or other meats or fish as long as you are consuming it with enough fruits and vegetables.

Remember that too much of everything is bad, so you do have to consume your favorite smoked meats in moderation. Do not allow your meats to be smoked over open fire for too long a time and avoiding the burnt portions.

If you are in doubt about what works for you with regard to your personal health and well-being, do consult a dietitian for information that is specific to your situation or medical condition.