Sausage meat is delicious! For home cooks shopping on a budget, it’s also significantly cheaper than other staple meats at the grocery store, like ground pork or beef.
Most sausage is made from pork, with a smaller number of sausage varieties made from beef or poultry. Its other ingredients include salt, spices, and other additives, including fillers and flavorings (especially in the cheapest sausages).
It’s tasty and it won’t break the bank, that’s for sure. Even if you have to feed a crowd every night, a few sausages will most probably make everyone full, and there might still be leftovers!
But is there anything wrong with eating sausage every day? As much as I love the idea, you need to know what researchers have to say on the topic before incorporating it into your daily diet.
“Anyone who eats over 40 grams a day of sausage products or other kinds of processed meat is asking for trouble,” ScienceDaily reports. “The risk of mortality increases by 18 percent for every 50 grams of processed meat per day.”
The outlet cites a European-wide study conducted by the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Zurich and published in the 2013 issue of the BDC Medicine journal.
The study took a stab at whether or not there was a link between eating red meat, processed meat, and poultry and having an increased risk of early death. The results were conclusive and speak for themselves.
The study began in the 2000s. It tracked 448,568 participants aged 35-69 years from 10 European countries for a median period of 12.7 years.
In the beginning, no participants had prevalent cancer, stroke, or myocardial infarction conditions. Eating habits were tracked by surveys or live interviews. Throughout the study, medical records were tracked to look for any connections between what people ate and how their health deteriorated.
As of June 2009, 26,344 participants had passed away. After some data cleansing by the University of Zurich’s research team, they found that eating red meat was linked to higher all-cause mortality, with the link stronger for those who frequently ate processed meat.
“The results of our analyses suggest that men and women with a high consumption of processed meat are at increased risk of early death,” the researchers concluded, “in particular due to cardiovascular diseases but also to cancer.”
Sausage, in case you’re wondering, is processed meat.
By definition, any meat that’s been treated through salting, curing, fermenting, or smoking to preserve it or to enhance its flavor is processed, Colleen Doyle, MS, RD, and Managing Director of Nutrition and Physical Activity at the American Cancer Society, tells NBC News.
It’s as simple as that, folks. As a general rule of thumb, don’t go overboard with sausage (or bacon, or salami, or gabagool (ahem… capicola).
So What Can You (And Should You) Do Instead?
If you want to eat meat daily, but stay as healthy as possible, buy non-processed meats.
Whether that’s steak, ground beef, chops, ground pork, or whole birds, the benefits of buying it and seasoning it yourself are that you decide where the meat comes from and what exactly to put on it.
While it’s best to source your meat locally from farms… not everyone can afford or is willing to spend that kind of money.
If you’re shopping for meat on a budget, the best thing to do is plan your meals based on how much you can spend. The USDA’s meat price spreads data, updated monthly, is an excellent place to start.
If you shop at Walmart, Target, Kroger’s, Costco, or other retailers with online stores of their own, you could also head to it—and use the search form to find non-processed meats and check out their prices.
Every now and then, substitute eggs and legumes for meat. You’ll get just as much protein with less of the bad stuff.
If you survived without grass-fed beef in your college days, you’d probably survive without it today, too. In fact, go back to these times and draw inspiration for your grocery list from them.
When I was a freshman in college, apart from studying and partying hard, I’d hit the gym almost every day (looking back at that time now, frankly speaking I don’t know how I did it).
As you can imagine, I tried to eat as much protein as I could to gain muscles quickly. The problem was that meat was expensive… so I had to substitute it with eggs, beans, and yogurt.
To this day, one of my favorite meals is fried eggs with tomato-sauce beans on the side. Think about the meals and ingredients you like, which you could cook and eat instead of making meat every day.
Or, if you like eating meat every day, buy ground beef (leaner, but more expensive) or ground pork (fattier, but more affordable)—and add the salt, pepper, and spices to it yourself. If you have a KitchenAid stand mixer at home, you could even buy a couple of attachments that allow you to make homemade sausage from any cut of meat.
Sausage is tasty and cheap, but it’s not okay to eat it every day. As with most processed meats, it contains an excess amount of salt and way too many additives to be considered part of a healthy and diverse diet.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong in indulging in the occasional grilled sausage or Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, traditionally made with Italian sausage meat. As long as you don’t make it a part of your plate every single day.