Researchers have established through studies the dangers of eating excessive amounts of smoked foods ; it can significantly increase the risk of certain types of cancers especially that of the stomach and colon. The process of smoking fish for example starts with curing the fish with a hefty dose of salt beyond the recommended daily allowance of sodium intake. This is added to increase the shelf life and prevent the growth of microbes that can cause food poisoning.
Fish is an excellent source of complete protein and the oily ones contain a good dose of healthy omega -3 fatty acids. It is rich in Vitamin D and riboflavin and so many other nutrients that can help in lowering blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke. Nutritionists and dietitians recommend eating fish at least twice in a week. Fish and meats are an excellent source of protein and tend to deliver all the amino acids we need; care should however be taken to prepare them in a healthier way without unnecessary exposure to carcinogens.
Meats cooked at high temparature over an open fire are laden with chemical compounds which are formed when juices and fat from the meat drip onto the hot coals and produce flame that lick the meat. However, when meats are marinated and thoroughly cooked at lower temperature the production of carcinogenic compounds are drastically reduced thereby significantly cutting the risk of colorectal cancer.
These foods contain a higher level of nitrates and nitrites (these are two types of salt) which are curing ingredients used in smoked and cured foods. Ingesting too much of these salts can be toxic to humans. This is why it is advisable to completely abstain from or drastically reduce your intake of barbecued meats.
Suya is a spicy skewered meat that is charcoal grilled which is a popular delicacy in West Africa. In Nigeria, it is a much loved street food. Aside from the inherent risk of contamination from old newspapers used to wrap the Suya, tapeworm( a parasite that can live in human bowel) has been found to survive the preparation process.
These meats (beef, chicken,mutton,goat,gizzard etc) are mostly prepared by illiterate men who have minimal knowledge of the impact and hazards of unsanitary handling of meats thereby exposing their many customers to a myriad of bacteria and yeasts infections including the dreaded E.coli that can cause moderate to severe food poisoning. Random sampling and studies have shown the presence of these bacteria, yeasts and even mould in suya (the mould could have come from contaminated spices sprinkled on the suya).
In the interest of our overall health, it is advisable we eat fresh steamed oily fish at least twice weekly; significantly lower or eliminate barbecued fatty red meats cut and favor fresh white meats instead. The better alternative is to oven bake or grill the meats. Aside from choosing the right kind of food, how we prepare it has a big impact on the nutrients it will deliver to our bodies.