The World Health Organization recently announced that processed meats and red meats are “probably carcinogenic to humans” and cause cancer. A group of 22 experts from 10 countries collaborated on the study, backed by the International Agency on Cancer Research (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization. While the main discovery of the research found strong links between processed meat consumption and colorectal cancer, evidence also suggests that consumption of processed meat also increases the risks of pancreatic and prostate cancers.
The most shocking development for fans of burgers and bacon is undoubtedly the conclusion that a daily 50 gram portion of processed meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent. Dr. Kurt Straif, head of the IARC Monographs Programme, noted that “For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed.” Conversely, the IARC also highlighted the nutritional value and potential health benefits of processed and red meats and urged governments and regulatory agencies to strive for achieving balance in relation to the consumption of these meats and dietary regulations.
The IARC classifies processed meats as meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavour or improve preservation. Examples of processed meats include hot dogs, ham, corned beef, sausages, beef jerky, canned meat and meat-based preparations and sausages. Red meat is classified as mammalian muscle meat, including beef, pork, veal, lamb, mutton, horse and goat.
While avoiding most processed and red meat is no easy task for enthusiasts of the classic American “meat and potatoes” diet, there are plenty of widely available options that offer protein and sustenance without sacrificing satisfaction. Ground turkey can easily substitute for ground beef in burgers, tacos, pasta dishes and delicious turkey chili. A properly prepared turkey dinner (don’t forget all the fixins!) is the perfect meal to take the place of a ham or classic Sunday roast. Chicken is also quite versatile and a much healthier options that can be the star of the dinner table in fajitas, on the grill or placed on top of a healthy green salad for a tasty protein boost. Finally, fish is a fantastic and fresh option to spice up the dinner table. Albacore tuna, wild salmon and trout are some of the healthier options in the seafood section.
Removing or limiting red and processed meat from the plate also means there may be more room for vegetables and other healthy foods aside from poultry and seafood. Leafy green vegetables, such as broccili, kale and spinach, are some of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet and are loaded with cancer fighting vitamins and mineral that can help reverse the effects of processed meat consumption. Beans and legumes, such as black beans, chickpeas and lentils are also packed with nutrients like protein and can also aid your body in the battle against cancer. These foods can take the place of ground beef in tacos or other Mexican dishes and can also be the star of meatless soups and chili dishes. The fight against cancer has never been more delicious.