The media buzz (or was it a sizzle?) last week was all about bacon, as new research suggests that processed and possibly red meats cause an increased risk of certain types of cancer. If you’re looking to cut down your intake of processed meats, find out what our expert has to say about ways to curb your cravings.
It may be time to set a limit on your intake of bacon, hot dogs and the like, according to The World Health Organization (WHO), which announced last week that consumption of processed meat causes an increased risk of colorectal cancer. The same announcement also cautioned against red meat, but this warning was less absolute: Researchers determined it is probable that red meat is carcinogenic to humans and is linked to various cancers.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) — the cancer division of the WHO — and its team comprising 22 scientists from 10 different countries ultimately concluded that those eating 50 grams or more of processed meat every day raise their risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent.
To put this figure in perspective: 50 grams is about equivalent to two to three slices of bacon or one small hot dog, and this study suggests the amount would need to be consumed daily to realize the increased cancer risk.
“Processed meats are generally high in sodium and saturated fat, which may not be a healthy choice for certain individuals,” says Caitlin Griffin, RD, LD, Renown Outpatient Dietary Educator. “As with anything, I truly feel that moderation is the key to good health. If you do eat highly processed fatty red meats on a daily basis, it would be beneficial to decrease your frequency for various health reasons.”
Alternatives to Bacon and Meats
To cut down on the bacon, Caitlin says there are a few things you can do:
- Leave bacon out altogether, or halve the suggested portion in a recipe.
- Set a limit on the amount of red and processed meat you eat in a week.
With a little restraint, you can satisfy those salty bacon cravings — allow yourself two slices once a month or less. “For most people, even a small sample can satisfy a craving,” Caitlin notes. “But lean cuts of red meat can still fit into a healthy diet when consumed in moderation.”
To reduce overall meat intake, consider the following:
- Consume more fish, chicken, turkey and eggs. Consume non-animal sources of protein: beans, lentils, nuts and quinoa.
- Limit red meat to once per week, or set a goal to reduce your current intake by a certain amount.
- Bake your own fresh or frozen turkey or chicken breast. Slice it up for sandwiches to replace processed deli meats.
Caitlin reminds us: Embrace a healthy lifestyle focused on moderation and common sense.
“Remember, there is no one food that causes cancer,” she continues. “It is more complex than that, and it involves more than just your diet. Other risk factors include weight, genetics, quantity and quality of overall diet, physical activity and environmental exposures.”