There has been a lot of chatter in the media world about the World Health Organization’s (WHO) “condemnation” of processed meat and red meat because of scientific evidence linking consumption to increased cancer risk. If you are a meat lover like me, this information – especially the way it is delivered through the news – can seem pretty radical. Truth be told, the WHO’s recent statement contains info that has been out there for awhile. Let’s drill down and see what the WHO is really saying and how it applies to you.
Processed Meat and Cancer Risk: The WHO panel looked at over 800 studies regarding processed meats. Processed meats are things like bacon, sausage, deli meats, and other meats that have been cured, salted, or otherwise processed for preservation or flavor enhancement. Poultry is not off the hook – processed meat includes turkey and chicken sausage, bacon, and deli meat. There is evidence linking processed meat and cancer, specifically colorectal cancer. Eating about two ounces of processed meat daily can increase your risk of colorectal cancer by about 18 percent.
Red Meat and Cancer Risk: Meat cooked at high temperatures produces heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). HCAs and PAHs can cause changes to DNA which supports cancer development. Any cooked animal protein will contain some level of HCAs and PAHs, however the research demonstrates that there is a stronger link between cancer occurrence and consumption of red meat cooked at high temperatures that poultry or fish cooked at high temperatures.
Remember, just because there is a link between cancer and processed and red meat consumption does not mean that these things are a poison you must avoid. Instead, you should be smart about how you cook your meat and limit processed meat.
- Don’t eat red meat every day.
- Limit your serving size of meat (or poultry or fish) to the size of the palm of your hand. This will be between three to six ounces of protein, depending on the size of your hand. You don’t need any more than this – your body can only process 20-40 g of protein at a time.
- Purchase nitrate- and nitrite-free bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and deli meat, and limit processed meat to one or two times a week. If colorectal cancer runs in your family, be diligent about limiting processed meat to one time per week.
- Don’t forget to include fruits or veggies with your meats. The fruits and veggies are jam-packed with cancer-fighting antioxidants.
- Choose low heat cooking methods more often than you do right now. Lower heat cooking options include using your slow cooker, braising, and baking. You can reduce the amount of HCAs and PAHs by marinating your meat prior to cooking, turning grilled or pan-fried meat frequently, and avoiding charred pieces of meat.
- Choose grass-fed or organic meat over conventional meats. Grass-fed and organic meats have a higher ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation in the body, and omega-6 fatty acids promote inflammation. The typical American diet has way more omega-6s than omega-3s, and reversing this ratio can help to prevent or control chronic diseases (cancer, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc).
- 3-4 lb boneless chuck or round roast
- 1 cup beef broth
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 small onion, sliced (optional)
- Place roast in slow cooker.
- Mix together the beef broth, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, honey, soy sauce, and garlic in a separate bowl.
- Pour liquid over roast, and sprinkle onions on top.
- Cook on high for 4 hours, or on low for 6-8 hours.