In case you haven’t heard, red meat has been under the microscope lately. New findings and information has been released that is of benefit to everyone – because as they say, knowledge is a powerful thing:-)
My good friend and dietician Stacey Yunger is with us again to shed some light on the matter. She gives her professional perspective to provide some solid information on this topic.
A Dietitian’s Perspective on the Carcinogenicity of Processed and Red Meat
On October 26th, 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement in regards to the carcinogenicity of red meats and processed meats. The consumption of red meat showed to probably be cancer-causing to humans based on little evidence, whereas the consumption of processed meat was said to be carcinogenic based on sufficient evidence. Now, it is important to understand how to apply this new research in to a healthy diet.
Processed meat and red meat should be treated separately for a moment. Red meat is any muscle meat from a mammal including beef, veal, lamb, pork, horse, goat, and mutton. Processed meats are meats that undergo salting, curing, fermentation, smoking or similar processes to transform the meat. Processed meats have enhanced flavors and can be preserved much longer. The most common processed meats in North America are hot dogs, ham, sausage, salami, beef jerky to name a few. Now the big question is: should we be eliminating these foods?
As a dietitian, the guidelines have always pointed towards limiting red meat consumption and focusing mostly on poultry, fish, nuts, and legumes. This usually leads to the suggestion of consuming red meat 2-3 times a week. There are definitely known health benefits from consuming red meats including the high bioavailability of iron, zinc, vitamin B12, and of course protein. Therefore, there is a risk to benefit ratio that must be taken in to consideration for red meat. On the other hand, nutrition guidelines have stated that processed foods do not contribute to a healthy diet. When it comes to processed meats, the risks were always present due to the high salt and fat content. WHO has recommended limited consumption of processed meats since 2002 and this new research only further supports the recommendation.
Processed meat is one of the first foods to be classified as a carcinogen. Other known human carcinogens include cigarettes, alcohol, and the sun. I am not going to promote smoking or drinking, but let’s discuss the sun for a minute. We know that prolonged sun exposure can cause cancer due to the UV rays, but we still put on sunscreen for protection and love to catch those rays. The vitamin D from the sun helps promote bone health as well as prevent cancer. The sun-kissed glow doesn’t hurt either! What I am trying to emphasize yet again here is that we have to look at the benefits and the risks.
Try to focus on a healthy diet to maximize nutrient intake in order to help maintain your health and prevent disease. When choosing red meat go for leaner cuts with minimal added fat or salt in order to profit from this nutrient dense food group. In the same way we love to enjoy a good drink out with friends, food should be enjoyed too! We do not solely eat to maintain our body functions, every once in a while it doesn’t hurt to indulge responsibly!
Stacey Yunger is a registered dietician in the province of Quebec, serving the needs of West Island community and Canadians all around. For more information, contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Experience Personal Training – 5 years | Nutrition Counseling – 3 years | Group Fitness – 3 years