Is that Ham Sandwich Giving You Bowel Cancer?

Chances are you know someone who doesn’t eat meat right? Whether they are vegetarian, vegan or pescetarian, they have made the decision to cut meat out of their diet.

Lots of the world looks on these people as ‘greenies’, who are missing out on man’s greatest invention: bacon. The warnings about red meat in particular usually fall on deaf ears, because we just don’t want to give up meat.

It might finally be time to listen up though, and reconsider the amount of meat we are eating every day.

How much meat should you eat --- Science With That

What’s so bad about red meat?

First of all, red meat is all beef, pork, lamb and veal. 

A pigment found in these meats seems to damage the DNA of the cells in your digestive system. This is bad because DNA damage is one of the first signs of cancer. As well as that nasty pigment, it is also thought that burning meat and some of the preservatives used in processed meats increase risks too. 

So what are processed meats then? You ask. These are bacon, sausages, ham, pate and tinned meat, as well as preserved, salted, smoked and marinated stuff too. You might be thinking that those are the most delicious ways to eat meat, but they happen to be the most dangerous too.

The World Cancer Research Fund actually recommends you cut processed meat out of your diet completely. They say that if you have to have it, you should limit it to 70g of processed meat a week. That’s the equivalent to 3 rashers of bacon! As far as cancer research goes, processed meat is pretty bad.

Four big meta-analysis studies have found some pretty sobering facts when it comes to red and processed meat too. They found that eating 100-120g of red meat a day increased your risk of getting bowel cancer by 17-30%, that’s a fairly scary statistic! But how much meat really is that? 120g is about four slices of meat from your Sunday roast or the amount of meat you get in a doner kebab. One of those a day could increase your risk of getting bowel cancer by a third!

How much meat should you eat  Science With That

So how much red meat should I eat?

Luckily there are a bundle of scientists in America called the Scientific Advisory Commission on Nutrition who work tirelessly to figure out how much we should be eating to stay healthy and avoid the scary bad things.

They say that we should eat no more than 70g of red and processed meat a day to avoid the higher risk of getting bowel cancer. But how much is that really? That’s a piece of meat roughly the size of a deck of cards, so it isn’t huge. It’s about the same as two sausages or half of the mince on your spaghetti bolognese.

Should you ea meatt -- Science With That

Should I just cut meat out of my diet altogether?

Not necessarily, no. Being an animal lover myself I would love to tell you that eating meat is terrible and that we should all become vegetarian, but it’s just not true. We humans are omnivorous for a reason.

Meat is a great source of some pretty vital stuff like iron, zinc, B vitamins and omega-3. Meat is a good way to get these essential vitamins and minerals because they are more easily absorbed by your body this way as opposed to getting them through veges or legumes. However the thing is, it all needs to be in moderation.

You don’t need to eat much meat at all to reap these benefits. We in the Western world have become accustomed to super huge portions of meat compared to Asia and the Mediterranean, and our portions just aren’t healthy. Most government issued recommendations say that you should eat 70-100g of meat, which is a piece the size of a deck of cards, 6-7 times a week.

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Okay, so what should I aim to be eating

The American Scientific Advisory Commission on Nutrition recommends that your weekly diet consists of 2-3 servings of lean red meat, 2 servings of fish and 1-2 servings of chicken or pork. Remembering that a serving is the size of a deck of cards. It might seem like a pretty small serving, but it’s all you need to reap the health benefits of the stuff and avoid the scary bowel affecting stuff.

Should you eat meat ... Science With That

One last thing before you go!

Chances are you have been eating a little more meat than you really need. This is super good news! It means that you can save money by not having to buy as much of the stuff. There’s another option though that I think is worth considering. Now that you don’t need to buy as much meat, you can afford to get the good stuff. Choose free range meat! It tastes better, is better for you and you know that the animals were treated more humanely as they made their way to your plate.

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