Bad news for bacon lovers: Eating processed meats — including bacon, sausages, and hot dogs — can increase your risk of colon cancer, according to a report issued today by the World Health Organization (WHO).
A team of 22 health experts from 10 countries reviewed 800 studies on the disease in humans and concluded that, when eaten daily, each 50 grams (gm) of processed meat (the equivalent of about two slices of ham or sausage) increases the risk of colon cancer by 18 percent. WHO also noted that eating red meat, such as beef, pork, and lamb, can cause colon, prostate, or pancreatic cancer.
Processed meat refers to meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation. The report specifically names ham, hot dogs, sausages, and jerky, and confirms previous findings that eating meat increases your risk of cancer.
In 2011, the World Cancer Research Fund found strong evidence that both red and processed meat increase the risk of colorectal cancer. They advised that you eat no more than 500 gm of meats like beef, pork, and lamb per week, and limit consumption of processed meats like ham and salami as much as possible.
3 Ways to Cut Down on Processed and Red Meat Every Day
Though grilling season is ending in much of the country, you may still be tempted by hot dogs at basketball games or bacon at brunch. Plus, if you regularly eat a sandwich stacked with deli meats for lunch, you could be putting yourself at risk. Try these easy ways to cut back on processed meats:
- Build a better sandwich: Rather than rely on deli meats like processed turkey and roast beef to fill your sandwich, use slices of roasted turkey or chicken (you can even buy a rotisserie chicken if you’re short on time). You’ll still get great flavor and a good dose of protein — without all the unwanted chemicals and fillers.
- Go veggie: No, you don’t have to become a vegetarian, but the next time you order a pizza, consider skipping the pepperoni and sausage and asking for extra mushrooms, which tend to impart a meat-y flavor.
- Get creative in the kitchen: Love to cook? Beans make a great substitute in some of your favorite meat dishes. Try tossing them in chili, soups, and stews, or grind them up to make a delicious meat-free burger.