So how are we to process (pun intended) this new information? Should ham and cheese sangas, bacon and eggs and BBQ meats now be off the menu? Well, not quite. And here’s why.
While the WHO report linked a high intake of processed meats with cancer, in particular colorectal cancer, the authors do not advocate for the total exclusion of these types of foods. You don’t need me to tell you that eating bacon at breakfast, heavily processed meats in your sandwich for lunch, and chops and snags at dinner on a regular basis is not healthy. So while it is important to exercise caution around these foods, moderating your intake holds the key for achieving optimum health. Yes, you can still enjoy a few snags at a BBQ, the occasional side of bacon with your eggs on the weekend and a ham sandwich once a week. And you can do all these things without raising your risk of developing cancer.
Nevertheless, if you’re particularly concerned about the findings of the latest WHO report, then reducing the amount of processed meat and red meat you consume is probably a good idea. Australians are, after all, amongst the biggest meat eaters in the world. So swapping bacon for smoked salmon at breakfast, ham for tinned fish or cottage cheese sandwiches at lunch and steak and chops for chicken or fatty fish at dinner is a good start. Perhaps embracing the Meatless Monday movement, where you consume only vegetarian meals on Mondays, is another positive step towards promoting good health. Either way, there is no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater; the message here is to exercise a wee bit of caution and to reduce your overall intake of red meat if it exceeds the Dietary Guidelines recommendations. In doing so, you might just reduce risk your risk of cancer.