Are you making an effort to choose healthy protein choices? Concerned about consuming too much processed meat or red meat? That is understandable because back in the fall of 2015, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IRAC) reviewed more than 800 studies that linked red and processed meat to an increased risk of colorectal cancer. They reported that red meat likely increases risk of colorectal cancer, and that consuming 50 grams of processed meat daily increases the risk of this cancer in your lifetime by 18 percent. A 50 gram serving of processed meat is as little as one hot dog wiener, two to three strips of bacon, or two slices of ham.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer defines processed meat as any meat that’s been “transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavour or improve preservation.” Most of the research links processed meats and cancer to the addition of nitrates and nitrites used to preserve them. When consumed, these preservatives are converted into other compounds when they enter the digestive tract. This increases risk of developing cancer.

While red meat is an excellent source of protein and contains a number of key nutrients including: B vitamins, iron, and zinc; the Canadian Cancer Society tells us not to consume more than 500 grams of red meat in a week. Red meats include: beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, goat, and horse. To play it safe, consider limiting your red meat serving to about 100 grams per meal. This would be about the size of a deck of playing cards. If you are looking for other protein rich options consider trying these options:

Alternative protein choices

  • Fibre-rich pulses – lentils, kidney beans, chick peas, split peas, hummus
  • Eggs – omelettes, boiled, poached, souffles, scrambled
  • Nuts and seeds – almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, cashews, peanuts, nut butters
  • Lower-fat dairy products – Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, brick cheese, milk
  • Fish and seafood – salmon, tuna, shrimp, shellfish,
  • Poultry – chicken and turkey
  • Soy foods – tofu, soy beverage, edamame

Make your diet healthier with these tips

  • Instead of eating a steak, have a grilled chicken breast
  • Replace the pepperoni on your pizza with shrimp, more veggies, and lower fat cheese
  • When making spaghetti or lasagna, consider adding extra veggies, lentils, and ground turkey
  • When making chili, double up on the beans
  • Poach chicken breast and use it in salads, wraps, and sandwiches
  • Skip the bologna sandwich, have egg salad, tuna or salmon salad, or even hummus instead

For more ideas on using these protein options, view this recent CTV Winnipeg Morning Live Tots to Teens segment by clicking on the picture below: “Healthy Processed Meat Alternatives”.

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