You might have heard from many nutritionists that consuming too much red meat causes several long-term health issues. The red meat includes beef, lamb, pork, and goat. There is also strong evidence that beef consumption is associated with an increased risk of cancer. Rather than so much nutrition, how does beef cause cancer? Researchers are looking into the issue. But before diving into the issue get to know about the causes.
What Is the Difference between Processed Meat and Unprocessed Meat?
Processed meat is meat that has been altered in some way, usually for taste, texture, or shelf life. This can be accomplished by salting, curing, or smoking meat. Processed red meats include the following:
- Hot dogs
- Pepperoni and salami
- Bacon and ham
- Lunch meats
- Canned meats
Processed red meat contains fewer beneficial nutrients and is higher in salt and fat than unprocessed red meat.
Unprocessed red meats have not been altered or modified in any way. Here are some examples:
- Pork chops
- Lamb shanks
- Mutton chops
Unprocessed red meat can be nutritious on its own. It is high in protein, vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients.
What Does Beef Contain?
Chemicals (found in beef, added during processing, or produced during cooking) can raise the risk of cancer by causing cell damage.
- Beef contains haem iron, which gives the meat a red color. N-nitroso compounds are formed when the haem is broken down in the gut. These can cause cancer by causing damage to the cells lining the bowel.
- Nitrates and nitrites used as preservatives in processed beef are also broken down into N-nitroso compounds.
- When the beef is burned or charred, cancer-causing chemicals form. To avoid burning and charring, use lower temperatures.
How Can I Reduce My Beef Consumption?
Small changes can help you to protect your health, so why not give it a shot?
- Mondays without meat – Choose a day (or days) when you will not eat meat.
- Instead of processed or red meat, choose dishes or recipes that use fresh chicken or fish.
- Use pulses, such as beans or lentils, to replace some or all of the meat in your favorite dishes.
- Reduce your serving size – try one sausage instead of two, or replace some of your meat with vegetables.
- More expensive or organic processed and red meat is not necessarily healthier, so switching to these will not reduce cancer risk. The best thing to do is to limit your intake of processed and red meat.
What Type of Cancer Is Associated with Beef Consumption?
Beef consumption can increase your risk of developing bowel cancer. We know for certain that processed meat causes cancer, but the scientific evidence for beef is murky. Red meat has been identified as a possible cause of cancer. This means that there is a lot of good evidence of a link, but we need a few more high-quality studies to be sure.
There is also some evidence that there is a higher risk of stomach and pancreatic cancer. However, more research is needed to determine whether beef consumption affects the risk of developing these cancers.