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Red and processed meat

Protein is good for your health in many different ways. Your body needs protein to grow cells, heal tissue and maintain a healthy immune system. This will help you recover more quickly and avoid infection. Sources of protein include meat, fish, poultry, milk and alternatives, nuts, dried beans, peas and lentils, and soy products. Meat is a valuable source of several other nutrients including protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B12.

White meat is lighter coloured meat that comes from poultry, such as the breasts of chicken and turkey. Red meat refers to beef, pork, lamb, veal and goat.

Processed meat – ham, bacon, salami, hot dogs and sausages – refers to meats preserved by smoking, curing or salting or by the addition of preservatives. When meat is preserved in these ways, cancer-causing substances can be formed.

Red and processed meat and cancer

A diet high in red and processed meat can increase your risk of colorectal cancer and make it hard to maintain a healthy body weight.

  • Tips to eat less red meat
    • If you do eat red meat, choose the leanest meat and trim any visible fat before cooking.
    • Try to limit the amount of red meat you eat each week to 3 servings. A serving is 85 grams (3 ounces) when cooked – this is smaller than a deck of cards.
    • Choose poultry or fish more often. Make up the rest of your meal with vegetables and healthy grains.
    • Eat more alternatives. When making a chili or stew, cut the meat quantity in half and replace it with double the quantity of beans or other legumes.
    • Make meats go further by chopping them into small pieces or buying them ground and using smaller amounts in stir fries, salads and pasta sauces.
    • Make at least one supper a week meat-less.
  • Tips to eat less processed meat
    • Save processed meat for special occasions, such as ham for a holiday dinner or a hot dog at a sporting event.
    • Try a veggie wrap with hummus on whole grain bread for lunch instead of a sandwich with cold cuts.
    • Make a pizza without pepperoni – boneless chicken chunks with lots of veggies and herbs can work too.
    • Try a veggie dog rather than a hot dog on the barbecue.


Photo of Pat Hartley It didn’t matter how much experience and knowledge I had about cancer. I was in shock.

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