Eat less red meat (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid processed meat.
To reduce your cancer risk, eat no more than 500g (cooked weight) per week of red meat, like beef, pork and lamb, and avoid processed meats such as ham, bacon, salami, hot dogs and some sausages.
10% of bowel cancers cases could be prevented through reducing the amount of processed meat we eat.
What is red meat?
Red meat refers to beef, pork, lamb and goat – foods like hamburgers, minced beef, pork chops and roast lamb.
As a rough guide 500g of cooked red meat is the same as 700 to 750g of raw red meat. To help visualise how much this is, a medium portion of roast beef or pork is about 90g and a medium steak is about 145g.
Although eating a lot of red meat is linked to bowel cancer, it is a good source of nutrients including protein, iron and zinc. The evidence shows that eating up to 500g (cooked weight) of red meat per week does not significantly raise cancer risk. Regularly eating more than this, however, does increase risk of bowel cancer.
What are processed meats
Meat and cancer – the evidence
Tips for eating less red meat and avoiding processed meat
- Keep several meals a week red meat-free. Make every other evening meal meat-free. Try replacing minced red meat with minced Quorn or use lentils or beans instead.
- Grilled fish and poultry make tasty alternatives to red meat.
- Choose vegetables and wholegrains first. Try to avoid large portions of meat.
- Try canned fish including sardines, salmon, tuna and mackerel. These are all great in sandwiches or pasta dishes.
- Add beans or pulses such as kidney beans, chickpeas and lentils. Tasty alternatives in dishes such as chilli or bolognese, and they can even be made into burgers.
- Don’t forget eggs, cottage cheese and hummus. These are all good sources of protein too.
- Swap processed meats for healthier alternatives. Instead of bacon, chorizo or salami, try spicy chicken or vegetarian sausages.