To meat or not to meat?

There’s been much hype in the media recently about meat causing cancer, particularly processed meats. But does this mean you should become vegetarian?

The research is right, over consumption of meat CAN increase the risk of cancer,  in particular bowel cancer. Processed meats containing artificial nitrates increase the risk even further. Not eating enough vegetables increases this risk. Even with high intake of meat, if enough vegetables are consumed, the risks are mediated. However considering that only ~8% of the Australian population actually eats the recommended number of serves of vegetables each day, the likelihood of this mediatory effect is lessened.

So should you go vegetarian? Just because you aren’t eating meat anymore doesn’t mean that your diet is necessarily healthier. It is still essential to replace any meat you cut out with alternate sources of protein, such as legumes, nuts, seeds, tempeh and tofu.

So why is the actual recommended amount of red meat? The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend 100-200g raw meat 3-4 times per week, whilst the Mediterranean diet recommends 350-450g per month. The Meat and Livestock Association suggests to aim for 455g cooked red meat per week. With so many recommendations, it is no wonder people often end up confused! Add to that that in my experience, people often only count the meat they eat at the ‘main’ meal, usually dinner. That Thai beef salad you had for lunch, the chicken salad sandwich, the leftover roast lamb and the bacon with your eggs all contribute… Suddenly 3-4 times in the whole week total can be much harder to achieve!

Top strategies?

  • Incorporate at least one vegetarian meal each week.
  • Reduce portions of meat by incorporating a plant based protein into your meals, for example including lentils in your bolognaise sauce.
  • Fill your plate with veggies first, then add the protein and the carbs.
  • Don’t be afraid to try new recipes, and new foods

About Chloe McLeod