Worried about carcinogenic processed meat? Here are my tips!

Oroar du dig över cancerframkallande industribehandlat kött? Här är mina tips!

WHO’s decision to classify processed meat (such as cold cuts, sausages, and canned meat) as “carcinogenic” and red meat (such as beef, veal, and pork) as “probable carcinogenic” was no surprise. What wasn’t as expected was the reaction (both positive and negative) from around the world. Generally, people fall into one of two camps:

  • those who have always known that eating meat is dangerous, or
  • those who would like to continue enjoying their beloved sausages without being told they risk cancer.

During the last 10 years, I’ve helped hundreds of people learn to eat in a healthy way. I always encourage those I coach to reduce the amount of potentially hazardous foods they consume, and today I will do the same, especially considering that an excessive intake of both red and processed meat can seriously harm your health. Honestly, WHO’s decision is really nothing new, but only the summary of several years of intensive research on the topic. However, I think many people need some guidance at this point, in order to better understand how to behave in case, as it is true for many people I know, someone wants to continue enjoying some meat from time to time. In this post I will give you a few good tips on how to do this, and—as usual—do not hesitate to contact me in case you need more tailored advice based on your specific situation.

I come from Italy, a country where ham and salami are really irresistible; therefore I understand that for some people it’s really hard to avoid exposure to both red and processed meat. As many of you probably already know, there is no such a thing as a “safe range” for exposure to carcinogens, since even very small, but repeated exposure to such compounds can potentially lead to cancer later in life. But if you just can’t live without those beloved salami, chops, and cutlets, you can at least try to limit yourself by respecting these two simple rules:

  • Try to limit red meat intake to maximum of one serving per week (not more than 200 g)
  • Avoid processed meat (cold cuts, sausages, tinned meat) as much as possible, and consume it only once a month trying to choose high-quality products (e.g. Prosciutto di Parma DOP).

According to the WHO, a daily intake of 50 grams of processed meat can potentially increase the risk of cancer by about 18%. Therefore, by consuming one portion (max 100 g) of this food per month, I think you can sensibly reduce the risk. I know that many of you eat sandwiches, often prepared with ham and cheese, just for practical reasons. For those who do, why not try these healthy (and tasty!) sandwiches instead?

  • Crush half an avocado on some whole meal bread and add shrimp and a few vegetables. A few slices of cucumber or tomato will really tie it together!
  • Mix sliced vegetables with some hummus or with a cream spread made of fava beans, olive oil and pecorino.
  • Ditch meat-based cold cuts and try legume-based cold cuts instead (you will find these products in organic food stores). Try them with a sprinkle of lemon juice.
  • Use sliced salmon (preferably not smoked), mix it with a spreadable cheese, and wrap it up in a wholegrain tortilla.
  • Use a mix anchovy paste, low-fat mozzarella, and grilled zucchini. They’re delicious between slices of hard wholegrain bread.

I hope these simple tips will help clarify any confusion about red and processed meat in relation to their potential unhealthy effects. Over the years, I have accumulated extensive experience on how to eat healthy, and I have helped hundreds of people get back in shape thanks to a proper diet.

Contact me today for more advice or to book a coaching session on Skype that will help tailor a healthy, life-changing diet to your lifestyle!

Gianluca Tognon

Gianluca Tognon

Gianluca Tognon is an Italian nutrition coach, speaker, entrepreneur and associate professor at the University of Gothenburg. He started his career as a biologist and spent 15 years working both in Italy and then in Sweden. He has been involved in several EU research projects and has extensively worked and published on the association between diet, longevity and cardiovascular risk across the lifespan, also studying potential interactions between diet and genes. His work about the Mediterranean diet in Sweden has been cited by many newspapers worldwide including the Washington Post and The Telegraph among others. As a speaker, he has been invited by Harvard University and the Italian multi-national food company Barilla.

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About Me

I’m an Italian nutrition coach, speaker, entrepreneur and associate professor at the University of Gothenburg. I started MY career as a biologist and spent 15 years working both in Italy and then in Sweden.

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