In October, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a report stating that all processed meat will now be classified as carcinogenic to humans, placing them in the same category as smoking or asbestos. This statement was based on evidence from over 800 studies conducted over a span of 20 years. The article reports that the risk of developing cancer, specifically colorectal cancer, increases by 18% for each 50 gram portion of processed meat consumed. This is equivalent to 2-4 slices of deli meat, depending on the type and brand. The WHO also noted that unprocessed red meat such as beef, pork, lamb, and goat are “probably carcinogenic”.

So what does this all mean?

Although this report may seem startling, this information is not new. For many years, the American Heart Association has endorsed a diet low in both processed and red meat. Processed meats contain high amounts of sodium and other preservatives, which adversely affect health, increasing the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Red meats have also been linked to an increased risk for heart disease and diabetes for many years due to their amounts of cholesterol and saturated fat. Try to follow some of these simple tips to make smarter meat choices:

Choose From:

  • Fish and shellfish
  • Fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, and trout
  • Poultry without the skin
  • Trimmed lean meats
  • Buy “choice” or “select” grades of beef rather than “prime”

Pay Attention to Portion Size:

  • Consume no more than 6 oz per day
  • 3 oz cooked meat is about the size of a deck of cards

Meal Preparation:

  • Remove skin and trim off any visible fat before cooking
  • Prepare meats by baking, broiling, roasting, or stir-frying
  • Limit the use high calorie or high salt marinades and sauces

Alternative Sources of Protein:

  • Beans, lentils, soybeans or tofu (1 cup is equivalent to a 2-oz serving of meat)
  • Milk, yogurt (especially Greek), cheese
  • Nuts or nut butters
  • Eggs

The American Heart Association also promotes going meatless at least one day a week. This not only helps to reduce your intake of meat, but it also helps to add variety to your diet. Trying new foods and exploring new ways to prepare meals, can be a fun, creative, and healthy experience. Remember eating a variety of food and moderating portion size is key to a healthy diet!

Recipe:

Butternut Squash Black Bean Chili

Serves 4

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed
  • 1 (15 ounce) can tomatoes with green peppers
  • 4 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Directions:

Place the oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the butternut squash and onion and cook for about 4 minutes, or until the onion softens slightly. Season with garlic, chili powders, cumin and salt. Stir to ensure the spices are evenly distributed and cook for about 30 seconds more, or until they become fragrant.

Add the stock and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the butternut squash is tender.

Add the beans, tomatoes and lime juice to the pot. Increase heat to high and cook for about 4-5 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced slightly. Remove from heat, stir in the cilantro and enjoy!

More meatless recipes can be found at www.meatlessmonday.com.