Eat less red and processed meats

Eating too much red and processed meat can increase your risk of cancer.

Lean red meat is a good source of iron, zinc, Vitamin B12 and protein and can be included in moderation as part of a healthy diet. However, it is important not to eat too much. Red meat includes foods such as beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, venison and goat.

We should try to avoid processed meat such as frankfurts, salami, bacon, ham, jerky, devon, chorizo and corned beef. Processed meats are high in energy (kilojoules), saturated fat and sodium and they don’t provide us with the essential nutrients our bodies need.

The World Health Organization has classified processed meats as a Group 1 carcinogen (known to cause cancer) which means that there’s strong evidence that processed meats cause cancer. Eating processed meat increases your risk of bowel and stomach cancer. Red meat, such as beef, lamb and pork, has been classified as a Group 2A carcinogen which means it probably causes cancer.

What are the recommendations?

  • Avoid consuming processed meat. 

  • Eat no more than 455g cooked (or 700g raw) red meat per week.

    • A serve of red meat is equal to 90–100 g raw or 65 g cooked: 

      • ½ cup lean raw mince 

      • 1 lamb loin chop 

      • ½ cup diced raw meat 

    • This means, you could have a small serve of red meat every day or 2 serves across 3–4 meals a week.

Three icons, one lamb chop, one half cup of diced meat, one steak

Why limit red meat and avoid processed meat?

red meat

Limiting red meat can reduce your cancer risk

Eating too much red meat increases the risk of bowel cancer. When a chemical in red meat called haem is broken down in the gut, N-nitroso chemicals are formed which have been found to damage the cells that line the bowel, which can lead to bowel cancer. Cancer-causing chemicals are also formed when red meat is charred or burnt.  

processed meats

Avoiding processed meat can reduce your cancer risk

We know that eating processed meat increases our risk of cancer. Processed meats contain certain chemicals both added and naturally occurring that are carcinogenic. N-nitroso chemicals are also formed when processed meat is digested which can lead to bowel cancer. In addition the nitrite and nitrate preservatives in processed meat also produce N-nitroso chemicals.

vegetables icon

Increasing vegetables can reduce your cancer risk

Reducing meat consumption allows you to increase your vegetable, legume and wholegrain intake which helps you eat more fibre. Eating a diet high in fibre can help reduce your risk of bowel cancer.

Small changes make a big difference

Here are our top tips to help you eat less red and processed meat:




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© Cancer Council NSW 2024 Head Office Address: 153 Dowling Street, Woolloomooloo NSW 2011. Cancer Council NSW is registered with the Australian Taxation Office as an Income Tax Exempt Charity: Charitable Fundraising Authority No. 18521.

Some images on this site have been supplied by Cancer Council Western Australia's Crunch & Sip website

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