The frequent consumption of red meat increases the risk of cancer

Sorry carnivores, but this news is quite frightening. You might want to put down your hamburger and give this a read.

Eating too much red meat, particularly processed meat, has been associated with cancer.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization, investigated the carcinogenicity of red meat and processed meat. While red meat might include beef, veal and goat, processed meats include any meat that "has been transformed...through processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation". Hot dogs, salami and bacon are just some examples.

It is estimated that over 34,000 cancer deaths each year, worldwide, can be attributed to processed meats. Of those deaths, colorectal and prostate cancers were most prominent.

The IARC analyzed over 800 different cancer studies, with 22 experts from 10 countries. They found that every 50 gram portion of processed meats consumed daily would increase the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.

SEE MORE: Best and meats for your health

The 10 Best Meats And The 10 Worst Ones
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The 10 Best Meats And The 10 Worst Ones

The Best

It's important to know your health priorities when selecting the proper meat. There are meats you can enjoy that won't affect your cholesterol or send your sodium levels through the roof. Read on to learn more.

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Pork Tenderloin

While pork can definitely be considered a heavy food, lean cuts of pork can be pretty nutrient rich and even low in calories. A three ounce serving of pork tenderloin has 122 calories and three grams of fat.

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Buffalo (also known as bison) can be a great healthy alternative to red meat like steak or beef. The taste of buffalo is comparable to that of more common red meats and it has half as much fat and fewer calories.

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Roast Beef

If you can’t bear to give up deli meats, which are notorious for nitrates, then roast beef is your best bet. It’s leaner than most deli meats, lower in saturated fat and offers about seven grams of protein per slice.

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Chicken can be an exceptionally lean meat and impressively low in saturated fat when consumed without the skin. Chicken is also filled with nutrients like selenium, vitamin B6 and Vitamin B3. Traditionally white meat has been lauded as the healthier part of the chicken, but while white meat is lower in calories, dark meat contains more zinc and B vitamins than white meat does. Did you know that chicken can actually be a natural anti-depressant as well?

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Ostrich is another great choice for those trying to eat less red meat but who still crave the taste. It’s technically poultry and actually contains half the fat of chicken with 2.8 grams in comparison with chicken’s 7.4. A three-ounce serving has 123 calories and over 24 grams of protein.

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It’s not Thanksgiving without turkey and the good news is that you don’t even have to feel guilty about enjoying it! A four-ounce serving of white meat turkey without the skin has 158 calories and 34 grams of protein. Turkey is also filled with vitamins B3 and B6 in addition to maintaining a low saturated fat content.

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Pheasant is another type of bird that has a lot of nutrients and not too many calories. Enjoying this one with the skin is a bit more fattening, but at least there are a lot of minerals in the bird to make up for it.

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Lamb Shank

This meat comes from the shank half of the lamb and if it's very well trimmed it can be a reasonably healthy meat to enjoy. A lean three-ounce serving of lamb shank has about 153 calories and under six grams of fat. This size serving of lamb shank also contains about 50 percent of the daily recommended intake of zinc for women and 36 percent for men.

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Yes, veal has more cholesterol than beef. However, if you enjoy leaner cuts of veal like sirloin you'll be consuming 150 calories or less per three-ounce serving.

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Pork Chop

A boneless pork chop has about 147 calories per serving and 23 grams of protein. The sodium levels are also pretty low on this meat.

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The Worst

Try to consume these meats in moderation since their nutritional profile isn't as impressive.

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Corned Beef

Corned beef is generally made of the fattier areas of brisket, which should give you a pretty good image of its health profile. It has 16 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat and 960 mg of sodium, not to mention nitrates. Savor this meat on special occasions.

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Even if it seems light and thin, just a two-ounce serving of prosciutto contains over 10 grams of fat and four grams of that fat is unhealthy saturated fat. In addition to its unsavory fat content, prosciutto is also salted, which makes the sodium content a whopping 973 mg per serving when the daily recommended limit is 1500 mg. Enjoy this one sparingly.

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When eating ham spring for the leaner versions because it is a high fat food. A three-ounce serving of boneless roasted ham has 7.7 grams of fat with 2.7 grams made up of saturated fat.

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If you want to knock out 17 percent of your daily recommended sodium intake with one slice, then try salami. Of the six grams of fat in that slice, two are saturated fat. Savor this one on special occasions.

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It's a shame that such a popular food isn't very nutritionally beneficial since it is both high in sodium and saturated fat. Try sprinkling bacon on dishes as a condiment instead, or give turkey bacon a shot.

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This classic lunch meat is definitely one that should be enjoyed sporadically. One slice contains 300 mg of sodium and 3 grams of saturated fat.

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Hot Dogs

Hot dogs are a very common processed meat. Processed meats can contain nitrates and are frequently high in sodium.

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Roughly two ounces of mortadella contain 14 grams of fat and 560 mg of sodium. That's 23 percent of your daily recommended intake of sodium.

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Chicken Nuggets

This childhood staple is sadly not very healthy. Sometimes chicken nuggets contain very little chicken and the ingredients that end up in a nugget can be icky. Plus the signature breaded exterior only adds calories. Your best bet is to make your own chicken nuggets from scratch.

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Duck actually has a lot of nutrients in it, but if it's not prepared properly it becomes a very fattening meal. Try to keep the duck lean by cooking it skinless, trimming the fat and not using a lot of oil. Of the six grams of fat in a serving, there are 2.3 grams of saturated fat, so there's no need to add more.

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That portion is equatable to only 4 few strips of bacon each day. While the researchers believe that different preparation methods of meat might influence the meat's carcinogenicity, they don't know how these methods "contribute to the cancer risk".

Why such a big statistic? The American Institute of Cancer Research writes that patients who consume a lot of red and processed meat "tend to eat less plant-based foods, so they benefit less from their cancer-protective properties".

Furthermore, the group says that processed meats were also a "probable" cause of stomach cancer. Eating less than 18 ounces of red meat per week (and avoiding processed meats) could reduce cancer risk, according to the organization.

"Research on processed meat shows cancer risk starts to increase with even small portions eaten daily," says the American Institute for Cancer Research.

While scary, the findings serve as a reminder that everything should be enjoyed in moderation.

"We should be limiting red and processed meat to help reduce colon cancer risk, and possibly, the risk of other cancers. The occasional hot dog or hamburger is okay," said a director of the American Cancer Society, according to

Related: Healthiest vegetables

Best and worst vegetables for you
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Best and worst vegetables for you

Avoid: Potatoes 

Studies show that potatoes are "pure sugar" once they enter your system. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, potatoes are responsible for a surge in blood sugar and insulin --- it has the same effect as a can of Cola or candy. 

Eat sparingly: Squash

Like potatoes, squash is a starch vegetable. 1 cup of butternut squash has 11 grams of carbohydrate and more than 40 calories, but is considered a healthier choice than potatoes. Nutritionists advise patients to be careful when eating squash as it can quickly put you "over your carb limit too quickly". 

Eat Sparingly: Eggplant 

Eggplant should be avoided by patients with digestive issues. Says the author of "Eat Dirt", "They contain alkaloids, which protects them from bugs and molds [when they’re growing in the field]. Unfortunately, these chemicals can trigger digestive issues.” Additionally, they possess high carbohydrate levels. 

Some studies have linked eggplant to inflammation and arthritis. Furthermore, researchers advise patients who are prone to kidney stones to avoid the vegetable.

Eat sparingly: Beets

Beets are known for reducing dementia risk and increasing endurance for athletes. But beets have also been linked to kidney stones and gout because they are high in oxalate. This includes patients with gallbladder problems.

Eat sparingly: Bell peppers

Like eggplants and potatoes, peppers are part of the Nightshade family. Bell peppers are believed to cause a buildup of inflammation in the body. 

Eat more: Tomatoes

Whether you consider it a fruit or vegetable, tomatoes are a great source of nutrients and vitamins. It's an "outstanding" source of Lycopene and antioxidants.

A study found that tomatoes were beneficiary in helping patients suffering from Osteoporosis and is an important food for bone health. 

Eat more: Carrots 

Carrots are known for decreasing your risk of heart attack and stroke. Even better, cooked carrots may provide increased benefits than raw carrots. 

A 10-year study out of the Netherlands revealed that fruits and vegetables with deeper shades of orange and yellow are "most protective" against cardiovascular disease. 

Eat more: Bok Choy

There's a reason ancient Chinese loved this bitter vegetable. It's so good for you! Bok Choy is low in calories but high in nutrients like calcium fiber and zinc. According to WebMD, one cup of bok choy (cooked) equates to more than 100% of the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin A. 

Eat more: Kale

It's still the latest superfoods Kale is low in calories and high in fiber, as well as numerous antioxidants. The vegetable is also known for being heart-healthy and lowering cholesterol. A 12-week study that tested the impact of kale juice on men with high cholesterol found favorable results and lowered their risk of "developing coronary disease". 

Eat more: Asparagus

Sure, it's known to make your pee smell and your kids definitely put up a fight, but asparagus is well known for its amazing health benefits. It's packed with vitamins and minerals, low in calorie and fat. Patients looking to lose weight will find asparagus is one of the most beneficial vegetables. 

It's also been scientifically proven that asparagus cures hangovers. "These results provide evidence of how the biological functions of asparagus can help alleviate alcohol hangover and protect liver cells," said a researcher at the Institute of Medical Science and Jeju National University in Korea.


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