Until now, the answer to how much red meat we should be eating has been pretty clear-cut. The Department of Health (DoH) advises us to eat no more than 70g (cooked weight) a day – or 500g a week in total – to reduce our bowel cancer risk.
However, recent research by Oxford University, involving half a million British men and women, has revealed that those sticking to the DoH advice still had a 20% higher chance of developing bowel cancer than those eating an average of 21g a day (147g a week), which is two or fewer small servings per week.
Currently, men are the biggest meat eaters. Current national diet survey data shows that on average they tuck into 88g a day, whereas women consume 52g. Yet both genders have a way to go to meet the Oxford scientists’ lower recommendations.
So what does a portion of red meat look like?
To give you an indication, here’s how 70g cooked red or processed red meat adds up:
– One-third of an 8oz lean sirloin steak
– 5tbsp cooked minced beef or lamb
– ½ average plump burger
– 2 thick slices of bacon
– 5 thin slices of packaged ham
If you were to adhere to the new limits you’d be able to have around two portions from the above list each week.
How this new research may affect future food policy is yet to be seen. Lean red meat is a good source of protein, and boosts minerals such as iron and zinc, which are needed for energy and immunity. Plus it has B vitamins for healthy nerves and vitamin D to help us absorb bone-building calcium.
The answer is to keep a close eye on serving sizes so we reap these nutrition benefits without falling prey to potential health pitfalls.
Find out more about healthy portions of red meat, with Amanda Ursell and Jonathan Maitland, on ITV Tonight at 7.30pm on Thursday 6 June.