Red and Processed Meats

AICR research has found that limiting the amount of red meat and avoiding processed meat reduces the risk of certain types of cancer.

Red meat and cancer risk

The latest research shows that eating more than 18 ounces of red meat per week increases the risk of colorectal cancers. Beef, lamb and pork are all red meats.

Researchers do not yet know exactly how red meat affects the development of colorectal cancer. Red meat contains compounds that have been shown to damage the lining of the gut and possibly promote cancer. Cooking red meat at high temperatures can also produce other cancer-causing compounds.

Processed meat and cancer risk

Processed meats are meats that have been preserved by smoking, salting, curing or adding other preservatives. Sliced turkey and bologna deli meats, bacon, ham, and hot dogs are all processed meats. Research shows that any amount of processed meat eaten regularly increases the risk of both stomach and colorectal cancers.

There are many possible ways that processed meat may increase cancer risk. For example, compounds used as preservatives may lead to cancer-causing compounds in the body.

So what can you eat?

AICR recommends avoiding bacon and other processed meats, saving them for special occasions.
For hamburgers and other red meats, you don’t have to eliminate them from your diet, but work to eat smaller portions and/or have meat-free days.

Meaty Substitutions

MealInstead of…Try…
Breakfast Eggs and bacon Avocado toast with scrambled egg whites.
Sausage links Soy-based or vegetarian links or patties.
Lunch Bologna or ham and sandwich

Smashed Chickpea and Avocado Lettuce Wrap or Turkey, Spinach and Apple Wrap

When choosing meats for sandwiches, aim for fresh turkey or grilled chicken as tasty protein option.

Hot dog

Try an alternative like fresh chicken apple sausage, or any sausage that is freshly made with or without the casing.

Stick with options that are nitrate free as well as low in sodium.

Dinner 8 ounce steak dinner 3 ounces of steak with extra vegetables or whole grains

Sweet Potato and Spinach Turkey Burger or Chipotle Black Bean and Rice Burger

If you are really craving beef stick to no more than 4 ounces per serving, or opt for sliders and a salad.


cooked steak