Healthy Living, Nutrition

Red meat and cancer

You may have noticed that there’s been a fair bit in the news lately about how eating lots of red and processed meat causes cancer. This latest media frenzy was caused after the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released a report in October stating that processed meat is a ‘definite’ cause of cancer, and red meat a ‘probable’ cause.

What are red and processed meats?
Red meat refers to all mammalian muscle meat, including, beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse, and goat. Note that this list includes pork, and minced meat would also come under this classification.
Processed meats include any meat that has been salted, cured, smoked or other processes used to enhance flavour or preserve. For example; bacon, salami, sausages, ham and canned meats.

What did the IARC report investigate?
Actually, this report didn’t investigate anything new, it was an evaluation of existing evidence and research. They evaluated over 800 studies that involved the relationship between intake of red and processed meats and cancer. According to this evidence, they then worked on grouping foods into certain classifications.
(An important thing to note is that the categories in the infogram below represent how confident the IARC are that something causes cancer, not how much cancer it causes).

151026-IARC-Meat-rating-TWITTER

Basically, what this chart is telling us, is that the IARC found sufficient evidence to conclude that high intakes of processed meats definitely cause cancer. The evidence for red meats was not as strong or clear, so is classified as a ‘probable’ cause of cancer.
Most of the evidence was linked to bowel (colorectal) cancer, and stems from a meta-analysis of 10 studies published in 2011. A key finding from this paper was that processed meat was more strongly linked to bowel cancer than red meat. They concluded that:
Every 50g/day of processed meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.
Every 100g/day of red meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 17%.

However, this doesn’t mean that eating red or processed meats increases your risk of bowel cancer by 17/18%, as this is a measure of relative risk. In other words, someone who eats 50g of processed meat every day has a 1.18 times increased risk of developing bowel cancer when compared to someone who doesn’t eat processed meat. To put this into perspective, compare it with smoking (the most important avoidable cause of cancer in the world). Men who smoke 15-24 cigarettes a day have a 26 times higher risk of developing lung cancer than non-smokers.

So should I still eat red meat?
Red meat is fine in moderation, and is a valuable source nutrients including protein, iron and zinc. But, what exactly is moderation? This is much harder to quantify.
In general, the Department of Health recommends that people who eat more than 90g (cooked weight) of red meat per day should cut down to 70g or less. Try to keep processed meats such as sausages and salami as ‘occasional’ foods rather than things you eat every day. You could also try having alternative sources of protein such as chicken, turkey, fish, lentils and pulses (kidney beans, chickpeas etc.)

In conclusion, having a diet that is high in red meat is not good for you, but the occasional bacon sandwich is still fine. And importantly, the risks are much lower than other things associated with cancer risk, such as smoking.

More info:
IARC Press release
IARC FAQs

Cancer Research, UK: Processed meat and cancer
NHS Choices: Red meat and bowel cancer
Cancer Research, UK: Smoking and lung cancer

Recipes

Chickpea and spinach risotto

Risotto is a bit of a go-to for me. I like the whole one-pot thing it’s got going on, and I also find its gooey deliciousness indulging and comforting. Risotto is also easy to adapt by adding different vegetables and ingredients. This particular recipe is often one I use when I’ve forgotten to get meat out of the freezer, or one for meat free Monday!

IMG-20150304-WA0005Ingredients (serves 2):
100g risotto rice
100g chickpeas
1 large onion (chopped)
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon butter
100ml dry white wine
100g mushrooms
200g spinach
100g courgette
1 tsp oregano
Lemon zest
500ml stock + water
Salt and pepper to season

Method:
1. Heat the butter over a low heat in a large saucepan big enough to hold all of the ingredients. Add the chopped onion, garlic, oregano and seasoning. Stir the onions and keep cooking them till they become translucent, don’t let the garlic burn.
2. Add in the risotto rice and allow the grains to heat up slightly. Then, pour in the white wine. It will sizzle and smell amazing.
3. Let the rice take up the white wine, and when it is all absorbed add a small amount of the stock. This is where the continuous stirring comes in. Little stock, stir, let rice absorb, stock, stir, absorb…..
4. When you’re about half way through your stock, add in the mushrooms, courgette and chickpeas. Then, continue to add the rest of the stock little by little. (If your rice hasn’t cooked but you’re out of stock, continue the same process with water until the rice is cooked.)
5. For the final few minutes, add the spinach and allow it to wilt into the risotto before stirring in. I like to add a little lemon zest here too but that’s optional!
6. Taste, and season further if required. Serve and enjoy (a little Parmesan would also work nicely!)

The nutritional information below is per serving:
CALORIES: 430kcal
TOTAL FAT: 8g
SATURATED FAT: 4g
PROTEIN: 14g

Recipes

Leek and potato soup

20150122_131523I had a couple of ingredients that needed using up so adapted my usual leek and potato soup recipe a little. It tasted delicious so I deemed it blog-worthy 🙂

As usual with my soups, I make on bulk and freeze what we don’t eat. The ingredients below make 6 generous servings.

Ingredients
1 leek
4 carrots
1 head of broccoli
2 onions
3 potatoes
100g red lentils
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1 tablespoon reduced fat creme fraiche
500mls of stock + water as needed
Salt & pepper to taste

Method

1. Peel the carrots and chop them up along with the leek, broccoli and the onions.
2. Cube the potatoes into small squares (no need to peel).
3. Add the olive oil to a large saucepan and place on a low heat.
4. Add the carrots, leek, broccoli, onions, potato and garlic into the saucepan and give them a good stir. Leave them soften for a couple of minutes.
5. Add the lentils, the oregano, thyme and other seasoning and stir into the vegetables.
6. Pour over the stock and enough water to just reach the top of the vegetables. Leave simmering on a low-medium heat until the vegetables have cooked.
7. This soup tastes great blended, but it’s best to leave it cool a little before you do this (trust me!) Once it’s cooled, use a hand blender or a food processor to blend. If it’s too thick for your preference, add some more water.
8. Once blended, heat back up and stir in the creme fraiche before serving.
Mmm…Creamy deliciousness without the guilt 🙂

The nutritional data below is based on the above yielding 6 portions.
Per Portion:
CALORIES: 160kcal
TOTAL FAT: 2.5g
SATURATED FAT: 0.3g
PROTEIN: 5g

Recipes

Hummus

Hummus is a healthy and handy food that’s packed with protein, high in soluble fibre and a good source of healthy fats. It’s so versatile too, it can accompany a meal, works great as a dressing or sauce, in sandwiches or even on its own.

Problem is, shop-bought hummus can vary hugely in terms of calorie and fat content. If you’re watching your weight, you can often be left wondering if it’s a healthy or less healthy choice (particularly in Belgium where the shop-bought hummus I’ve tried actually doesn’t have a calorie information on the label!).

Making your own means you know exactly what’s in it and saves you money too!

Like a lot of my recipes, I make use of my freezer and make this in large batches and freeze it. Hummus freezes well, just ensure you use an airtight container and leave a little room at the top to allow it to expand. When you come to defrost it, leave it in the fridge overnight and give it a good stir before serving.

I’ve made my own hummus for a while, and I adapt the recipe to create different flavours, but this recipe produces a good base for you to use and add your own flavours to.

Ingredients20150122_131113
400g chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
200g low fat natural yoghurt
Salt & pepper to season
Paprika (optional)

Method
1. Crush the garlic and put into the food processor with the tahini and lemon juice. Blend.
2. Add the chickpeas and the yoghurt (I like to leave a handful of chickpeas out to have whole in the hummus, but you can add them all if you prefer).
3. Blend until you have a relatively smooth consistency (if it’s not runny enough you can add more natural yoghurt or a little water). Taste it and season it to your taste at this point too, you can also add paprika or other spices if desired.
4. Blend again, until desired consistency is reached.
5. Pop into an airtight container, remembering to add your whole chickpeas back in if you left some out earlier! It can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

The nutritional data below is based on the above ingredients yielding 8 portions.
CALORIES: 120kcal
TOTAL FAT: 3.5g
SATURATED FAT: 0.5g
PROTEIN: 6g

Recipes

Spiced cauliflower soup

This one is a tasty, creamy warmer. An ideal autumn lunch, or perfect for a healthy meal on a cosy night in.

20141113_140023Ingredients
2 leeks
1/2 a cauliflower
80g almonds
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon of fresh ginger
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1 tablespoon of olive oil
150mls low fat milk
500mls of stock + water as needed
Salt & pepper to taste

Method

1. Chop up the leeks and cauliflower.
2. Add the olive oil to a large saucepan and place on a low heat.
3. Add the garlic, ginger, spices and herbs to the saucepan for around 30 seconds until the seeds start to split open. You should be able to smell them!
4. Put in the leeks, cauliflower and almonds and give the saucepan a stir; coating the veggies in the spices.
5. Pour over the stock and enough water to just reach the top of the vegetables. Leave simmering on a low-medium heat until the vegetables have softened.
6. Add the milk and the lime juice to the saucepan and let the soup cool.
7. Once cooled, blend the soup using either a hand blender or a food processor. If it’s too thick for your preference, add some more water.
8. Reheat, refrigerate or freeze as desired.
9. Serve with a wholemeal roll for a healthy, filling lunch!

20141111_131132The nutritional data below is based on the above yielding 10 portions.

CALORIES: 92kcal
TOTAL FAT: 6g
SATURATED FAT: 0.7g
PROTEIN: 3.5g
CARBOHYDRATE: 8g

Recipes

Lentil Patties

These are great for a quick lunch or dinner, low in calories and a good source of protein. They keep well in the fridge too for a ‘leftover lunch’ the following day. Team with a salad and a slice of wholemeal bread or some boiled new potatoes for a wholesome meal!

lentil pattiesINGREDIENTS:
70g lentils
2 eggs
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp olive oil

METHOD:
1. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Add 70g of lentils and simmer until lentils have softened.
2. In a bowl, mix together the eggs and spices.
3. Drain the lentils well and stir into the egg mix. Season if desired.
4. Heat a frying pan and add a tsp of oil. Drop a serving spoon of the mix into the pan and cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes. When one side is cooked, flip and cook the other side.

NUTRITIONAL INFO:
Calories:
116kcal
Fat:
7g
Saturated Fat:
1.5g
Protein:
7g
(This recipe should make around 6 patties. Nutritional info is per serving = 2 patties)

Photos of you making my recipes makes me very happy 😀

patties

Dietary Conditions, Healthy Living

How to be a healthy veggie

I’m not vegetarian, but I do enjoy vegetarian food. Every Monday, I experiment with a recipe that typically contains meat and try to make it with lentils, beans or another legume. I support ‘Meat Free Mondays’ for a couple of reasons; I like the taste of legumes and pulses, they’re lower in saturated fats than red meat PLUS I like the challenge of trying to make something where my boyfriend doesn’t notice the meat is ‘missing’!

If you’re thinking about becoming vegetarian or vegan though, it’s more complicated than just cutting meat and animal products from your diet.

First things first, a lot will depend to what degree you cut out meat. Is it just red meat (demi-vegetarian)? No red meat or poultry but you’ll eat fish (piscatarian)? No animals but still eat eggs and dairy (lacto-ovo-vegetarian)? Or no animals or animal products at all (vegan)?
All of these animal products contain nutrients that your body needs, so naturally, if you’re cutting them out then you need to find an alternative source.

Proteins are made up of tiny pieces called amino acids. Amino acids are required by the body to make hormones, enzymes and replace muscle tissue. Some amino acids are essential; the body cannot make them, so they need to be ingested through our diet. Most meats and animal products are called complete proteins, which means that they provide all of the 9 essential amino acids. If still consuming dairy products and eggs, these are valuable sources of protein too – with eggs being a complete protein.
Quinoa and soya beans are also technically complete proteins, although they do not contain as higher levels of these amino acids as animal products do. Therefore, it’s best to mix things up a bit! Quinoa, despite it being a complete protein, is not a rich source, so it should not be the only protein containing food vegetarians eat. Your diet should also contain rich sources, ie; eggs, chic peas, beans and lentils. However, most vegan sources of protein are not complete, meaning that in order to obtain all of the essential amino acids, a couple of protein sources need to be mixed. Legumes (lentils, chic peas, beans etc) are typically low in the essential amino acid called methionine. Grains (rice, cous-cous, brown bread etc), while containing methionine, are insufficient in lysine. By combining legume + grain, vegetarians or vegans can obtain a complete protein. For example; beans on toast, rice and black bean curry, lentil soup and bread or pita bread and hummus. Meat eaters and vegetarians should aim to have 2-3 servings of complete proteins per day.

IronAnother nutrient to be aware of is iron. Women have a higher requirement of iron than men (due to menstruation) and intakes are typically below what is recommended, especially in adolescent girls. Iron found in meat is called haem-iron, and is more readily absorbed than non-haem iron. For this reason, female vegetarians especially, need to ensure that they’re having a couple of sources of non-haem iron daily. Iron can be found in beans and pulses, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals, dark green leafy vegetables (like spinach, broccoli and swiss chard), wholemeal flour, dried apricots and seeds. As I said, these non-haem sources of iron aren’t so easily absorbed by the body, however, there are a few tips than can help enhance absorption. Vitamin C (found in citrus fruits, peppers and sweet potato) helps improve the amount of iron we can obtain from food. So having a glass of orange juice with cereal or some sweet potato in your lentil soup will help up your iron intake. Also, avoid having tea and coffee alongside a meal as they contain tannins and phytates that bind with iron and make it more difficult for the body to absorb.

If vegan, good sources of calcium will be required to replace calcium obtained from dairy (see my nutrient nugget for more info on calcium). Calcium is found in green leafy veg like; kale, broccoli, rocket and watercress, beans, pulses, fish where you eat the bones (tinned mackerel/sardines), almonds, brazil nuts, sesame seeds and dried apricots. Some soya milks and tofu are also fortified with calcium. Vitamin D (obtained from sunlight) enhances calcium absorption, so those at risk of poor vitamin D status should eat a variety of the above foods daily and certain populations may need to consider a vitamin D supplement.

Vitamin B12 is found in animals and animal products. The requirement for this nutrient is small so deficiency is rare but strict vegans should consume a fortified food. For example; yeast extract (marmite), fortified soya products, breakfast cereals and vegetable stocks. Finally, as milk is an important source of iodine, vegans are at risk of low intakes. If this is the case it’s recommended to use iodized salt or take a nutritional supplement.

In order to get all the vitamins and minerals we need, a large variety of fruits and vegetables should be eaten. Think about eating as many different colours as possible! This, alongside beans, lentils, grains and nuts will help ensure your vegetarian or vegan diet is adequate in all nutrients.