Limit red meat and avoid processed meat

Eat no more than 500g (cooked weight) a week of red meat, such as beef, pork and lamb. Eat little, if any, processed meat, such as ham and bacon.

Researchers are still investigating how red meat causes cancer. One possible way involves a compound called haem, which contains iron and gives red meat its colour. Haem has been shown to damage the lining of the bowel.

We also know that when we eat red meat, chemical compounds called nitrosamines are formed, which are known to damage the DNA in our cells, which can cause cancer.

As well as being made from red meat, processed meat also contains added nitrites and nitrates, which are also converted to nitrosamines when we eat them.

  • Learn more about the Risk Factors associated with red and processed meat.

Tips on eating less red meat and cutting down on processed meat

Eat smaller portions

Eating smaller portions (about the size of a deck of cards) means you can have red meat more often and stick within the 500g a week. Make red meat go further by adding some beans, chickpeas, lentils or mushrooms to bulk up stews, chillies and pasta sauces. This can also lower the calories in your meals and counts towards your 5 A DAY.

Easy swaps

Swap beef mince for turkey or even Quorn mince. Even if you only swap half, you’ll cut calories and it's just as filling. Boost the flavour with onion, garlic, herbs and spices.

Have meat-free days

Keep some days red-meat free by exploring alternatives.

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