Mon | Aug 20, 2018

How much processed food is too much?

Published:Wednesday | March 2, 2016 | 12:00 AM

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently published a report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluding that there is sufficient evidence that eating processed meat causes colorectal cancer.

The link between red-meat consumption and cancer, particularly colorectal cancer, was less conclusive, but evidence suggests a link.

Being the meat-loving Jamaicans that most of us are, I can only imagine the mental heart attack many had as the list of processed foods eaten REGULARLY flashed before their eyes in painful detail. Any well-thinking person, recognising what seems like an incredibly high incidence of cancer here in Jamaica, would rightly feel a need to be cautious in one's eating habits.

The report further states, "The risk generally increased with the amount of meat consumed. Data from 10 studies estimated that every 50-gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by about 18 per cent.

"Red meat refers to all mammalian muscle meat, including beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse, and goat. Processed meat refers to meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavour or improve preservation. Most processed meats contain pork or beef, but processed meats may also contain other red meats, poultry, offal, or meat by-products such as blood. Examples of processed meat include hot dogs (frankfurters), ham, sausages, corned beef, and biltong or beef jerky, as well as canned meat and meat-based preparations and sauces."

Traditional Chinese medicine generally advocates a diet low in highly processed, excessively sweet and salty foods and it is important to maintain a diet and lifestyle which prevents disease rather than waiting for some condition to befall you.




General guidelines include:

Adequate consumption of whole grains such as oats, brown rice, corn, rye and millet. Grain sprouts, unrefined whole grain pastas, breads and cereals.

Fruits and vegetables: root, starchy and leafy vegetables, all fruits.

Proteins: legumes such as beans, lentils, peas, bean sprouts. Meats should be consumed sparingly.

Fats and oils: Using unrefined oils such as cold pressed olive oil and sesame oil.

Activity: 30-60 minutes of daily exercise, as workout/sport.

Daily practices that calm and nurture the spirit, such as prayer, meditation, quiet contemplation, mantras and various relaxed and mindful processes which promote self-reflection and quiet.

Of course, some changes are easier said than done, but as we look for ways to wellness, remember to start with small steps, a few changes at a time. Start by evaluating your current diet. a food diary can be helpful; confession is often good for the soul and a good place to start if you would like to make real, long lasting changes.

Consider the following:

• How many of your meals are comprised of highly processed meats and foods?

• The cost of fresh produce. Going to the market may be more cost-effective.

• Cooking at home is one of the easiest ways to be sure of what goes into your body.

• If you are one that does not like to, or does not have much time to cook, doing the bulk of your cooking once or twice a week may be a good option.

• Re-evaluate your regular restaurant selections.

• Eating healthier doesn't mean eating boring food. In the times of Google and Bing, finding interesting recipes will not be a challenge.

Here's to your health!


- Dr Tracey-Ann Brown is an oriental medicine practitioner, herbalist and doctor of acupuncture. email: