It’s long been known that cutting back on meat in favour of vegetables helps maintain good health and lowers your risk of developing certain cancers, including bowel cancer.
But if you’re a devoted meat lover who can’t imagine a life without the occasional steak, chop or burger, Harvard Health Publishing has some advice for how to lower your risk of cancer and increase your chances of living a longer life.
The publishing arm of Harvard Medical School advises not to overcook or burn your meat.
That chargrilled steak or well-done burger from the barbecue might be tempting, but any blackened, crispy bits signal a buildup of carcinogens, which can lead to cell changes which eventually turn to cancer.
The Harvard experts add that chargrilled parts of poultry or fish are also carcinogenic, so it’s not enough to just steer clear of overcooked red meat.
One tip is to cut off visible fat from any meat, but not just to avoid it be eaten. “Cutting off fat, which causes flames to flare on the grill, can help avoid charring,” they note.
But they don’t expect everyone to swear off meat forever. Instead, cooking your meals in a healthier way is a good start. “Try gently sautéing, steaming, or braising these foods in liquid instead,” the advice states.
The National Cancer Institute also has some tips for lowering your risk when eating meat.
“Avoid exposing any meat to an open flame or a hot metal surface,” it states. Shorter cooking times can also help, and for that reason, microwaving meat is a healthier option as it is exposed to high temperatures for less time.
Continuously turning meat as it’s cooking is another tip, rather than leaving it to cook without being flipped often.
Finally, it recommends not making gravy from meat drippings. “Removing charred portions of meat and refraining from using gravy made from meat drippings” can reduce the production of cancer-causing chemicals, it advises.
How about chargrilling and roasting vegetables until they’re crispy and blackened? According to Harvard, they’re safe, because there is nothing carcinogenic in a vegetable, so there’s no need to leave them off the barbecue.
The World Health Organisation classified red meat as a ‘probable’ cause of cancer, but they were much harsher with processed meats such as bacon, ham and sausages, stating they were a ‘definite’ cause.
In 2015 it ranked processed meats as dangerous as tobacco, and linked them to increased rates of bowel cancer.
So the advice is to try to choose meat in his natural state, cut off any visible fat and cook it as gently as possible.
You can also live longer by doing these exercises regularly, as advised by the NHS.