With the advent of industrialisation, food processing techniques have evolved multi-fold. Accessibility to ready to eat foods or processed foods is higher and thus, the consumption. Often people are unable to differentiate between lean meat, red meat and processed meat. Read on to know the different types of meat and their impact on your health.

Different forms of meat

A systematic review and meta-analysis published by Renata Micha et al in Circulation journal of American Heart Association defined different meats as stated below:

Red meat was defined as unprocessed meat from beef, hamburgers, lamb, pork, or game; excluding poultry, fish, or eggs.

Processed meat was defined as any meat preserved by smoking, curing, salting, or any addition of chemical preservatives. For example, bacon, salami, sausages, hot dogs, processed deli or luncheon meats; excluding fish or eggs.

processed meat (sausages, ham, salami)

Source: Pixabay

What makes processed meats harmful

A meta- analysis published in Current Atherosclerosis Reports journal by Renata et al showed that processed meat contains almost 400% higher sodium than unprocessed meats. Thus, processed meats account for a very high risk of atherosclerosis, increased blood pressure, dyslipidemia, and blood sugar impairment. Another analysis in the same study showed that both unprocessed red meat and processed meat are associated with a higher risk of diabetes, as compared to other unprocessed meats. 

Processed meats are classified as Group 1 carcinogen 

A carcinogen is a substance capable of causing cancer in a living tissue. The World Health Organisation states that there is strong evidence that high consumption of processed meats such as ham, salami, bacon, frankfurters cause cancer. Hence, they are classified as Group 1 carcinogens. It further states that red meats such as beef, lamb, and pork, also probably cause cancer due to the chemicals released in the bowel once they have been digested. It was also observed that diets high in red and processed meats tend to be lower in non-starchy vegetables. 

red meat (beef)

Source: Pixabay

4 pro-tips to enjoy your meat and strike the right balance in your meal:

  1. Reduce the frequency of red meat consumed, and avoid or minimise the consumption of processed meat 
  2. Choose to have no more than 1 serving (90-100gm raw) at a meal (e.g. 1/2 cup mince or 2 small chops or 2 slices of roast meat)
  3. Go for smart substitutes such as 1 fist size of cooked chicken / turkey / fish fillet or 2 large eggs or 1 cup cooked lentils/tofu/tempeh or 1 small fist of plain, unsalted, unsweetened nuts 
  4. The super pro tip: for 1 serving of meat, always have 2 servings/cups of raw or stir-fried non-starchy vegetables at the same meal

Evidence shows that both red meat and processed meat consumption leads to poor heart health and other inflammatory diseases. Reach out to our team of doctors and health coaches at MyDoc for lifestyle management pro-tips to reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Always here for you,

Sheetal Somaiya
Accredited Dietitian 
MyDoc healthcare team



  1. Cui, K., Liu, Y., Zhu, L. et al. Association between intake of red and processed meat and the risk of heart failure: a meta-analysis. BMC Public Health 19, 354 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-019-6653-0
  2. Unprocessed Red and Processed Meats and Risk of Coronary Artery Disease and Type 2 Diabetes – An Updated Review of the Evidence. [online]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3483430/
  3. There are no sources in the current document.
  4. Does eating meat increase my cancer risk? I Cancer Council NSW. [online]. Available from: https://www.cancercouncil.com.au/21639/cancer-prevention/diet-exercise/nutrition-diet/fruit-vegetables/meat-and-cancer/
  5. MICHA, Renata, MICHAS, Georgios and MOZAFFARIAN, Dariush. Unprocessed Red and Processed Meats and Risk of Coronary Artery Disease and Type 2 Diabetes – An Updated Review of the Evidence. Current Atherosclerosis Reports. 2012. Vol. 14, no. 6p. 515–524. DOI 10.1007/s11883-012-0282-8.

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