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How much red and processed meat, saturated fat and salt are men currently eating in the UK?

Red and processed meat

Red meat includes pork, veal, lamb, mutton, beef, horse and goat.

Processed meats are meats preserved by smoking, curing, fermentation, salting or by adding chemical preservatives and normally include ham, bacon and salami.

While red meat is a good source of protein and provides vitamins and minerals such as iron and zinc, consumption of red and processed meat should be limited to 70 grams (cooked weight) per day or around 500g per week. High intake (more than 90 grams per day) is associated with an increased risk of bowel cancer. In males in the UK, bowel cancer is the third most common cancer.

The following weigh around 70 g:

  • A small portion of steak (about the size of a pack of cards)
  • 3 average sized rashers of bacon (fried or grilled) or 3 slices of ham (not wafer thin)
  • A quarter-pounder beef burger (cooked)

 

Men in the UK on average are currently eating 69 g of red and processed meat per day. However, there is considerable variation and some men are eating considerably more than the recommended maximum. If you eat a lot of red and processed meats, try replacing some of this with eggs, poultry, fish and plant-based sources of protein such as pulses (beans, peas and lentils).

A medium portion of roast beef or pork is about 90 g and a medium steak is about 145 g (cooked weight).

We also know that on average men are eating too much saturated fat and salt and meat products are significant contributors to men’s intakes of both of these.

Saturated fat

Some fat is essential in a healthy balanced diet, but many of us are eating too much saturated fat. UK health guidelines recommend that saturated fat should not contribute more than 10 % of our total energy, yet in adult men, saturated fats are providing on average just over 12 %. Saturated fat is the kind of fat found in butter and lard, pies, cakes and biscuits, fatty cuts of meat, sausages, bacon, cheese and cream so cutting down on these foods may reduce your intake of saturated fat. You can find out how food labels can help you look at how much saturated fat is in foods that you buy here.

We should be replacing saturated fat with some unsaturated fat, so swap to plant/vegetable oils like rapeseed, olive, nut oils and spreads made from them. Unsaturated fats can also be found in avocados, nuts, seeds and oily fish.

 

Salt

The average intake of salt in adult men per day is 9.2 g, higher than the maximum recommendation of 6 g day, and higher than women who have an average intake of 7.6 g a day.

Eating too much salt can increase your risk of high blood pressure, which increases your risk of :

  • heart disease
  • heart attacks
  • strokes
  • heart failure
  • kidney disease
  • vascular dementia

So, try to reduce the amount of salt in your diet and not add salt to your food during cooking or at the table.

Food manufacturers have made some changes to reduce the amount of salt they add, but it is estimated that 75 % of the salt we eat is added to the food we buy. This comes from salt added to foods like bread, ham and bacon, sauces and gravies, salted snacks, soups and ready meals.

Nutrition labels can be used to check the salt content in the foods we buy and help us to choose lower salt options. The back of pack label will give you the amount of salt in 100 g of the food and usually per portion as well – don’t forget the aim is to have less than 6 g (about a teaspoon of salt) a day.

Information reviewed September 2018

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Please note that advice provided on our website about nutrition and health is general in nature. We do not provide any personal advice on prevention, treatment and management for patients or their family members.

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