This post is part of a series with Love Local Food, highlighting recipes and tips for some of the awesome ingredients in their weekly local food boxes! They are a new company here in the Comox Valley with a passion for supporting local businesses. They offer no contact order and delivery to connect you with some of the amazing food vendors we have in our area.
This week we are going to be looking at recipes with sausage. After we look at some recipes, I will talk a bit about processed meats in general. This is a fairly common question I get as a dietitian, so I figured I would address it here, in case you’re interested. But first – here is some inspiration for how to use the sausages in your delivery this week!
- Sheet Pan Sausage & Vegetables – I like sheet pan meals for a more “hands-off” type of cooking. Chop up some veggies & sausage, throw it in the oven & chill out while you wait.
- One-Pot Spanish Rice with Chorizo
- Farmer Sausage Corn Chowder
- Hawaiian Style Farmer Sausage
OK, but wait. Aren’t processed meats as bad for you as smoking?!
The short answer is no, but I’m going to elaborate! So, you may have heard that the World Health Organization has classified processed meats as “Group 1 carcinogens.” That’s the same group as tobacco smoking & asbestos?! Yikes, right? Well, sometimes this is reported in a misleading way, where it is implied that processed meats are literally “as bad for you” as smoking. This is not actually the case. This grouping is based on the strength of the evidence around different things causing cancer, not the actual level of risk involved. Here is how the WHO itself explains these classifications (they actually have a handy FAQ on this topic):
Processed meat has been classified in the same category as causes of cancer such as tobacco smoking and asbestos (IARC Group 1, carcinogenic to humans), but this does NOT mean that they are all equally dangerous. The IARC classifications describe the strength of the scientific evidence about an agent being a cause of cancer, rather than assessing the level of risk.
As a side note, guess what else is a “Group 1 carcinogen” – sunshine!
Alright, so how risky is eating processed meat, really?
According to the WHO, an analysis of data from 10 studies estimated that every 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by about 18%. That sounds scary – but what does it mean exactly? And how do you actually interpret the effect on your risk of getting colorectal cancer?
In Canada, approximately 1 in 14 men and 1 in 18 women are expected to get colorectal cancer in their lifetimes, or about 7.1% and 5.6%, respectively. When we say that risk increases by 18%, this is known as a relative risk increase. It means that if you ate an extra 50 g of processed meat daily, your risk would increase by 1.18 times. So for an average Canadian man that means their risk would increase from 7.1% to 8.4%. An average Canadian woman’s risk would increase from 5.6% to 6.6% with that extra 50 g of processed meat daily. Of course, everyone’s individual risk will differ, and there are many factors that influence this risk including genetics, physical activity, alcohol consumption, other aspects of diet, etc.
So what does this all mean?
I just want to caution you in interpreting headlines about nutrition that can often be over-sensationalized. I’m not trying to say processed meats are a health food, but I do want to put it into perspective so you can understand what the science is actually telling us. If you find that you eat a lot of processed meat, cutting back could be a useful option for reducing your risk of cancer. But on the other hand, eating a slice of bacon isn’t going to kill you. “Everything in moderation” – kinda boring, but also true.
Nutrition science is complicated and ever-changing. Sticking with the basics of variety, balance & moderation is always a safe bet. As Ellyn Satter, RD puts it:
Emphasizing variety is the best way to hedge your bets against disease. Our understanding of the connections between nutrition and disease is far from complete and is always changing… Emphasizing variety rather than jumping on the latest bandwagon increases the chances that you are doing something right and decreases the chances that you are doing something wrong—and it dilutes the negative effects of whatever that wrong thing may be.From “Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family: How to Eat, How to Raise Good Eaters, How to Cook” by Ellyn Satter
Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions about this! Or if you just want to share your favourite sausage recipe!