Cancer patients can eat meat as part of balanced diet

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 November, 2015, 12:01am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 November, 2015, 12:01am

The announcement from the World Health Organisation that processed food can increase the risk of cancer ("Bacon in same category as smoking", October 26) is significant.

Processed meat such as sausages, luncheon meat and ham is eaten on a daily basis by some children and adults in Hong Kong. Given this, raising public awareness about the harm that consuming processed meat can cause is important for the general health of citizens here.

We should all strive for a balanced diet, reducing the intake of red meat and ensuring that about half of a meal is made up of vegetables.

Meat can still be consumed in a healthy way - choose fresh, lean meat wherever possible, and lower the amount of red meat taken (one piece of palm-sized red meat on alternate days), replacing it with items such as lean white meat, egg, or legumes.

Also, avoid high-heat cooking such as grilling, barbecuing, charring or pan-frying meat.

Meat is a major source of protein, iron and zinc. Iron helps with the production of red blood cells and zinc helps wounds to heal, making it an important part of the diet for those undergoing cancer treatments. Protein is especially important for people with cancer: during treatment it helps wounds to heal, aids recovery, and promotes the production of blood cells and antibodies.

At the Cancer Fund, we encourage those with cancer to eat a balanced diet, with meat or other food sources of protein a priority when their appetite is affected by treatment.

They should take about 1½ to two times the recommended dietary protein intake of an adult to retain their strength and energy to fight the cancer, and should not avoid meat altogether.

Fion Chow Sin-lui, dietitian, Hong Kong Cancer Fund