Limit your fry-ups to a weekly treat to stay safe
Published 28/10/2015 | 02:30
It is still possible to enjoy a fried Irish breakfast - but try not to tuck in more than once a week.
The advice is to confine the breakfast plate to one sausage and one rasher, as concern mounts over the health impact of eating processed and red meat.
Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director of Human Health and Nutrition in Safefood, said: "Two sausages and two rashers would provide 110 grams of processed meat so once a week is certainly enough.
"And I would suggest maybe one piece of each processed meat plus a grilled tomato or an egg or mushrooms with a slice of brown toast for a hearty once-a-week brunch," she said.
She was commenting after the World Health Organisation (WHO) said eating more than 50g of processed meat a day - such as sausages, bacon, salami, cured ham and hot dogs - can increase the risk of bowel cancer by 18pc.
The evidence of risk from eating red meat, such as steak or pork, is more limited - and both are good sources of nutrients.
However, there is still a "probable risk" and people should mix up their daily dinner menus by eating fish and chicken.
"The risk is higher for processed meats than for red meat - so a steak is a different matter to the cooked breakfast," said Dr Foley-Nolan. "Lean steak is a nutritious food, but we often eat portions that are way too big, such as 10oz steaks - so go for lean or trim off the fat and stick to say 6oz of cooked meat.
"As a general rule, our meat consumption should be the size of the palm of your hand - minus fingers and thumb. A smaller person needs a lot less than somebody who is larger."
When meat is fried, roasted or grilled at high temperature, it can produce cancer-causing compounds - so don't eat the burned bits.
Dr Foley-Nolan also pointed out that cancer takes decades to develop, but following a healthy eating pattern from childhood is the ideal.
However, it is never too late for people who may have over-indulged for much of their lives with traditional Irish breakfasts or a lot of red meat dinners to change their habits.
It is also possible to continue to eat a ham sandwich, a national favourite, but swap it for it for chicken or tuna some days.
There are around 2,436 new cases of bowel cancer diagnosed here annually and 1,040 deaths from the disease.
Over 50pc of patients are diagnosed with the most advanced stage of the disease.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said it was already reviewing the Healthy Eating Guidelines and the WHO findings had been sent to the expert group for their consideration.
Revised Healthy Eating Guidelines will be issued by the end of 2015.
"It is better to choose fish twice a week," she said. "You do not need large amounts of meat (50-75 grams of cooked lean beef is one serving).
"The department will consider at a later stage what appropriate guidelines are necessary, including possible guidelines for the industry and will liaise with relevant parties."