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honey-miso broccoli and grain saladUntil yesterday this post was going to be the usual recipe with some nutrition facts thrown in. But today’s BBC headline story, “Processed Meat Early Death Link,” has rather shifted my focus. I won’t dwell too long on this issue (by my definition at least), but as many of you – including myself – eat some meat, the most recent large-scale research findings may prick up your ears.

honey-miso broccoli and grain saladThis is a bit Groundhog Day for me as I was present at the 2007 conference that initially ‘broke’ the story of processed meat’s link with cancer – the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF)  “Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer Prevention: Current Challenges, New Horizons” conference (snappy title, I know). Many issues were discussed, but the one that made headlines then was a press release from the WCRF urging the general population to cut back on red meat and completely cut out processed meat. Well, you would have thought from some of the newspapers that this eminent assemblage of scientists had asked that we all stop breathing.

An amusing but wholly wrong-headed article in The Sun, “Save Our Bacon: Butty Battle” quoted a celebrity chef dismissing the advice as “just another scare.” Even then some very good researchers were defending processed meat. But today’s news from the WHO- and  IARC-funded European Perspective Investigation Into Cancer and Nutrition Project (EPIC) more than confirms the ‘less is more’ findings of 2007 (this is a massive pdf document) and 2011.  But, and this is a big but, modest amounts of red meat – its highly useful first-class protein, its iron – can be beneficial.

Sometimes this message gets lost in the shuffle for eye-catching headlines and polarising, entertaining radio and TV debates. Even today as I listened to a very sensible doctor on the radio as she correctly interpreted today’s findings for the listeners, people were phoning in slamming the experts and accusing scientists of wanting to shut down the farming industry (!) and for us all to be vegetarians. They didn’t hear her say that small amounts of red meat can be very healthy for most people, and that the occasional bacon sandwich is fine. They didn’t see this high-quality, 13-year, 10-country study of over half a million people as applying to them. Or worse, that it was from ‘the usual bunch of meddling do-gooders’. Astonishing.

To summarise the findings of this study would take more than a blog post and might bore some of you who are here for the recipe, so I direct you to the The Independent’s precis. The bottom line is that this study reiterates the all-things-in-moderation approach that has been advocated for quite a while, and chimes with the advice born from the 2007 WCRF report: eat less red meat, and especially processed meat, to lower your risk of death from heart disease and certain cancers, including colorectal, oesophageal, lung, pancreatic and endometrial cancer.

Which leaves us with the questions: What is red meat? What is processed meat? How much is too much? And why does  higher meat consumption increase the risk of dying from heart disease and some cancers? This is where it gets a bit tricky and leads some of us to just throw up our hands in exasperation. Or pull out the frying pan.

image: flickr

image: flickr

The EPIC study defined red meat as pork, horse and goat as well as beef and lamb, while white meat incorporated chicken, turkey, duck and rabbit. There is no universal definition for processed meat, but it is usually seen as any meat preserved or flavoured by smoking, curing or salting, or by the addition of preservatives or colourings. Ham, bacon, deli-style meats, pastrami, salt beef, salami, hotdogs, sausages, bratwursts and frankfurters all fall under the category of processed meat. Even the likes of parma ham, with its high price tag, is also processed. But, generally the higher quality meats will have the minimum of preservatives,  flavourings and additives. And the higher price and 8-slice packaging usually puts people off scoffing down too much at one time anyway. Meats preserved only by refrigeration, no matter how we end up cooking them, is not considered processed meat.

Beef mince can be a tricky one however as sometimes salts are added for preservation and for flavour. This especially applies to prepared burgers and meals with minced meat in them.

White meat did not seem to raise risk for either cancer or heart disease. Nor did fish and seafood. Foods with fibre such as beans, peas, fruit, vegetables, seeds and nuts helped to lower overall risk.

So why is meat eating associated with risk of disease and death?

Well, the short answer is that the scientists in this and other studies are not quite sure. It may be due to a combination of some of these factors: eating low quality, high fat meat generally; the much higher saturated fat content of processed meat; the way we cook meat; nitrite and nitrate used in preservation (they kill bacteria); excess haem iron from eating more meat than we require for our iron needs. There may even be an interaction with the plastic packaging that covers supermarket meat. All of these questions are still to be answered.

In the meantime, what amount of meat do the research scientists consider ‘safe’?

This study defined too much as 160g a day – just over 5 1/2 ounces, equivalent to a cooked steak, or a few slices of beef and a couple of rashers of bacon. The latest evidence from the UK Department of Health reports that most Britons eat less than that per day – men consuming about 70 grams, and women,about 52 grams. The UK Department of Health has previously advised that we eat not more than 70 grams total of red and processed meat. So it seems, in the UK at least, that the latest alarm bell will apply mainly for the one-third who routinely eat more than 100 grams of red meat per day.

image: food republic

image: food republic

To reduce risk associated with eating meat the EPIC study recommends eating not more than 20g a day of processed meat. This sounds pifflingly small but if you replace some of the daily meat and most of the processed meat with fish, chicken or vegetarian options, risk reduces and you introduce benefits, especially if you have oily fish or fibre-rich beans.

For its part the  WCRF recommends eating not more than 500 grams of cooked red meat per week, and to avoid processed meat altogether. If you enjoy a bacon roll or ham sandwich this view may be hard to read. Don’t shoot the messenger!

Most scientists working in cancer would say that the best things that we can do, that are within our control, are to be a healthy weight, take regular exercise, avoid sunburn, limit alcohol and not to smoke. You can be a vegetarian, pescatarian, vegan or committed omnivore and achieve all of those.

In line with many  others in this field and on its periphery (that’ll be me) I don’t feel that the occasional (ie once or twice a month) bacon roll, with meat from a trustworthy butcher, or store with a butcher’s counter, will precipitate cancerous changes if it is eaten alongside a fibre-filled, largely plant-centred diet. This latest study seems to support this, albeit with a beef against bacon and its processed ilk. So, if you do enjoy the odd grill-up (please, not a fry up!), enjoy your good quality meat in moderation and be sure to mind the other really important factors of weight, activity, sun sense, alcohol and tobacco.

Hear endth the lesson. Clear as mud. If you are new to food to glow have a look around my plant food-celebrating recipe index, as well as visit some of the fabulous blogs on my blog roll. You may find a bit of meat here, and certainly some fish, but it’s mainly about the plants. I am a big proponent of Michael Pollan’s pithy summary of how we should be eating: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” And I bet you are too.

Now for the food!

honey-miso broccoli and grain saladHoney-Miso Roasted Broccoli and Wholegrains Salad

This week in 2011: Carrot and Celeriac Soup


This week in 2012: Orecchiette with Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Chili-Lemon Pangritata (the recipe is shorter than the title) and Lemony Broccoli, Leek and Tarragon Soup 


Miss R’s Track of the Week: Laura Mvula’s Green Garden 

Chewy, tangy and filling this colourful all-season salad makes a great take-to-work lunch. Use whatever vegetables, and indeed fruit, that look fresh, aiming for different colours and textures. But try and include the broccoli: it is a real treat with the dressing. You might even make up extra dressing and roasted broccoli as an interesting nibble for yourself and others. I know this sounds a bit odd, but if you like broccoli you should love this. I favour the milder, sweeter yellow miso, but for a stronger, punchier flavour, choose ‘hatcho’ brown miso. The ingredients I have below are ideas really, so use whatever appeals. The images shown are of two versions of this salad. 

Make this really easy by seeking out precooked and dried mixed wholegrains. I like to use Pedone, which you can find in the UK in Sainsburys and Tesco, but other stores’ own brands are around, such as the Love Life label at Waitrose. These 100% wholegrain packs are great to get a variety of grains in one go without all the different cooking times. If these aren’t available just use quinoa, giant couscous or barley and cook as directed, shaving off a bit of time to keep it a bit chewy, or in the case of quinoa, so it pops in your mouth. 

½ head broccoli OR 8-10 stalks of purple sprouting broccoli, sliced into large-bite pieces (peel the stalk and chop –lovely and sweet!)
½ butternut squash OR medium sweet potato, peeled and cubed
oilspray or rapeseed oil
200g mixed quick-cook wholegrains, such as Pedone brand
150g green beans, edamame beans/peas or sugar snap beans – trimmed as necessary
1 carrot, peeled into curls with a Y-peeler
Seeds from ½ a pomegranate
½ ripe avocado (I like the Haas variety), chopped
A good cupped handful of blueberries
Handful each of pan-toasted sunflower kernels and pumpkin seeds
A heaped tbsp poppyseeds

A handful of torn coriander/cilantro leaves

Honey-Miso Dressing 

3 tbsp yellow miso, or 1 tbsp brown miso
2 tbsp honey, or to taste
Juice of one lime
1 clove garlic, finely minced or grated, (optional)
Ground pepper, to taste

3 tbsp rapeseed/canola oil

Separately toss the broccoli and squash in a little oil and spread onto a large baking sheet (or use two separate ones). Or spray a baking tray with oil spray, lay on the squash and broccoli and spray again. Roast the broccoli in a 180C/350F oven for 12 minutes and about 20 for the squash. Remove from the oven.

While the vegetables are roasting, cook the wholegrains, or other grains, as per packet instructions, adding in the beans/peas for the last three minutes. Pedone cooks in 10 minutes. Drain in a sieve and keep warm.

Make up the dressing by putting all of the ingredients in a deep jug or bowl and whisking until completely smooth. Taste and adjust to how you like, but make it on the strong side because the warm grains suck up and rather dilute some of the taste if the salad isn’t eaten right away. Or make up extra dressing for mixing in for any leftover salad (eg, for a lunchbox).

Pop all of the ingredients into a large serving bowl and toss to mix.

Serves 4 as a light lunch. This will keep for one day in the refrigerator, but take it out and allow it to come to room temperature for best eating. A squeeze of fresh lime will perk up the flavours if eaten the following day.

honey-miso broccoli and grain salad

no bacon here!

41 thoughts on “Thoughts on Meat Plus Honey-Miso Roasted Broccoli and Wholegrains Salad

  1. leroywatson4 says:

    Great post, packed with information. Thanks for taking the time to share this positive message. Peace, lee

    1. Thanks Lee for all of your great comments. I really appreciate you taking the time to read this unusually long post. And even making it to the recipe!

  2. leroywatson4 says:

    PS – Your recipes are also mouthwatering! Cant wait to give this salad a try.

  3. leroywatson4 says:

    Reblogged this on the beach house kitchen and commented:
    We love this (and many other) recipes on ‘Food to Glow’ and the fact that this food generally helps against cancer is a super bonus. Have a wee look.

  4. Beautiful! I hate when diet is politicized. Because one promotes plant-based, it’s assumed you want to destroy those who choose to eat meat. Is it any wonder why the meat producers are nervous about the truth and are so defensive?
    Great piece!

    1. Thanks Susan. You don’t know how much your comment means to me. I know you are a vegan, and I was worried about offending some vegans, but I think a lot of people think as you and I do. Keep politics and banner wavers out of it and listen to the evidence. It’s loud and increasingly clear. We are bloody lucky in our countries to have a choice about whether to eat meat or not. Those of us who do owe it to ourselves and our families to make wise choices and not bury our heads in the proverbial sand. But ultimately plant foods ROCK!

  5. eastofedencook says:

    Great job of tackling a sensitive subject! I’m a tad late to making miso salad dressings and recently became addicted a recipe with yogurt and a splash of cream. I am looking forward to trying your recipe with honey and lime!

    1. Thanks, Deb. It was tricky to write, and I don’t expect many people will want to wade through it, but I couldn’t in good conscience ignore this massive and influential study. I’m glad you like the recipe too. I box and cox between miso based and tahini dressings these days. And sometimes a healthy ranch too!

  6. lemoncake says:

    Love everything about this post! The great information about meat, the track of the week <3 and of course the wonderful recipe. Always looking for good, healthy lunchbox recipes that wont take all day to prepare – and this looks perfect! Thank you 🙂

    1. Thanks! I’ll let Miss R know her selection was appreciated. And yes, this salad is great in a lunchbox. .

  7. jackie armstrong says:

    This recipe look so delicious and yummy and plenty of lovely colour Interesting read on the red meat, something I have never got my taste buds back for, and fish is a big part of my diet.

    1. I think maybe your body has told you that it doesn’t need meat to have energy. I hope you are getting on well with the dietary changes that you have been making. It is SO worth it, isn’t it?

  8. Natalie Ward says:

    Well done on this beautifully written piece! I know how hard it is to come across well with all the “noise” out there. I hate the way that the meat and dairy industries label vegetarian and vegans as extremists and continue their quest in denial but sometimes we don’t help ourselves either! I am giving a talk on the links between diet and cancer at the Marbella Women’s Week conference next week (not all botox babes I hope!) and am quite nervous about it. Trying to balance education, fact & personal choice without boring the pants of everyone is a feat in itself 😉 You have reassured me that it is possible, thank you!! Lovely recipe too, lots of my favourite things in a bowl!

    1. Good luck with the conference! You will be fab, Natalie. You have not only the knowledge but of course your own experience to root it all. And you ‘walk the walk’, which is important to anyone listening. LOL about the botox babes!

  9. Lovely to read such a well thought out article. I have just finished reading a piece on the link between decreased fruit and vegetable consumption and increased incidence of cancer (Ames and Wakimoto, 2002 – Nature Reviews Cancer Vol. 2 No. 9). Very interesting stuff and ties in nicely with the move to reduce processed meats (all meat in fact). Great stuff…so incredibly important – now more than ever before.

    1. Thanks for your lovely comment and for taking the time to post the link too. Ames and Wakimoto are a prolific researchers in this field.

  10. Great piece and thanks for stating the facts. Big servings of greens & fruits is definitely a must, then supplement with meat/fish protein.. Sometimes it’s also about listening to your body, be in tune with its reaction when you take certain food.
    delicious salad too!

    1. I couldn’t agree more. The listening to your body tip is one I recommend especially to those going through chemo, but is relevant for all of us. I was nearly vegan for 10 years but decided to eat fish when I became pregnant. I couldn’t believe how much more energy I had! But other people find their energy levels soar when they take all animal food out. I do have a harder time with things like beans and legumes so I also have fish and some game too (game pie last night for mother’s day!), with the occasional meat dish at a restaurant with good sourcing policies. But I do generally try and use animal products more for flavouring or as a garnish.

  11. What a gorgeous recipe Kellie, and I love the idea of the honey miso dressing. Definitely on I need to add to my lunchbox salad roster!

  12. Nick Cumming says:

    Kelly, can you pop round and make that for me as I’m a hopeless cook? 😉

  13. Great post, Kellie. I’d like to use it for this weekend’s roundup, if I may.

    The salad looks gorgeous! I photographed many recipes this week, among them a honey-dijon broccoli salad which looks like a cousin of this. I love whole grain salads, and love broccoli. Together, the perfect combination. Thanks as always for the great recipe.

    1. Oh gosh Katie, I would be very honoured to be in your weekend round-up. Thank you! It’s funny how without speaking about these things that many of us can be on a similar vibe regarding tastes and ingredient combinations. Broccoli and whole grains are a new classic, don’t you think?

  14. Emma Coltart says:

    Hello lovely Kellie, how are you my friend. Kellie this recipe looks amazing, the broccoli and miso whole grain salad, I can’t wait to make it. I am trying to find the yellow or brown miso , can you tell me where I would get it and is it in paste form, because everyone is trying to give me miso soup ? Thanks very much angel xxxxxx

    1. Hi Miss Emma! So good to hear from you. You can get the yellow miso at Sainsburys in the special selection section, any health food store, Asian grocer and a decent global deli. I’m not sure how Aberlady can deliver in that department! It latest for ages in the fridge so don’t worry about wastage. Miso soup is definitely not a substitute though 😉 Please come through to Edinburgh soon!

      1. Emma Coltart says:

        Thank you Kellie!!! Yes would love to see you sometime soooon xxxx

  15. shuhan says:

    hey kellie, well written and very thoughtful article. good one! I think it’s silly to demonise one food group, be it meat in this case, or even carbs. just approach everything with moderation and have everything in balance. I think we need the proteins and minerals we get from meat, but it doesn’t necessarily mean we have to have a steak every meal. Learning to balance that we good amounts of fruits. veg, and yes carbs and fats too, is a more sensible and time-tested approach. Our great grandmothers were healthy, they simply ate whole foods and didn’t think too much about each indiv food group, making do with what they have to make a substantial balanced healthy meal. cheers for this kellie! p.s. love miso, cannot imagine not having it in the house x

    1. Thank you so much for your really kind comment. You are right that we shouldn’t demonise any food group. If one has ethical issues that’s one thing but I still think it needs to be up to the individual. No one likes to be told what they can and can’t eat, but some bloggers and writers are terribly persuasive with their ‘my way or the highway’ views. I like to be informed and help inform others but I don’t want anyone preaching at me or trying to make me feel guilty. Luckily I tend to only read and associate with nice, balanced people! Makes life much more pleasant that way 😀

  16. Such a sensible and well written post Kellie. Moderation is definitely the key!
    Your honey miso roasted broccoli just looks a picture of health. Delicious.

    1. Thanks so much Jacqueline. I was afraid no one would bother reading such a long post!

  17. I have naturally followed the principle of eating less meat because I have found my tastes have changed and I am lucky enough to prefer the healthier foods mainly because i find that I digest them more easily. However, I do still enjoy my meats but do see them as more of a treat now than an every day necessity. My husband has just been told he has a higher cholesterol than he should have. Am I being silly on telling him to change his breakfast from peanut butter on toast to cereal. What do you think on this? He definitely needs to cut down on the red meat, which he told me he usually has at lunch!

    1. Peanut butter on toast is a great breakfast for your man, but even better is almond butter. I LOVE almond butter. I just had some in my morning porridge, with a drizzle of maple syrup. Almond butter (and pumpkin seed butter) is a great anti-inflammatory food as well as natural cholesterol lowerer. Here’s a link from the esteemed Mayo Clinic of the top cholesterol lowering foods: I get mine at Sainsbury’s – with the peanut butter (Meridien brand), but Holland & Barrett has it too.

  18. Emma Coltart says:

    Kellie I have just made the miso honey salad and everyone who had some absolutely loved it and thought it was so yummy! Thank you again for making our mealtimes so much more of an interesting and healthy place x you are special xxx

    1. Thanks for the brill feedback Emma. I just wish you had got the yellow miso. It’s definitely the most versatile one for us westerners. I use it a few times a week for various things. Get some when you come to Edinburgh? And thanks for your extremely kind comment about the recipes in general. I just hope your lovely hubby feels the same!

  19. Sharon Douglas says:

    Hi Kellie
    had a delicious tub of Emmas salad for lunch yesterday, it was absolutely lovely! thanks Emma for sharing x next challenge to get yellow miso as i cant wait to make this 🙂

    1. Hi Sharon! What a small world 🙂 If you have a health food shop in the village you could ask them to get it for you. I like to give alternatives for hard-to-get ingredients but yellow miso really will make a difference I think. You’ll find loads of uses once you get it. Pinky swear. So glad you liked the salad. If you make it put in whatever veg you fancy.

  20. Urvashi Roe says:

    It’s so ridiculous how the public go off on one isn’t it? The power of the crowd is something I still remember studying in sociology! I love the idea of the miso in broccoli. Must experiment more with miso in non Japanese everyday stuff.

  21. Kellie, this looks amazing! I love how your blog is not just recipes but informational too. This post in particular caught my eye because I am a vegetarian and found this post interesting. I can’t wait to try this recipe this weekend, I love edamame!
    -Riley Fredericks ( )

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