In October, the World Health Organization (WHO) took an aggressive stance against the consumption of processed and red meats.
The decision was based on the findings of 22-member panel who reviewed decades of research on the link between cancer and the consumption of certain meats. The international panel examined findings from animal studies, human health comparative studies and studies of cell processes.
Processed meat can be defined as meat that has been transformed through curing, salting, fermentation, smoking or any other processes either to add flavor or to improve preservation. Red meat includes pork, lamb, mutton, goat as well as beef and veal.
Why is processed meat dangerous? Meat processing requires meat to be cooked at extremely high temperatures. This intense heat can lead to the formation of carcinogenic chemicals, especially in areas of the digestive tract such as the colon.
The WHO stance confirms what I have been advising my patients for years. The healthiest diet for the human body is one that is plant-based. Now, this does not mean you have to cut meat completely from your diet.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) stops short of saying how much meat is a healthy amount, but it does recommend that you select fish, poultry and beans as an alternative to red meat. When you do eat red meat, the ACS advises that you choose lean cuts and smaller portions.
I advise my patients to reform their diets by eating lean, grass-fed meats in moderation – such as once or twice a week. Grass-fed meat has the advantage of being free from antibiotics and growth hormones that are common parts of the diet of American livestock.
In addition to reducing your cancer risk, eating a plant-based diet lowers your risk of inflammation and other diseases. For example, according to research by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), a plant-based diet can help prevent Type 2 diabetes. An estimated 387 million people are living with this form of diabetes, and the according to the IDF, that number is expected to rise to 590 million by 2035.
Did you know an estimated one in three American adults suffers from high blood pressure? High blood pressure puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke. Research conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health suggests that a plant-based diet can lower blood pressure.
One of the Harvard studies reveals that people who consumed an average of eight servings of fruits and veggies per day were about 30 percent less apt to have a stroke or a heart attack as compared with those participants who consumed less than 1.5 servings.
Fiber is another benefit of a plant-based diet. Fiber, which is natural part of most fruits and vegetables, aids in digestion and prevents constipation. Fiber may also help to lower your “bad” cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
When you cut back on the consumption of animal products, you help your skin as well. The saturated fats in most meats can clog your pores. On the other hand, the phytochemicals and vitamins contained in fruits and veggies can help your skin’s elasticity and help protect it from sun damage.
Lastly, eating a plant-based diet helps your body maintain a healthy pH balance. When you reduce or eliminate the number of acid-inducing foods you consume – such as meat and dairy products, caffeine and alcohol – and replace them with alkaline-inducing foods such as raw fruits and vegetables, you can reduce inflammation and improve your overall health.
Here’s the science behind a healthy pH balance. When you consume large amounts of acid-inducing foods, you create an unhealthy cellular environment in your body. Your body’s immunities can be compromised, leaving you more susceptible to colds and other viruses, skin outbreaks and inflammation.
Many studies show that continual consumption of acid-inducing foods — such as red meats and processed meats — stresses your body, possibly leading to chronic diseases such as arthritis, osteoporosis and some forms of cancer.
The recent WHO statement may have made many Americans fearful. They think back to every hot dog or hamburger they have eaten or served to their families. I encourage you to forget the fear and to merely aim to improve your family’s diet from now on.
Remember, a plant-based diet has many delicious options, including vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and fruits with limited or no animal products. When you gradually reform your diet to a plant-based diet and accompany it with regular exercise, I guarantee you will feel the difference.
With the WHO stance as an incentive, there is no better time to get started.