The Nutrition Action Health Newsletter had a very useful article citing five reasons to cut back on animal foods. That doesn’t mean going completely vegetarian, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to introduce more plant-based foods into your diet. In addition to helping your health, it also may help your budget since a plant-based diet, even an organic one, can be less costly.
The following is a brief summary of the article:
Improves Your Cardiovascular Health– In addition to the reduction in saturated fats and the introduction of more polyunsaturated fats, you also increase your intake of phytonutrients that you cannot get from animal foods. Studies also showed a reduction in type 2 diabetes as well by increasing plant-based foods in the diet.
Helps Your Brain – In a diet called the DASH diet and the SPRINT MIND trial, blood pressure was reduced markedly. Reduced blood pressure (hypertension) has also been found to lower the risk of dementia.
A key component of both diets was fruits and vegetables which included an emphasis on berries, nuts, seeds and healthy oils like olive oil among others.
Reduces Cancer Risk – Diet is not the sole cause of cancer but it has been an established causative factor. A plant-based diet can help you dodge at least one cause of cancer.
Processed meats like bacon, lunch meats, factory farm meats and, according to the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) burgers, steaks, pork chops and other unprocessed red meats like beef, pork, lamb and veal are probable human carcinogens.
How you cook them (high heat and smoked) increases the mutagens which can cause DNA damage increasing risk for colorectal cancer in particular they say. In a 24-year follow-up study of roughly 182,000 nurses, the risk of ER-negative breast cancer was 12% lower for every 2 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
Processed meats are likely to contain pre-formed N-nitroso compounds which are carcinogens. Other processed meats contain nitrates and nitrites, which form these compounds in the gut.
Doesn’t Reduce the Impact of Antibiotics When Needed– People have been hospitalized with or have gotten “superbug” infections that antibiotics are simply ineffective against. The reason for that is likely that the bacteria have adapted through the low-level doses people are getting when they eat commercially grown animal meats.
Since the conditions animals are subjected to in CAFO’s (concentrated animal feeding operations) are so poor from over-crowding, poor quality foods designed to fatten for increased profit, not make healthy animals.
Consequently, the animals get sick and need to be treated with antibiotic dosing to keep them healthy enough to get to market.
Those low doses are adapted to by bacterial colonies which reproduce with resistance to the present anti-bacterial drugs.
The end result is that when you eat the meat, you also get low-doses of antibiotic drugs and antibiotic-resistant bacteria as well. Watch the clever animated short below for an overview of the CAFO’s called “The Meatrix Relauched”
Increase Phytonutrients in Your Diet– Phyto is the Greek word for plant. These naturally occurring chemicals help protect plants from germs, fungi, bugs, and other threats. They can help you as well.
Nutrients like carotenoids are found in the more colorful varieties of fruits and vegetables (yellow, red and orange). More than 600 carotenoids act as antioxidants that eliminate harmful free radicals that damage healthy cells.
Other phytonutrients like lycopene (found in tomatoes and watermelon have been linked to a lowered risk of prostate cancer.
Ellagic Acid found in berries like strawberries, raspberries and pomegranates also protect against cancer by slowing growth and helping the liver neutralize cancer-causing chemicals in your body.
There you have 5 reasons why cutting back on meat and adding vegetables can be of benefit to you and your family.
Other benefits of increased plant-based foods include:
Increased energy from the increased bioavailability of nutrients
Less doctor visits and medications
One factor which is always important to remember, however, is quality.
The CAFO issue mentioned in the short animation above can be eliminated by choosing more organically or locally grown produce. You can also select meats that are pasture-fed or free-ranged that will also improve the quality of the meats you do eat and help resolve the antibiotic factor and other issues associated with commercially grown meats.
Help yourself and your family eat more plants and less meat. Saves money on food and doctor’s bills and guess what? It also increases the variety of dishes in your diet to make cooking more fun than a chore when you are forced to figure out how to cook all this good new food!