Several of my friends have been asking about the new World Health Organization report that eating red meat increases your risk of cancer. Processed meat was rated a definite human carcinogen and red meat was rated a possible human carcinogen. If you want to read the original report, you can find it here.
What does this really mean for our day to day eating? If you’re vegetarian/vegan, you’re probably wagging your finger saying, “I told you so!” HA HA HA. Food recommendations from the WHO, the USDA, etc often have a political agenda. Statistics are often used and mis-used to confuse and befuddle the public. I try to find several trusted viewpoints and make my own conclusion. (If you want to skip to the punch line, scroll down to the bottom.)
I immediately went to Dr. Sarah Ballantyne’s website. I have followed her nutrition advice in dealing with my autoimmune diseases for some time. She is known for her scientific research of autoimmunity and the autoimmune protocol nutrition plan. As expected, she already had an article posted with links to scientific research. If you want to read it, you can find the article at The Paleo Mom. She addresses the very legitimate concerns about eating processed meats and red meats. What the media will not tell you in the never-ending quest for attention-grabbing headlines is that studies also support that eating a diet rich in vegetables mitigates many of the negative effects of eating red meat. The rest can be decreased significantly by how you cook it. Also, the diet of the animal as well as it’s living conditions greatly influences the health benefits or detriments of red meat. The short of it is, know where you food comes from. If at all possible, buy from local farms that have pastured, 100% grass feed cows. I think research soundly indicates that processed meats are just bad for you and should be avoided.
Mark Sisson addresses some of the statistical analyses and the differences in the categories in his post on his blog, Mark’s Daily Apple. Oh gee how I hated statistics in graduate school. The media often uses statistics to confuse us and I think they often don’t understand the numbers! For example, the risk of colorectal cancer in the general population is 1.8%. There was a 17% increase in this risk by eating 100gm or about 1/4 pound of red meat each day. So now your actual risk is 2.1%, which is a 17% increase from 1.8%. If your risk had increased by 100%, then your actual risk would now be 3.6% i.e. doubled. So your actual risk of colorectal cancer is still relatively small. It’s worth minimizing for sure.
So, you don’t have time to read the literature yourself and you just want me to summarize it for you? Ok!
- Whenever possible, go for grass-fed, pastured beef. The meat will have anti-oxidant properties since these animals were eating grass rather than grains. They require much less antibiotics since they are healthier overall having eaten a diet their bodies were meant to eat. I buy a wonderful chuck roast pictured here and I cut it to make a beef stew. It has so much more flavor than grain-fed beef stew cubes that you can buy in the supermarket and it is healthier for you. I know those food labels are confusing so here’s a good article explaining the difference between grass-fed and pastured beef.
- Use gentler cooking methods to reduce production of carcinogens. Grilling season is over for us but next year, I will definitely be trying some marinades to reduce the carcinogens created in my grilled dinners.
- Eat your vegetables people! Nature gave us protection from the dark side of beef! Eat it! I have Kale, baby spinach, swiss chard in my breakfast shake everyday! One of my fav dishes is braised kale and carrots! If you want to try it, I use my pressure cooker but you can easily do this on the stove.
- If you deal with autoimmune disease as I do, you definitely want to be purchasing grass-fed, pastured beef. Since you want to eat foods which minimizes inflammation. Be sure to eat your leafy green vegetables at every meal!
I just started reading the book Death by Food Pyramid: How Shoddy Science, Sketchy Politics and Shady Special Interests Have Ruined Our Health by Denise Minger. I’m just in the first chapter but so far it is an engaging read. If you’ve read it or will read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!
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