What meat should I stop eating?
7 Things That Happen When You Stop Eating Meat
People go plant-based for lots of reasons: Weight loss, a desire to feel more energetic, reducing the risk of heart disease, and decreasing the number of medications they take are just a few of the motivators for ditching animal products. But what really happens when you stop eating meat? The healthiest, happiest version of yourself can emerge. Keep reading to learn about some of the incredible benefits of not eating meat and what you can expect when you go plant-based.
1. You’ll reduce inflammation in your body.
If you are eating meat, cheese, and highly processed foods, chances are you have elevated levels of inflammation in your body. While short-term inflammation (such as after an injury) is normal and necessary, inflammation that lasts for months or years is not. Chronic inflammation has been linked to the development of atherosclerosis, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases, among other conditions.
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In contrast, plant-based diets are naturally anti-inflammatory, because they are high in fiber, antioxidants, and other phytonutrients, and much lower in inflammatory triggers such as saturated fat and endotoxins (toxins released from bacteria commonly found in animal foods). Studies have shown that people who adopt no meat diets can dramatically lower their level of C-reactive protein (CRP), an indicator of inflammation in the body.
2. Your blood cholesterol levels will plummet.
Elevated blood cholesterol is a key risk factor for heart disease and strokes, two of the leading killers in the United States. Saturated fat—primarily found in meat, poultry, cheese, and other animal products—is a major driver of our blood cholesterol levels. Cholesterol in our food also plays a role.
Studies consistently show that when people go plant based, their blood cholesterol levels drop by up to 35% . In many cases, the decrease is equal to that seen with drug therapy—with many positive side effects! People who require cholesterol-lowering drugs can further slash their cholesterol levels and cardiovascular risk by adopting a plant-based diet.
Whole-food, plant-based diets reduce blood cholesterol because they tend to be very low in saturated fat and they contain zero cholesterol. Moreover, plant-based diets are high in fiber, which further reduces blood cholesterol levels. Soy has also been shown to play a role in lowering cholesterol, for those who choose to include it.
3. You’ll give your microbiome a makeover.
The trillions of microorganisms living in our bodies are collectively called the microbiome. Increasingly, these microorganisms are recognized as crucial to our overall health: not only do they help us digest our food, but they produce critical nutrients, train our immune systems, turn genes on and off, keep our gut tissue healthy, and help protect us from cancer. Studies have also shown they play a role in obesity, diabetes, atherosclerosis, autoimmune disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and liver disease.
Plant foods help shape a healthy intestinal microbiome. The fiber in plant foods promotes the growth of “friendly” bacteria in our guts. On the other hand, fiber-poor diets (such as those that are high in dairy, eggs, and meat) can foster the growth of disease-promoting bacteria. Landmark studies have shown that when omnivores eat choline or carnitine (found in meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy), gut bacteria make a substance that is converted by our liver to a toxic product called TMAO. TMAO leads to worsening cholesterol plaques in our blood vessels and escalates the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Interestingly, people eating plant-based diets make little or no TMAO after a meat-containing meal, because they have a totally different gut microbiome. It takes only a few days for our gut bacterial patterns to change – the benefits of a plant-based diet start quickly!
4. You’ll change how your genes work.
Scientists have made the remarkable discovery that environmental and lifestyle factors can turn genes on and off. For example, the antioxidants and other nutrients we eat in whole plant foods can change gene expression to optimize how our cells repair damaged DNA. Research has also shown that lifestyle changes, including a no meat diet, can decrease the expression of cancer genes in men with low-risk prostate cancer. We’ve even seen that a plant-based diet, along with other lifestyle changes, can lengthen our telomeres—the caps at the end of our chromosomes that help keep our DNA stable. This might mean that our cells and tissues age more slowly since shortened telomeres are associated with aging and earlier death.
5. You’ll dramatically reduce your chances of getting Type 2 diabetes.
An estimated 38 percent of Americans have prediabetes—a precursor to Type 2 diabetes. Animal protein, especially red and processed meat, has been shown in study after study to increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes. In the Adventist population, omnivores have double the rate of diabetes compared with vegans, even accounting for differences in body weight. In fact, in this population, eating meat once a week or more over a 17-year period increased the risk of diabetes by 74 percent! Similarly, in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and Nurses Health Study, increasing red meat intake by more than just half a serving per day was associated with a 48 percent increased risk in diabetes over 4 years.
Why would meat cause type 2 diabetes? Several reasons: animal fat, animal-based (heme) iron, and nitrate preservatives in meat have been found to damage pancreatic cells, worsen inflammation, cause weight gain, and impair the way our insulin functions.
You will dramatically lessen your chances of getting type 2 diabetes by leaving animal products off of your plate and eating a diet based in whole plant foods. This is especially true if you eat whole grains, which are highly protective against type 2 diabetes. You read that right: carbs actually protect you from diabetes! Also, a plant-based diet can improve or even reverse your diabetes if you’ve already been diagnosed.
6. You’ll get the right amount—and the right type—of protein.
The average omnivore in the US gets more than 1.5 times the optimal amount of protein, most of it from animal sources.
Contrary to popular perception, this excess protein does not make us stronger or leaner. Excess protein is stored as fat or turned into waste, and animal protein is a major cause of weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, inflammation, and cancer.
On the other hand, the protein found in whole plant foods protects us from many chronic diseases. There is no need to track protein intake or use protein supplements with plant-based diets; if you are meeting your daily calorie needs, you will get plenty of protein. The longest-lived people on Earth, those living in the “Blue Zones,” get about 10 percent of their calories from protein, compared with the US average of 15 to 20 percent.
7. You’ll make a huge impact on the health of our planet and its inhabitants.
The benefits of not eating meat extend beyond your own body. Animal agriculture is extremely destructive to the planet and is the single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. It is also a leading cause of land and water use, deforestation, wildlife destruction, and species extinction. About 2,000 gallons of water are needed to produce just one pound of beef in the U.S. Our oceans are rapidly becoming depleted of fish; by some estimates, oceans may be fishless by 2048. The current food system, based on meat and dairy production, also contributes to world hunger—the majority of crops grown worldwide go toward feeding livestock, not feeding people.
Equally important, animals raised for food are sentient beings who suffer, whether raised in industrial factory farms or in farms labeled “humane.” Eating a plant-based diet helps us lead a more compassionate life. After all, being healthy is not just about the food we eat; it’s also about our consciousness—our awareness of how our choices affect the planet and all of those with whom we share it. So if you’re still wondering, “Is eating meat bad for you?” The short answer is yes—for you, and for our entire ecosystem!
Ready to get started? Check out Forks Meal Planner, FOK’s easy weekly meal-planning tool to keep you on a healthy plant-based path. To learn more about a whole-food, plant-based diet, visit our Plant-Based Primer.
This article was originally published on Jan. 12, 2016, and has been updated.
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Should You Stop Eating Red Meat? A New Paper Has a Controversial Answer
N utrition research is consistently conflicting. Everything from a study’s design to the way its data is analyzed can affect the outcome of a particular experiment—hence the frustrating and common phenomenon where something considered healthy today is condemned tomorrow.
But new nutrition recommendations published in the Annals of Internal Medicine are causing even more of a stir than usual. The guidelines say individuals do not need to eat less red and processed meat to stay healthy, despite prior studies that have linked these foods to conditions such as heart disease and cancer, and years of scientific support for a largely plant-based diet.
“For the majority of people, but not everyone, continuing their red and processed meat consumption is the right approach,” says first author Bradley Johnston, an associate professor of community health and epidemiology at Canada’s Dalhousie University. That’s three to four servings per week for most North Americans, Johnston says.
Not everyone in the nutrition community agrees with that assessment. “Their recommendations are really irresponsible,” says Dr. Frank Hu, chair of the nutrition department at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and co-author of a recent BMJ study that linked eating red and processed meat to higher mortality risk. Ahead of the new paper’s publication, Hu and his colleagues completed their own analysis of data from studies used to form the new recommendations, and “calculated that a modest reduction in red meat consumption could hypothetically reduce mortality by 7.6% [at the U.S. population level], or approximately 200,000 deaths a year,” he says. “That’s a huge estimate.”
Red meat is a staple of the American diet: By U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates, the average American adult ate 222 pounds of red meat and poultry in 2018. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey suggest about 60% of meat eaten in the U.S. is red, with processed meats like bacon and sausage accounting for about a quarter of total meat consumption, according to a separate study published in June.
Eating less meat is a common dietary goal. The U.S. federal dietary guidelines recommend limiting weekly meat, poultry and egg intake to 26 ounces, noting that diets lower in meat are associated with better cardiovascular and overall health. The World Health Organization has also classified processed meat as a human carcinogen, with strong links to colorectal cancer, and recommends limiting intake.
The new recommendations break with that conventional wisdom. They were compiled by a panel of 14 people—three of whom voted against the final recommendation—representing fields including research methodology, nutritional epidemiology, dietetics, family medicine and internal medicine. Conclusions were based on five different reviews of prior research on red and processed meat consumption, touching on both health outcomes and cultural preferences. To assess those studies, the team used a research approach that rates the certainty of existing evidence, giving more weight to things like randomized controlled trials—in which one study group carries out a certain behavior, while another acts as a control group—and less weight to observational studies, which use patterns in a dataset to find associations between a behavior and an outcome.
The panel also focused on the “absolute risk” associated with eating meat, rather than changes in “relative risk,” which Johnston says can sometimes distort the magnitude of an effect. “If the baseline risk in the population of an illness is 2% and after a study it’s shown to reduce to 1%, that’s a 50% relative risk reduction, but it’s actually only a 1% absolute risk reduction,” he explains.
Using that framework, the group found “only low-certainty evidence of a very small reduction in cancer or other adverse health consequences from reducing meat consumption [by three servings per week,]” Johnston says. “For most people who enjoy eating meat, the uncertain health benefits of cutting down are unlikely to be worth it.” (The authors did not consider non-health-related reasons for cutting back on meat, such as ethical or environmental concerns.)
But Hu says the panel’s methodology is most appropriate for drug research, which relies heavily on randomized controlled trials. By contrast, most nutrition research is observational, since it’s difficult logistically and ethically to ask people to change their eating habits to the extent and length necessary for a randomized controlled trial. In this case, that distinction “led the authors to dismiss massive amounts of data from large cohort studies,” Hu says.
While health recommendations should not be based on a single observational study, Hu says it’s often necessary to use a body of observational evidence to craft public-health guidance. Recommendations that are today taken as fact—such as avoiding smoking and staying physically active—were based on mostly observational evidence, Hu notes. “This kind of demand for drug-trial evidence for nutritional studies is unrealistic and naive,” he says.
Dr. John Sievenpiper, an associate professor of nutrition sciences at the University of Toronto, voiced his own concerns in commentary posted on Harvard’s website. “Unfortunately,” he said, “the leadership of the paper chose to play up the low certainty of evidence by [the assessment methodology] as opposed to the protective associations that directly support current recommendations to lower meat intake.” Sievenpiper also added that the study did not assess things like substituting animal protein for plant protein, which is generally thought to be a healthy swap. That’s potentially important, since replacing red meat with an equivalent plant protein, like beans or nuts, would likely have a different effect than replacing those calories with refined carbohydrates or other processed foods.
The American Institute for Cancer Research also disputed the panel’s findings in a statement. “Regularly eating processed meat, and higher consumption of red meat, increases your risk of colorectal cancer; suggesting that there is no need to limit these foods would put people at risk of colorectal cancer and further undermine public confidence in dietary advice,” Dr. Nigel Brockton, the group’s vice president of research, said in the statement.
Still, Johnston stands by his findings. “If [guidelines are] based on observational studies, it’s hard to make strong causal inferences on red meat or processed meat, given other possibly confounding factors” such as a person’s socioeconomic class, lifestyle and other dietary habits, Johnston says. “There is some evidence of an association between red meat and important outcomes and processed meat and important health outcomes—but there’s a lot of uncertainty.”
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15 Reasons to Stop Eating Meat
A Vegan Health Article from All-Creatures.org
These vegan health articles are presented to assist you in taking a pro-active part in your own health.
Global meat consumption has increased from under 50 million tons annually to over 200 million tons in the last 50 years. The amount of animal manure produced in the U.S. is 130 times greater than the amount of human waste. This is causing more environmental and health problems than ever seen before. Here are 15 good reasons to stop eating meat (or at least cut down):
1. Lower risk of cancer. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has reported that vegetarians are less likely to get cancer by 25 to 50 percent.
2. Lower risk of heart disease. Researchers Dr. Dean Ornish and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn have a program that includes a vegetarian diet and is currently one of the few programs that has been proven to reverse heart disease. A vegetarian diet reduces cholesterol.
3. Lower risk of osteoporosis. Studies have shown that too much protein in our diet causes loss of bone calcium. Meat eaters generally get far more protein than they need or can use.
4. Lower risk of kidney and gallstones. The calcium leached from the bones by the body�s efforts to neutralize the acids produce by too much protein intake can end up forming kidney stones and gall stones.
5. Factory farmed animals carry disease. According to the FDA poultry is the number one source of food-borne illness. Despite the heavy use of pesticides and antibiotics, up to 60% percent of chickens sold at the supermarket are infected with live salmonella bacteria. Approximately 30% of all pork products are contaminated with toxoplasmosis. We are increasingly at risk from highly contagious diseases like Mad Cow Disease and Foot and Mouth disease in sheep and cattle.
6. Factory-farmed animals contain toxic chemicals. Meat contains accumulations of pesticides and other chemicals up to 14 times more concentrated than those in plant foods. Half of all antibiotics used in the U.S. are used in farm animals and 90% of those are not used to treat infections but are instead used as growth promoters.
7. Inefficient use of agriculture. 70% of U.S. grain production is used to feed farm animals. The grains and soybeans fed to animals to produce the amount of meat consumed by the average American in one year could feed seven people for the same period.
8. Inefficient use of water. It takes 2640 gallons of water to produce one pound of edible beef. The water used to raise animals for food is more than half the water used in the United States.
9. Inefficient use of energy.
- Calories of fossil fuel needed to produce 1 calorie of protein in beef: 28.
- Calories of fossil fuel needed to produce 1 calorie of protein in soybeans: 2.
10. Environmental Pollution. Raising animals for food is the biggest polluter of our water and topsoil. Factory farm animal waste pollutes the ground and groundwater horribly.
11. Destruction of natural habitat. It takes more land to raise animals for food than it does to produce the equivalent nutritional value by raising edible plants. Rain forests are being destroyed to make room for huge cattle ranches. Coyotes and other animals are poisoned and shot by western cattle ranchers who consider federal land to be their land for grazing.
Animal Rights Reasons
12. Animals on factory farms are over-crowded. They spend their brief lives in crowded and ammonia-filled conditions, many of them so cramped that they can’t even turn around or spread a wing.
13. Animals on factory farms are tortured. Within days of birth, for example, chickens have their beaks seared off with a hot blade. Animals are hung upside down and their throats are sliced open, often while they’re fully conscious.
14. Animals on factory farms are treated like machines. They are pumped up with drugs, fed their own waste and forced to grow or produce as fast as possible. They are subjected to 24-hour artificial lighting while being crammed into tiny cages one on top of the other to make it easier to harvest.
15. We don�t need to eat animals! Most of us in the U.S. don�t eat animals because we must in order to survive. We eat them because we want to. We are subjecting animals to torture, damaging the environment unnecessarily and subjecting ourselves to greater risk of disease just to satisfy a desire, not a need.
You can get a totally balanced diet without eating meat. All vegetables contain protein and too much protein consumption is unhealthy. Grains, legumes and soybeans contain plenty of protein. Vegetarian foods do not have to be boring. Spice it up! For example, veggies and rice with some Teriyaki sauce is delicious and as filling as any meat dish you can think of while being far more healthy for you and easier on animals and the environment. Why not give a vegetarian diet a try and give our environment a break. Your body will thank you and so will the Earth!
All-Creatures.org Health Position and Disclaimer
We began this archive as a means of assisting our visitors in answering many of their health and diet questions, and in encouraging them to take a pro-active part in their own health. We believe the articles and information contained herein are true, but are not presenting them as advice. We, personally, have found that a whole food vegan diet has helped our own health, and simply wish to share with others the things we have found. Each of us must make our own decisions, for it’s our own body. If you have a health problem, see your own physician.
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