All of us can benefit from shifting to a plant-based diet. This doesn’t mean you have to give up meat altogether to get some health benefits. You can start with small steps by cutting back the amount on your plate at each meal. Below are my top evidence-based reasons to decrease your meat intake:
1. It burdens the cardiovascular system
Nowadays, heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. Animal-based foods, such as red and processed meats, poultry, and full-fat dairy, include high amounts of saturated fats and cholesterol levels, thus increasing the risk of developing heart disease. Several studies have linked the development of heart disease with the consumption of red meat. A meta-analysis of Harvard narrowed this connection, particularly to processed meats. A plant-based diet could play a significant role in curing and reversing the progression of heart disease.
2. A risk factor for diabetes
The scientific community found another reason to cut back on meat and particularly red and processed meat: It increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A daily consumption of processed meat, equal to a 50-gram serving, was linked to a 50% increased risk of type 2 diabetes, while a daily 100-gram serving of red meat was associated with a 20% increased risk. Thus, replacing your meat meals with plants instead may prevent you from developing type 2 diabetes.
3. It increases the risk of metabolic syndrome
One of the main factors in developing metabolic syndrome is our diet. Metabolic syndrome includes a clustering of unhealthy factors -such as a large waist circumference, high triglyceride levels, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and low HDL cholesterol- that increase the risk for several diseases, especially type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Studies have linked higher intakes of red meat with a greater risk of metabolic syndrome.
4. It’s linked to inflammation
Red meat consumption is associated with increased levels of chronic inflammation. Inflammation is the root of chronic killer diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, premature aging, rheumatoid arthritis, and neurodegenerative disease. Arachidonic acid is one of the top inflammation-promoting compounds found in foods such as chicken, eggs, beef, pork, and fish. Data suggests that people with higher levels of arachidonic acid in their blood may suffer from mood impairments and potentially increased risk of depression and suicide episodes.
5. It may boost your toxic load
Different forms of cooking and processing animal proteins at high temperatures- such as frying, grilling, and smoking- produce dangerous, carcinogenic compounds. Diverse compounds, such as nitroso, heterocyclic amines (HCAs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and advanced glycation end products (AGESs), are linked to inflammation and diabetes. Dangerous foodborne pathogens, such as parasites, bacteria, E. coli, and salmonella, can be found in foods because of animal agriculture, particularly contamination during meat and poultry processing and preparation. Furthermore, it’s known that highly toxic environmental contaminants such as dioxins and mercury can wind up in animal foods.
6. It may cut your lifespan
Eating red meat can seriously affect your lifespan. Scientists observed an increased death rate in those with a higher processed meat intake. Evidence has shown that those consuming red meat have a higher risk for heart disease and several cancers (especially colorectal cancer). The reason these foods may affect cancer development is still unclear. An important role may have the carcinogenic compounds produced during meat processing and cooking process or their high saturated fat content. Limiting some types of meat may help prevent the risk of certain cancers. As Dr. Greger said: Every burger a person consumes takes 30 minutes off their life.
7. It magnifies your carbon footprint
A simple act such as cutting back on your meat intake could positively impact the planet. Every year we consume billions of pounds of animal products from billions of animals. In this way, we contribute to the extreme overuse of water, fuel, pesticides, and fertilizers to produce animal feed. Byproducts of animal food production include greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, toxic manure lagoons, and pollution of oceans, rivers, groundwater, and streams. Replacing one meat meal with a plant-based protein per day can make a huge difference.
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