Plant-based nutrition and health is a concern for many who want to get started eating a diet consisting of plant-based foods. Many are concerned that by eliminating red meat, they will not get the proper nutrition needed to sustain their health. They feel that they could be missing out on some key ingredients such as protein. Studies show that eliminating or reducing meat in one’s diet can dramatically improve one’s overall health.

An analysis based on two studies spanning 26 years and involving 121,342 people found that for each three-ounce increase of red meat, the risk of cancer increased by 10 percent. They also found a correlation between the meat increase and a 16 percent greater risk for cardiovascular disease. Overall, the risk of dying from other diseases or illnesses increased 12 percent. This study confirms numerous previous study findings by providing more evidence that eating red meat daily is not only bad for health in general, but significantly increases the risk of dying overall.

The 2012 Study

In a 2012 study by the American Cancer Society, they recommended “Limit consumption of processed meats and red meats”). The best ways to do this are by limiting portion size and frequency of consumption. First, reduce meat portion size to no more than 3 ounces after cooking. Second, incorporate healthier “meatless” dishes into your weekly menu, such as whole grain pasta with tomato sauce.

The American Institute for Cancer Research’s “New American Plate” program recommends filling 1/3rd of the plate with 3 ounces of an animal-based food and 2/3rds of the plate with two plant-based products, complemented by a whole-grain side dish. Under the “old plate” recommendation, meat was a main entrée where now it is treated more as a condiment, such as topped on a salad or part of a stir-fry made using a healthy oil.

Processed Meats

Studies also found that processed meats are not good for one’s health. A long-term diet high in meat processed by smoking, curing, salting, drying, canning or high temperature barbequing has been linked to cancer and heart disease too. Processed meats include sausages, bacon, ham, hot dogs, salami, jerky, corned beef and canned meat – generally any meat that has been modified to extend its shelf life or change its taste. Instead of eating red or processed meats, 1/3rd of your plate should come from healthier meats including turkey, chicken, pork or seafood. On rare occasion, substitute with a small portion of lean cut red meat.

With the other 2/3rds of the plate filled with plant-based products, not only does it increase fiber content, keeping you fuller longer, but also significantly reduces the amount of calories consumed resulting in better weight management. And because vegetables are devoid of saturated fat in most cases, they help lower the risk of cancer instead of increasing it. At a ratio of 2:1, the New Plate program, has twice as much cancer-fighting properties as it does cancer promoting ones.

Limiting meats and increasing vegetables also lower the risk of developing other health conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and osteoporosis. Comparing all of the risks increased by eating red or processed meats, and all of the risks lowered by eating primarily plants, it is easy to see the smarter choice.

The overall findings on red meat are alarming especially if you are a heavy consumer of red meat. You don’t have to totally eliminate red meat completely from your diet but try to have it only on one or two days at most during the week. If you are concerned about not getting enough proteins in your diet. Try to add plant-based foods like beans (lentils, chick peas, kidney, black), and tempeh (fermented soy), and quinoa. All great sources of clean protein that are readily available in any grocery store. Start with meatless Mondays and add a few more days every month.

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