I can practically see your eyes rolling. It’s been 2 months of very cool social media with daily healthy tips, yummy recipes and some interesting information about our food and making healthier choices.
But now? Oh, yeah, baby. Time for the big guns.
Should we be eating meat? Not so much. I love you so I wish I could tell you there was good news about meat.
Despite what we see and hear in advertising, animal food is not vital to our lives and is damaging to our health and wellness.
Some stats: Almost half (49%) of American eat meat daily; 80% of Americans eat meat four or more times a week on average. That’s a lot of meat; about 270 pounds per person per year, to be exact.
Going meatless won’t be easy.
But should we?
It’s past time to pay attention to what’s in our food…and since this week marks National Meatout Day, we might as well begin with those burgers and steaks sizzling on the grill. What, exactly is in the meat you are eating? Is there more to your burger than meets the eye?
The answer is yes.
Consumption of meat is linked to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, colon cancer, climate change…and seriously bad karma (according to the Dalai Lama).
As an advocate for health, it’s time to stop soft-peddling the effects of meat on humanity.
While there is no doubt that humans are omnivores and that meat consumption contributed greatly to our evolution to smaller guts and bigger brains as well as our socialization through communal hunting, our consumption of meat has risen to the place where it is stealing our collective health.
According to most experts, excessive intake of animal fats can contribute to increased risk of stroke and heart disease, the leading killer of both men and women. Adding cholesterol and saturated fats to our diet, meat increases the production of arterial plaque which leads to atherosclerosis, which causes the heart to work harder to pump blood.
Animal fats are a key contributor to obesity, which contributes to high blood pressure.
Meat can increase your risk for some cancers. The iron in red meat is contained in a protein called heme which can easily undergo a chemical change in your gut to form carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds associated with colorectal cancer. The fat content of red meat can also contribute to estrogen- and progesterone-sensitive breast cancer. Finally, hormones used in the production of red meat can exhibit estrogenic activity and might also boost your breast cancer risk.
And then there’s diabetes. Processed red meats can contain nitrosamines, preservatives that are toxic to the pancreas and insulin production. In addition, chemical changes to red meat during cooking or processing can lead to insulin resistance in your cells and tissues. And the cholesterol content of these foods is associated with an increased risk of developing the disease.
But the problem with meat and how we consume it is bigger than us.
Our poor planet has to support our meat addiction. Forty percent of global agriculture and one-third of the world’s fresh water is used for the production of livestock for meat, poultry, milk and eggs. According to Time magazine: “There may be no other single human activity that has a bigger impact on the planet than the raising of livestock.”
Time goes on to say: “Each year the livestock sector globally produces 586 million tons of milk, 124 million tons of poultry, 91 million tons of pork, 59 million tons of cattle and buffalo meat, and 11 million tons of meat from sheep and goats. That 285 million tons of meat altogether or about 36 kg (80 lb.) per person, if it were all divided evenly. It’s not; Americans eat 122 kg (270 lb.) of meat a year on average.”
But I hear you; you love meat; it’s delicious, right? The good news for you is that I’m not asking you to go cold turkey (pun absolutely intended), as much as I would love that. I’m asking you to make better choices and consider eating less meat.
But what’s the option if you’re not ready to hit plant-based eating full on? Is grass-fed meat better?
If you can’t see your way to a plant-based lifestyle just yet, then you have to do better with your meat choices. Here’s why:
On most feedlots, animals are fed grain-based diets, which is not natural for them. When cows are grass-fed, a diet natural to them (they are vegans, ironically…) their meat contains less than 2 grams of saturated fat per ounce, while grain-fed, factory-farmed cattle contain just under 10 grams of saturated fat per ounce. That’s an astonishing difference. It’s no small thing to consider the ramifications for heart disease of consuming about 12 grams of saturated fat in a 6-ounce steak versus almost 60 grams.
Because of my personal life philosophy, skipping meat is the answer to many of our modern diseases and climate change, but if you must eat meat, look for USDA certified organic meat that is grass-fed. It will cost you a pretty penny, but if you choose to eat meat, what is your health worth? The planet? You are guaranteed that certified organic meat is free of hormones, antibiotics, pesticides and other toxins.
The same goes for your poultry, eggs, dairy and cheese. Look for organic, grass-fed products and in the case of eggs, pasteured and cage-free (so you know the laying chickens foraged). They are easy to find and will provide what you want…animal food…but without stuff you don’t want…additives, pesticides, hormones, steroids and other toxins.
How an animal was raised and what it was eating before it was slaughtered will continue to become more and more important as we strive to make healthier choices for ourselves and the planet. Simply stated, if you’re not ready to be plant-based, you’re not ready…yet.
But you’re in luck. All this week we will be posting ideas across all my social media playgrounds to give you our best ideas for making the transition to a plant-based diet. Friday, March 20 is National Meatout Day so even if you can’t imagine going without meat all the time, you can use our great ideas and try your hand at being vegan for a day.
Because in the end, if the statistics are correct, you might want to jump on the occasional plant-based meal for the future of the planet. According to a recent report by the UN and Worldwatch Institute, if every man, woman and child passed on meat for one meal each week (not each day, each week), we could reverse the effects of climate change without breaking a sweat.
It makes veggie burgers a lot more appealing, I’d say.
So join me on Facebook (christinacooks), Twitter (christinacooks), Instagram (christinacooks) and Pinterest (Christina Pirello) for some great ideas for going meatless…once a week, once a day…or…all the time.