This year on new year's eve we went to Abe and Louie's steak house for a late lunch. We do this once every year or two, go to a steak house that is. When I am there I surprise everyone by ordering a steak. It comes as a shock but when at a steak house I prefer to eat what they do well. Steak. Let me be clear though I did not eat this whole steak. It was obscenely huge and a little gross to be honest but it was delicious. I ate a small portion maybe 3" x 3" and we took the rest home for Furman to eat the next day.
Normally I try to eat mostly vegetarian. Many of my meals are entirely plant-based and I am perfectly happy eating this way. I don't crave steak or bacon or chicken wings. I do eat chicken and fish occasionally with Furman so that we can happily eat together and I eat steak about once a year. Though I was completely vegetarian when we met, it doesn't really work for me to be entirely vegetarian now. I used to feel guilty that I was eating fish and poultry and being responsible for their deaths but I figure if Furman is eating less meat then we are equalling things out. I didn't really think about it in terms of a health issue back then.
So what got me to become a vegetarian?
I have been a practicing Buddhist for 30 years and for 20+ years I happily ate meat. Many buddhists are vegetarian because one of the basic tenets is to not cause harm to self or other. It had been a struggle for me ethically to continue eating meat and fish when it was causing harm to them and the planet (The global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, planes, trains and ships combined), but I just couldn't imagine giving them up... until I went to Spirit Rock, a beautiful retreat center in Northern California. There I discovered a world of delicious, vegetarian food with the freshest organic vegetables. The first night they served a meal of polenta with eggplant ratatouille, arugula salad and homemade rosemary focaccia. I saw the light.
That was 8 years ago. Now many people have discovered that vegetables are delicious and vegetarian and plant-based food can be both delicious and thoroughly satisfying. In training to become an Integrative Nutrition health coach I also discovered that there are so many health benefits to eating a plant-based diet or at least eating a lot less meat, poultry and seafood.
Here are some things to think about:
1. Meat cooked at temperatures above 350 degrees, that's roasted, pan-fried, grilled and baked contain "cancer-producing substances" called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). HCAs appear to both initiate and promote cancer growth. The Long Island Breast Cancer Study found that women who eat more grilled, barbecued and smoked meat over their lifetime had a 47% higher rate of breast cancer.1 Researchers think this is a result of the HCA carcinogens present in cooked meat.
2. A six-year study of 30,000 Californians found that higher meat consumption was associated with a higher risk of colon cancer. People who ate red meat at least once a week had DOUBLE the risk of developing colon cancer and those that ate chicken or fish at least once a week TRIPLED their risk of colon cancer.2
3. According to the NIH-AARP study of 545,000 men and women aged 50-71 on meat consumption and mortality, meat consumption is associated with increased risk of dying from cancer, dying from heart disease and dying prematurely in general.3 This after controlling for diet and lifestyle factors.
So what is my point here? I strongly recommend eating a plant-based diet as much as you can. Try adding a few meatless meals to your week, but if you are going to eat steak, eat the best quality organic grass-fed meat you can get, don't eat a lot and enjoy it when you do. :)
For more info check out the book How Not to Die by Michael Greger MD and Gene Stone
1. Steck SE, Gaudet MM, Eng AM, et al. Cooked meat and risk of breast cancer — lifetime versus dietary intake. Epidemiology. 2007;18(3):373-82.
2. Singh PN, Fraser GE. Dietary risk factors for colon cancer in low-risk population. Am J Epidemiology1998;148(8);761-74.
3. Sinha R, Cross AJ, Graubard BI, Leitzman MF, Schatzkin A. Meat intake and mortality: a prospective study of over half a million people. Arch. Intern Med.2009;169(6):562-71.