The preliminary verdict is in: Meat can contribute to cancer. But lets not forget about processed foods in the process.

I know recently we all saw the articles that say processed meat is going to cause colorectal cancer. The WHO (World Health Organization), the group that made the study available, also said that eating red meat can cause pancreatic and prostate cancer. And there have been some articles that put meat in the same classification as cigarettes for their cancer causing properties. So what are we to do when it comes to food, and keeping our cancer risk low?

Being a vegetarian is not an option for a lot of people, and, often, even the people who are vegetarian are not always doing a good job with their diet. Often I find most vegetarians are what I call “carboterians”. Meaning they eat a lot of carbohydrates, but just do not eat meat. Humans need protein, and while there are many options for vegetarians it is important to understand the essential amino acids that need to be taken into account. There are, in fact, some amino acids that the human body can convert from other amino acids; however, there are the essential amino acids that we need to get from our diet. 

The essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine threonine, tryptophan, and valine. For meat eaters, these essential amino acids are found within meat, but vegetarians need to make sure that they make complete protein meals to get these amino acids. A complete protein for vegetarians would be beans and rice, or lentils and a grain, for example, since beans themselves are an incomplete amino acid profile. Recent research has shown us that beans and rice do not need to be eaten at the same meal, no, rather they can be eaten just in the same day. For me, when it comes to diet it is important to eat a whole foods based diet with good, healthy sources of protein, veggies, fruit, and whole grains.

Processed meats, or really anything processed for that matter, is going to put us at a higher risk of cancer, or other illnesses. In processing food, we lose some of the health benefits of those foods meaning the vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, and such. Not only are we losing these items but chemicals are being added to the food to maintain freshness, flavor, give it a new color, or over sweeten the newly created “food.” 

To help keep our risk of cancer and illness low, it is best to eat a whole foods based diet where possibble. Eating home cooked meals (which hopefully can be lower in salt and sugars), and eating the rainbow of foods along with being focused on what you are doing while eating is going to keep you healthier. When we pay attention to what we are eating then we less often want crappy foods.

We all know, and understand, that our bodies do better with healthier foods, but it can be hard to resist the saltier, sugary nature of processed, and pre-packaged, foods. Even more jarring is how different “real” food can taste in comparison. Almost shockingly bad if you’re no longer used to the subtle flavors of, say, a piece of broccoli that get lost in the processing with our standard, on the go fair of fast food restaurants, and the like.


Source: Reuters, WHO

Image Credit: Frettie (Wikipedia) (CC 3.0)