6 Tips For Health-Conscious Meat Eaters
Now more than ever, going green is the movement that is sweeping the nation. Most people are making an effort to be more ‘green,’ or environmentally conscious. Even our diets are changing, with many switching to leafier organic meals rather than traditional American meat and potatoes. Some of us have gone all out veg-head, while others prefer to have a little meat on their plates, despite the health warnings.
In recent years, animal activists and environmentalists haven’t been shy when voicing their concerns over eating too much meat. In fact, studies conducted by the World Health Organization and the United Nations classify meat as carcinogenic (cancer-causing) and insist that we should minimize our meat intake.
Studies also point out that by eating less meat, you’re not only benefiting your health, but reducing climate change. And for those of you in drought-ridden states, did you know that one pound of beef requires approximately 2,500 gallons of water to produce? That’s ten times the amount of water it takes to produce the same amount of soy. Oh yeah, and soy has about 50% more protein per pound. This means that producing meat is wasting a ton of our resources before it even becomes a usable food product. You can read more about the environmental effects in our article “Deciphering the Ethical Meat Trend“.
Over the years, we’ve learned that animals used for food are injected with tons of synthetic hormones. These fake hormones make cows produce more milk than they naturally would, and get pigs and chickens to balloon to twice the size they would be naturally. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like something I want to put in my body.
And it doesn’t stop there. The animals are kept in such dirty and cramped conditions that they’re given ‘preventative’ antibiotics to keep them from getting sick. The problem is that we end up ingesting these antibiotics so often that they stop being effective. That means when we get sick, the antibiotics prescribed to us don’t work. (Hence, incurable gonorrhea. Eww.)
Here’s a quick and entertaining video, by Chipotle, that explains this with a bit more color:
If all that wasn’t enough to scare us all off of meat, a hormone known as dioxin is found in many of our dairy and meat products. According to the researchers of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO), those who consume even small amounts of dioxin from meat and dairy products have a shocking 17% higher, or 7 in 100, risk of suffering from cancer. And speaking of contamination, USDA researchers have found that eating chicken exposes you to arsenic. Even low doses of arsenic can dramatically increase the risk of cancer and birth defects.
In the book The China Study, their research proved that people who ate the most animal-based foods (whether organic or not) got the most chronic diseases and cancer, while people who ate the plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid disease. He also adds that a vegan diet can enable diabetic patients to go off their medication. He concluded that a good diet is the most powerful weapon we have against some of the most common diseases.
Think you can mitigate your risk by buying organic meat? Well, due to a lack of labeling regulations, it’s extremely hard to determine if the meat supplied in supermarkets and restaurants are either organic and free of chemicals — or laden with hormones, antibiotics and other unappetizing treatments. Despite its label, “organic” meat and dairy from cows is often treated with hormones. When inspectors in the European Union randomly sampled “hormone-free” beef from the U.S., they found that 12 percent of the meat had been treated with powerful hormones that are banned in Europe. Yikes!!
Here’s a wonderful video that Chipotle made to help people learn about the food industry, in an entertaining way:
OK, so those are some scary facts. Are you having a hard time skipping that juicy burger but still want to save the world, and keep your health in check? Here are some tips from the Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org):
1. Moderate your meat and dairy. Go meatless, even if only for one day a week.
Many stars have pledged to go meatless even for just one or two days per week. Eating less meat will decrease your health problems, and decrease both animal suffering and greenhouse gasses. Try switching to almond, organic soy or flax milk – it’s much healthier, and better for the sustainability of the planet.
2. Eat more vegetables.
These include beans, grains (like quinoa), nuts and soy/tofu. Go organic as much as possible. Check nutritious faux-meat vegetarian and vegan recipes – some taste better than the original! Although humans do ingest some herbicides and pesticides from plant foods, scientists report that animal products are responsible for roughly 80 to 90 percent of dietary pesticide exposure.
3. Eat “greener” meat.
When you do eat meat, look for meat that has been grown organically, lean and unprocessed. There’s zero regulation on the word “Natural,” so make sure to look for “Certified Organic.”
4. Buy the right amount.
When buying meat, get small-sized portions. This will not only help you stick to a tight budget, but will also prevent wasting food or eating too much meat.
Toxins are carried in animal fat. Get cheeses such as cream cheese, skim milk and non-fat yogurt. Again, go organic as often possible.
6. Speak out!
As a concerned citizen, you make the change by telling your local government to go environmentally friendly by raising livestock or pushing for nutritious meals for kids during their breaks.
Here’s another video from Chipotle that animates how we went from what we tend to think of as “farming”, to the industrial-style farming that is used today:
So whether you are a vegetarian or a meat lover, minimizing meat can go a long way. Not only will you be doing your body a favor, but you’ll be giving the world a hug, too.