Remember the last time you sunk your teeth into a juicy burger cooked just right at your favorite fast food joint? Whether you like your meat protein style, sandwiched between a toasty bun or piled high with whole grilled onions, pickles and thousand island, even the strictest dieter can’t help but salivate at the thought of a perfectly grilled-to-perfection hamburger creation.
Too bad it just raised your risk of premature death by 20 percent.
While the vegetarian movement has had trouble gaining clout in our heavily carnivorous society, more and more evidence points to the benefits of adopting a meatless or reduced-meat diet. A recent study published by Harvard University that followed 122,000 people over 28 years documented not only an increased risk of heart disease and cancer in meat eaters, but also a significant benefit when processed meat was eliminated from the diet—just eating one fewer serving of red meat a day lowered one’s risk of death by seven to 19 percent.
“This study strengthens the body of evidence which shows a link between red meat and chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. [It] calculates that lives would be saved if people replaced red meat with healthy protein sources such as fish, poultry, nuts and legumes…” said Dr. Rachel Thompson, deputy head of science at The World Cancer Research Fund.
Not to mention the associated ick factor with eating processed meat. While our ancestors may have enjoyed a “farm-to-table” approach,” the journey from cow to Happy Meal is much more complicated in our modern, mechanized society. And it’s not pretty. (If you’re still curious, head over to PETA’s website…and don’t say you weren’t warned).
While meat may be a convenient and delicious protein source, there are plenty of viable, plant-based options that pack just as nutrient dense a punch as meat. Think beans, raw nuts, oats, quinoa and eggs. And, as vegetarianism becomes more widely accepted, it’s not uncommon to find meat-free options popping up on restaurant menus and in grocery store deli isles.
So what does that mean for us, the too-busy-need-it-now-driven-by-convenience generation? Are we willing to give up our favorite foods in search of a healthier and longer life? Or is a shortened lifespan from processed red meat just a byproduct of our society? Chew it over in the comments.