Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably heard that the World Health Organization announced in October that meat causes cancer.
Or more specifically, processed meat like ham, sausage and bacon are now considered carcinogens. According to the WHO report, 50g of processed meat a day (that’s less than two slices of ham or bacon if you’re wondering) can increase your chance of developing colorectal cancer up to 18%.
What exactly is processed meat? Well, the WHO classifies processed meat as meat that has been modified, either to change the taste or prolong the shelf life. Processing is done by curing, smoking, salting or adding preservatives; and includes bacon, hot dogs, sausage, salami, beef jerky and ham.
So if meat isn’t good for you, what can you eat that’s actually good for you?
Fruits and Vegetables
I’m sure you already know this, but fruits and veggies are a great way to get your vitamins and nutrients. In fact, studies have shown consuming higher amounts of produce can help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Fruits and vegetables offer your body the essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants it needs. While all food contains vitamins, fruits and vegetables are a great source for vitamin A, C, B and folic acid. They also contain higher amounts of fiber, which helps keep your digestive system running right and helps keep you feeling fuller, longer. Among the many benefits of fruits and vegetables are:
- Prevent cell damage. Both vitamin C and A help prevent damage from free radicals.
- Boost your iron absorption. Vitamin C also helps boost your ability to absorb iron.
- Enhance immunity. All those anti-oxidants and vitamins aid in this.
- Promote bruise and wound healing
- Increase your resistance to infection
- Aid in central nervous system function. Folic acid and B vitamins helps your nervous system function well.
Lastly, fresh produce also contain phytonutrients, compounds within the plants that help them fight off disease, radiation, weather and anything else that wants to threaten them. But humans benefit from phytonutrients as well. For us, they are anti-inflammatory and may help repair DNA damage, aid in detoxification, enhance your immunity and may contain anti-cancer properties.
Another component of a healthy diet is whole grains. Like fruits and veggies, they provide vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Whole grains help:
- Aid in digestion. The high fiber content found in grains helps your digestive system running well by producing good bacteria in your digestive tract.
- Control your appetite. The fiber also helps keep you feeling full.
- Regulate your blood sugar. Because whole grains are complex carbohydrates, they take longer to metabolize and keep your blood sugar stable.
- Reduces cholesterol
- Removes toxins. Fiber binds to toxins in your body and helps remove them with your waste.
When choosing grains to add to your meals, avoid simple grains like white rice and aim for whole grains like: whole wheat, oats, brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa, millet, wild rice, amaranth, barley or kamut.
There’s more to protein than just processed meat. And protein is an important part of your diet. Why make protein a part of your meals? Protein helps your body in many ways. It can:
- Help regulate blood sugar levels
- Regulate your mood. Protein can produce hormones that stabilize your mood and help you sleep.
- Build connective tissue for bones, cartilage and skin
- Build up your muscles
- Promote wound healing
- Helps you feel full. Like fiber, protein takes longer to digest, keeping you feeling satiated longer.
If you’re really trying to avoid, or at least limit, processed meat there are still many other protein sources you can enjoy. Eat: eggs, fish, poultry, dairy like cow’s milk or yogurt, tofu, nuts and peanuts and beans. Even some whole grains provide an adequate amount of fiber.
Fats and Oils
Long gone are the days where anything containing fat is bad. Today, studies have shown that our bodies do benefit from eating fat, especially if that fat is the good kind. In fact, getting enough unsaturated fat can:
- Help transport fat-soluble vitamins. Eating fat helps you get the most out of your vitamins A, E, D and K
- Helps keep your hormones balanced. Fat provides your body with the materials used to make hormones and keep them healthy.
- Helps your body utilize glucose more efficiently
- Keeps your joints healthy
- Keeps your immune system running right. Unsaturated fats can help facilitate a healthy functioning immune system.
- Helps lower cholesterol.
Now when I say you need to eat fat, I don’t mean to go out and eat a pound of bacon. That defeats the purpose of eliminating processed meats and bad fats. Instead, get some healthy fats in the form of healthy oils like olive or coconut, and food like fish, nuts, seeds, eggs and flax seed.
So now that the World Health Organization has deemed processed meat bad, it’s probably best to limit it. Luckily, there are so many more healthy foods out there that we can eat.
Can’t limit your processed meat consumption? Well I suggest you invest in some good life insurance …