The jury’s still out whether meat is safe or even good for humans. On the far left we have the Esselstyns who say that we should only consume plant-based foods, and on the far right, we have (no surprise) experts aligned with the meat industry who tell us that meat is good for us.
More and more though I’m encountering doctors in the middle — well more left than middle, actually. A thoracic surgeon at Johns Hopkins told me a year ago that a “predominantly plant-based diet combined with regular exercise” is the best recipe for living a healthy life and strengthening the immune system to prevent and fight diseases like cancer. I already had a strong suspicion that that recipe was correct as I was already following it, and my cancer had stopped growing without medical aid.
In terms of overall health, Dr. Joel Fuhrman states in his book Eat To Live that 90% of our diet should be plant-based. He also says that the jury is out on whether a vegan diet is necessary and even discusses how sometimes a vegetarian or vegan diet can be dangerous. If a vegetarian simply replaces meat with bagels, pretzels, frozen veggie burgers, and sodas, he is starving his body. For what it’s worth, a meat eater starves his body the same way if all he eats is bagels, pretzels, burgers, and sodas — the standard American diet.
Dr. Fuhrman calls himself a “nutritarian.” I love that term. Rather than focusing on what he is removing from his diet, he focuses on eating the most nutrient dense foods available. It turns out that vegetables (most notably leafy greens), fruits, whole grains, beans, and nuts are the most nutrient dense foods. By filling up on these foods, your body gets the fuel it needs and you lose your addiction to and taste for sugars, meats, and processed foods.
In terms of cancer, Dr. Furhman does focus on what not to eat though: “Reducing animal protein in the diet may be the most important dietary intervention one can take to reduce cancer risk.”
The more I read about the link between meat and cancer as well as the link between overall nutrition and exercise and health, the more I think that my surgeon got it right. We need to eat a predominantly plant-based diet. I choose to eat a completely plant-based diet because of my love for animals as well as my hatred of the tumors inside my body. I’m not willing to gamble my life over even the slightest amount of milk or cheese if that little bit could fuel cancer. But aside from my desires that man stop killing animals since there are far better foods available for us to eat that do not harm the lives of other creatures, I don’t think that everyone needs to become a vegan.
All the credible research I have found so far supports one major takeaway: We need to focus on fueling our bodies with most nutrient dense foods available. The easiest way to do that? Eat a rainbow of produce, and we can’t go wrong.