Can you imagine eating “Meatless Meals” for the rest of your life? For many people, that will never be possible. Although such a lifestyle will be hard for meat lovers, my aim for writing this piece is not to ask you to stop eating meat entirely but to urge you to reduce your meat intake to the lowest barest minimum especially if you do not have an active lifestyle. To encourage you to build your meals around fish, vegetables, beans, and grains.

See also: Why I Choose To Go The Vegan Way.

According to a new World Health Organization (WHO) report, processed meat such as sausages, bacon, beef burger, hot dogs, salami, corned beef, and ham do cause cancer. The report revealed that as little as two slices of bacon can increase the risk of colorectal (bowel) cancer by 18%. Roughly 34,000 cancer deaths per year have been attributed by the WHO report to diets too high in processed meats. The report also placed processed meat in the same category as cigarettes and alcohol for causing cancer.

Another new study published in the Cancer Journal links increased meat consumption to a higher risk for kidney cancer. In the study, researchers looked at the diets and genetic information of 659 University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center patients who were recently diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma, which is the most common form of kidney cancer. They then compared these people to 699 healthy men and women. The researchers found that the patients with kidney cancer ate more meat—both red and white—compared to the people in the study without cancer.

Reducing your meat intake, therefore, reduces your likelihood of getting the deadly disease cancer. In one study of more than 35,000 women published in the British Journal of Cancer, those who ate the reddest and processed meat were found to have the highest risk of breast cancer. Other researchers have linked meat consumption to colon, prostate, pancreatic, and gastric cancers as well. One theory, according to non-profit group The Cancer Project, is that foods with high levels of fat artificially boost the hormones that promote cancer.

Reducing your meat intake also reduces your risk of getting heart diseases. Red meats and many processed portions of meat are high in saturated fat, which raises LDL or bad cholesterol and increases the risk of coronary heart disease. Studies, including more than 500,000 people published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, showed that consuming high quantities of these meats increased the chances of getting heart disease.

Another great reason why you may want to consider reducing your meat intake is to lose weight and stay in shape. Meat is high in calories and so reducing its intake will help you reduce your over-all daily recommended amount of calories. A large-scale 2010 study from Imperial College London found that those who ate about 250 grams a day of red meat (the size of one half-pound steak), poultry, or processed meat gained more weight over five years than those who ate less meat, even if they consumed the same amount of calories overall.

One may ask, “So if meat causes cancer, what can I eat”? Instead of meat, fish can be a much healthier source of protein. I particularly love smoked salmon. As a meat lover, the decision to stay away from meat didn’t come easy. It’s been almost a year since I stayed away from meat and am so proud of my discipline. I do get tempted sometimes but as long as I have strong reasons why I am staying away from it, I am able to stand by my decision. IT ALL STARTS WITH WHY!

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