On Monday, the World Health Organisation's International Agency for Research on Cancer published a pretty big deal of a report in the journal Lancet Oncology. (For the uninitiated, The Lancet is the Vogue of the medical community).
The WHO's team of experts made the excellent call to label red and processed meats as a human carcinogen - mainly because it causes cancer. I read the report so you don't have to - don't say I'm not good to you. They concluded that processed meat - your bacon, smoked sausage, sliced ham etc... caused colorectal cancer and probably stomach cancers too. And then, your normal style red meat - beef, pork, lamb, veal (if you're a total asshole), mutton, goat, and horse meat - were all associated with colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, and prostate cancer. WHOAH! Right?
Well actually, it's not such a big surprise, the World Cancer Research Fund have been saying this for years now, and advise against eating too much red and processed meat. What's a little more surprising is the way that the media are reporting on it - confusing what's a pretty clear message by claiming that red meat has some kind of redeeming nutritional value, because it's high in protein, zinc and iron - as though these negated the cancer. As though it wasn't possible to get these nutrients from any other food. Of course a lot of these claims are coming from the meat industry and people who are in the business of profiting from cancer.
Among other scientific inaccuracies, one alleged 'expert' even went so far as to say that cutting red meat from the diet results in iron deficiency. What they fail to mention, however, is that if you replace your red meat intake, with other sources of iron, you'll be totally, 100% fine. Oh, and let's not forget that you'll probably be healthier overall and, I dunno, maybe...not get cancer? What a concept.
Let's be clear, vegetarians are no more likely to suffer from iron deficiency anaemia than the general population. What they are going to suffer from is a much lower risk of cancers, cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and stroke, type II diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease. They're also leaner, and less likely to become obese.
So, because colostomy bags aren't all that sexy, I'm here to let you know that there are OTHER OPTIONS. On a per 100g basis, the following foods have at least as much, or more iron than beef (which contains around 8% of your daily requirements - based on lean minced beef).
• Black beans (16%)
• Soybeans aka edamame (~20%)
• Pumpkin seeds (18%)
• Cooked spinach (15%)
• Raw kale (8%)
• Cooked lentils (18%)
• Quinoa (8%)
• Black eyed peas (13%)
• Green peas (8%)
The list goes on like that. Rather than contribute to colorectal cancer, these plant foods actually promote gut health. They have that good fibre that your friendly bacteria like to chow down on, and they got them antioxidants to help protect your DNA too. Most importantly, they don't come wrapped up in artery clogging saturated fat or with a side of cancer.
Admittedly, zinc can be harder to come by on a purely plant based diet, but there's no evidence to suggest the vegetarians suffer from an over zinc deficiency. Plant based sources include nuts, seeds, and nut butters, beans, tofu, whole grains, and dark green leafy veg. None of which will give you cancer. Soaking your grains and beans can help increase the bioavailability too.
So, instead of flipping out over the beef thing, just head over to my site where you can get awesome iron packed recipes, like my chipotle black bean burgers, enchilada lasagne, or creamy kale and quinoa bowl and serve them with a big old side of greens!
Just to be clear, no study has ever found that eating a shit load of vegetables causes ass cancer. Just sayin'.